Kathleen Parker

WASHINGTON -- The latest smack-down of former Harvard President Lawrence Summers should extinguish any remaining doubt that political correctness is the new McCarthyism.

Summers, you'll recall, was driven out of his university post in 2005 after he suggested at a conference that gender differences might account for an underrepresentation by women in science, math and engineering.

Never mind that scientific evidence suggests as much. One simply doesn't say -- ever -- that men and women aren't equal in every way.

Summers' remarks were seized upon, taken out of context and misinterpreted by many, including one female biologist from MIT, who walked out on the president's talk, later saying that she felt she was either going to faint or throw up.

And we say there's no difference between men and women? Can you imagine a man bolting from the room with light head and upset tummy if a woman college president suggested that genetic differences might account for males lagging behind females in reading and writing?

Men, being the logical, bemused fellows that they mostly are, would probably say, "Hear, hear!" -- and wonder how much longer before lunch. Stomping out of the room in a tizzy is not in the adult male repertoire. (Could it be genes?)

For thinking improper thoughts, Summers the Blasphemer was banished into the outer darkness. There's no debating that he was punished for saying something that made a special group feel bad -- the new blacklisting offense. To be called a sexist, racist or homophobe today is tantamount to being a communist sympathizer 50-60 years ago.

Fast-forward to this month. Summers was scheduled to be the keynote speaker at the University of California Board of Regents bimonthly board meeting.

And then he wasn't.

Maureen Stanton, an evolution professor at UC Davis, was "stunned and appalled" when she learned of Summers' upcoming speech and circulated a petition to have his invitation withdrawn.

Sinning against the sisterhood not only isn't forgotten, apparently it isn't ever forgiven.

Summers' invitation was "not only misguided but inappropriate at a time when the university is searching for a new president and continues to build and diversify its community," the petition said.

One can't help wondering what those cultural principles might be if they don't include supporting free speech? As the university continues to build and diversify its community, will that mean diversity of thought or only diversity of gender identity and race?


Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group.
 
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