Thursday, March 10, 2005

Re: A Summers Affair

March 10, 2005

Dear Colleagues:

The following were received from Nancy Hopkins at MIT and from "A member of the Harvard community."

Lawrence R. Velvel

Thanks for sending this.
It is so well written and very interesting.

By the way, when I was listening to the speech as delivered, I never doubted
that these were the beliefs of the President of Harvard. That was what was so upsetting. That the person in that position of power held these incorrect views that are so damaging to women students and faculty.

Best regards,
Nancy Hopkins

Your post on Lawrence Summers was excellent, particularly in giving careful examination to: (1) whether Summers is, at least from the perspective of the demands placed on him by his current job, a person of high intelligence; (2) whether his examples of other groups which are underrepresented in various fields have any basis or meaning; and (3) whether he's a bully of the sort who should not be in a leadership role at a university.

On the first and second points, my spouse, who grew up in a rural area on a small family farm, and whose father raised a large family (starting only with a high school education and without his wife working outside the home) based on income solely from the farm, was disdainful of the idea that Summers supposedly has a tremendously impressive mind.

In the view of my spouse, anyone who's handled the job as Summers has handled it cannot be that smart. For instance, it seems doubtful Summers would have the acumen and adaptability to achieve the success my father in law did starting as a tenant farmer with literally nothing.

Summers undoubtedly possesses narrow intellectual capabilities of great utility in the field of economics, but I don't see that counts as "high intelligence" in any meaningful sense -- any more than the idiot savant character played by Dustin Hoffman in "Rain Man" would be regarded as highly intelligent simply because he could do things like tell you the weather on any day in the past 40 years, or quote the accident rates for all forms of transportation methods, or memorize a phone book, or instantly count 246 toothpicks before they hit the floor, mental capabilities apparently all based on the capabilities of real people.

A member of the Harvard community

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