We seem to be having a lot of Larry Summers news lately, but don’t blame me: For better or worse, the man makes far more news than does his replacement (which will be the subject of a later post).
There’s been some interesting second-guessing about how the media reported on that boys-and-girls-are-the-same-at-math study. The MSM almost uniformly declared that the study showed that boys-and-girls-are-the-same (you get the point) and went out of their way to remark on the Larry Summers incident and say that the study proved Summers wrong.
Except…hold on a minute. Listen to the Wall Street Journal lede:
Girls and boys have roughly the same average scores on state math tests, but boys more often excelled or failed, researchers reported.
…The researchers, from the University of Wisconsin and the University of California, Berkeley, didn’t find a significant overall difference between girls’ and boys’ scores. But the study also found that boys’ scores were more variable than those of girls. More boys scored extremely well — or extremely poorly — than girls, who were more likely to earn scores closer to the average for all students.
Since that’s pretty much what Summers said in his infamous Cambridge talk, shouldn’t the consensus MSM story have been not that the study proved Summers wrong, but that it actually supported his argument?
Unfortunately, journalists of both sexes tend to not be math geniuses. Few of them anywhere on the continent noticed that [the study's] data actually come a lot closer to supporting Mr. Summers’ hypothesis than they do to refuting it.
The blog Marginal Revolution (new to me) also argues that this UC-Berkeley study shows that Summers was right.
….consistent with many earlier studies (JSTOR), what this study found was that the ratio of male to female variance in ability was positive and significant, in other words we can expect that there will be more math geniuses and more dullards, among males than among females.
Fascinating comments after the post, by the way.
I’m no expert, so I won’t comment on the nature or existence of differences between boys and girls in math aptitude. (Nancy Hopkins, are you there?)
But I do know something about the media, and it seems to me that the general spin on this study has been inaccurate—which, dare I say it, looks like it may be the result of the authors’ politics, and the way that they spoonfed the story to the MSM.