Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Continued Title IX Confusion

Last week there was an article about applying Title IX to the sciences in the Washington Post. I'm only just now writing about it since while I found it to be a frustrating read, I couldn't figure out why. Yes, it's an article that I disagree with. But that in itself is not frustrating to me. I appreciate well-reasoned arguments, even if I'm on the other side. Therein lies the problem - despite its condescending and arrogant tone, the article is illogical and incorrect at times. The author seeks to make her point through alarmism and absurdism instead of through reason. Perhaps she would have benefited from more participation in the sciences.

The author opens with these lines: "What's good for women's basketball will be good for nuclear physics. To most Americans, that statement will sound odd." Quantum physics would seem odd too. Happily, oddness is not usually used as a tool for evaluation.

She describes Title IX as "the law that requires universities to give equal funding to men's and women's athletics." In fact, simply looking at the first paragraph of the Wikipedia article on Title IX would disabuse her of the notion that the law was meant to apply directly to or only to athletics:

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, now known as the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act in honor of its principal author, but more commonly known simply as Title IX, is a United States law enacted on June 23, 1972 that states: "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance." Although the most prominent "public face" of Title IX is its impact on high school and collegiate athletics, the original statute made no reference to athletics.

I'm unclear why she brings this issue up now (the Obama quotes she references are from October). Since we discussed it last time, I've been thinking about how Title IX could be applied without resorting to quotas (which I disagree with). It seems to me that it's all about equal spending of money (isn't it always). In fact, many departments already make up for the small number of women in their departments by spending extra money on women in general (e.g. sponsorship of Grace Hopper). Certainly, this could be taken into account.

But perhaps some of my disagreement with this article does stem from my disagreement with her argument. The final paragraph makes an argument I have made many times... for the other side:

American scientific excellence, though, is an invaluable and irreplaceable resource. The fields that will be most affected -- math, engineering, physics and computer science -- are vital to the economy and national defense. Is it wise, to say nothing of urgent, for the president and Congress to impose an untested, undebated gender parity policy at this time?



Anonymous said...

I was wondering if you are able to clarify details about the implementation of Title IX, for example in the case of Howard in that article. Hypothetically speaking, if everyone in the school is athletically active to their full satisfaction (so 100% of the demand is met) but there is more demand from men than women, then is the school in violation of any policy if they meet this demand?

sorelle said...

It looks like the school is not in violation of the policy if they meet the demand (Wikipedia section), though I don't know much about the legal aspects of this.

However, it seems to me like there's something flawed with measuring only the demand since Title IX has caused high school girls' participation in sports to increase by 900%... somehow I doubt that would have been the recorded demand if a study had been done before Title IX.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, the wikipedia article is good to explain it in sensible terms. It sounds like the phrase "Unless it sends almost half of its remaining male athletes to the locker room, Howard will remain blacklisted and legally vulnerable." in the article is pretty misleading and/or false, in that case.