Letters

7 minute read
TIME

Science, Math and Women
Our cover package on the differences between men’s and women’s brains provoked strong responses — especially from women in science and education, who know all too well the kinds of discrimination that keep them from reaching the top in traditionally male-dominated fields

“Who says a woman can’t be Einstein?” was invaluably informative about the scientific research and sociological theories concerning women in math and science [March 7]. As a woman university student, I am continually saddened by the negative attitudes that persist in academia about women’s aptitude in those fields. As suggested in your article, the educational system — not biology — is to blame for any discrepancy between the achievements of men and those of women. Given the right training and encouragement at an early age, women can, without a doubt, equal men in math, science and engineering — just as they have in other fields.
Manisha Chakravarthy
Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, U.S.

As a woman in science, I know that you cannot overestimate the pervasiveness of attitudes discouraging girls from pursuing math and science. I grew up in a university town, the daughter of a female biologist, but still felt societal and peer pressure that made me believe I couldn’t be smart at science. I credit my seventh-grade science teacher with encouraging me to break through my personal stereotypes and refusing to allow me to settle for B’s or C’s when he knew I could achieve A’s.
Laura McLain Madsen, D.V.M.
Riverton, Utah, U.S.

Your story on women and the sciences was a wake-up call to anyone who is hanging on to a one-size-fits-all view of teaching math and scientific subjects. Research confirms what perceptive teachers know: different people (whether they differ by gender, age or simply nature’s diversity) learn at different times and in different ways. We cannot cling to a naive assumption that most students will learn in the same way if they just apply themselves. We know how to teach mathematics for all students — by using not just symbols but instruction strategies that target visual and perceptive ways of learning and engaging students in challenging problems so they can both understand and use math in life after school.
Cathy Seeley, President
National Council of
Teachers of Mathematics
Austin, Texas, U.S.

Why don’t you publish an article trying to explain why boys score lower than girls in verbal-aptitude tests? It seems the focus is always on why girls are not as good as boys at math. If boys don’t perform as well as girls in a subject, it is never controversial. In fact, no one seems to care. Do we value math more than reading and writing?
Colin C. Baker
Dayton, Ohio, U.S.

The question is not whether women lack an innate ability to succeed and excel in science (that is simply not the case) but whether there are gender-based, neuronal differences in how males and females perceive input, frame scenarios and derive conclusions. If male and female scientists arrive at identical conclusions via similar yet subtly different pathways, it suggests that together we may reach a far greater understanding of any particular problem than through any single-gender effort. In the pursuit of scientific truth, the wealth of knowledge gained through diverse perspectives truly elevates us. I sincerely hope we’re not all the same. The world would be a pretty boring place if we were.
James S. Lee, Director
Math and Science Programs
Cambridge College
Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.

Women are as smart as men? Have you ever known a man to buy a shirt that buttons up the back?
Bob Bowen
Powhatan Point, Ohio, U.S.

Marie Curie was awarded Nobel prizes for Physics and Chemistry. Her daughter Irène Joliot-Curie got a Nobel for Chemistry. My grandmothers in Germany were not allowed to achieve doctoral degrees. There was no law to ensure the right of women to study at universities. I represent the generation of women in my family who attained the highest academic degree and studied abroad. Summers showed ignorance of the history of women at universities, and he is insensitive to the truth of female achievement in academia. Misogyny runs deep among male academics. What Harvard needs is a female president.
Britta A. Moeser
Darmstadt, Germany

Extreme Eastwood
In his interview with TIME [March 7], Clint Eastwood made a classic statement: “Extremism is so easy. You’ve got your position and that’s it. It doesn’t take much thought. And when you go far enough to the right, you meet the same idiots coming around from the left.” What a great truth. It applies to so many situations, particularly politics. Conservatives and liberals have different agendas, but the people at each extreme are the same kind of idiots.
Lawrence E. Lamb
San Antonio, Texas, U.S.

Rush to Ratification
Your article “winner takes all,” about ratification of the European Union’s constitution, spoke of the need for acceptance by the nine member states that have not yet voted [March 7]. You implied that the approval by Spanish voters provided momentum for the remaining nine governments, which are afraid of the public’s disenchantment with the E.U., to move up the dates of their referendums. That fear gives the impression that those governments are desperate to get the constitution approved — certainly not a good sign. It appears that a surge of apathetic voting compounded by Euro-skepticism may be the biggest challenge to the constitution. In that game of political poker, the stakes have been raised, and the voters just may call the E.U.’s bluff.
Joshua Selig
Portsmouth, England

A Marine Accused
TIME reported on the murder charges brought against Marine 2nd Lieut. Ilario Pantano for shooting two Iraqis near Baghdad in what Pantano says was self-defense [March 7]. I pose two questions: If the two Iraqis had detonated explosives, killing Pantano’s men but not Pantano, would he be prosecuted for dereliction of duty for not preventing the explosion and the casualties? Or if the Iraqis had detonated explosives, killing Pantano, his men and themselves, would the government honor him as a hero and adorn his coffin with medals? Leaders like Pantano are supposed to be decisive. He made a decision — to save his troops and himself — that the U.S. government apparently does not like, and he is paying the price.
Robert L. Nolan
Lunenburg, Massachusetts, U.S.

Why does Pantano stand to be tried, convicted and punished while George W. Bush gets off scot-free? The President had no justification for invading Iraq, and while it is possible that Pantano had no justification for killing the two Iraqis, the difference in treatment of Pantano and Bush is only too clear.
Richard Sutherland
Los Altos, California, U.S.

Steps to Democracy
Columnist Joe Klein wrote about the need for social and political reform in Saudi Arabia [March 7]. While we Saudis admit we are taking more time than anticipated, we have started to climb the ladder of democracy by initiating municipal elections [which began in February and will continue through April]. Those steps come after a few years of reasonable promotion of freedom for minorities and women, who are expected to participate in all elections by 2009. That democratic progression is in the midst of a war launched by the Saudi government to exterminate global terrorism. Furthermore, Saudis are taking on their responsibility for balancing the oil market by providing a sufficient supply to the industrial world.
Khalid Al-Saeed
Riyadh

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