The Leaks

What to see what decades of US diplomacy looks like?   It’s out and about now.  What appears to be a long summary in the NY Times is here.  All sorts of other articles can be found by going to their front pages. 

The Times tells us that someone who is unnamed made the documents available to the Times and to some other news organizations.  It will be interesting to see who prints them, and indeed who can print them.  Will we even know if the British government invokes the Official Secrets Act?  (I don’t know if invocations of the act are also secrets, or short-term secrets.)

Beating Implicit Bias

As a teacher of philosophy I’ve been eagerly awaiting some research on how to compensate for (or if possible eliminate) the negative effects of implicit gender and other biases in the classroom. I’ll be teaching introductory logic next semester, so the timing of this potentially exciting piece of research from University of Colorado at Boulder could hardly be better. The claim is bold and striking – that it is possible completely to close the gender gap in the physics classroom by setting simple 15-minute writing exercises. From Discover magazine’s helpful summary:

Think about the things that are important to you. Perhaps you care about creativity, family relationships, your career, or having a sense of humour. Pick two or three of these values and write a few sentences aboutwhy they are important to you. You have fifteen minutes. It could change your life.

This simple writing exercise may not seem like anything ground-breaking, but its effects speak for themselves. In a university physics class, Akira Miyake from the University of Colorado used it to close the gap between male and female performance. In the university’s physics course, men typically do better than women but Miyake’s study shows that this has nothing to do with innate ability. With nothing but his fifteen-minute exercise, performed twice at the beginning of the year, he virtually abolished the gender divide and allowed the female physicists to challenge their male peers.

In a piece on EurkAlert! the authors sound a slightly more cautious note:

Steven Pollock, professor of physics and a CU President’s Teaching Scholar, noted that the study funded by the National Science Foundation is a “small piece” of a large puzzle, and he and his colleagues stressed that the results are no silver bullet in STEM education.

While concurring, Noah Finkelstein, a co-author and associate professor in physics, added, “This is a really exciting finding. It bears further exploration. These results hold significant promise for addressing differential performance and the significant disparity of recruitment and retention of women in STEM disciplines.”

I’d love to hear what readers think of the research. Would an exercise like this be as effective in the philosophy classroom? Are people tempted to try it out? (Thanks to Rob)

UPDATE: Thanks also to Mark who sent a link to a podcast on the study from Scientific American.

What do Iran and the U.S. have in common?

If news reports are correct, two of the seven U.N. member states that have not ratified the CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women) are Iran and the United States.

Here are two pieces of writing on it that might be well worth your time (for various reasons):

first, Senate Revisits the ‘Women’s Treaty’, by Amy Lieberman

second, The Case against the U.N. Women’s Treaty by (turncoat?) Christina Hoff Sommers

Apart from the more obviously important issues, was/is it inappropriate for me to include a parenthetical “turncoat” before Christina Hoff Sommers’ name? Does justice/morality/ethics require me to list her name as author just as I list other names as authors? Whether justice/morality/ethics does so or not, what other words might readers use to describe her? Any thoughts to share on this or related matters?

U.N. Women, CEDAW, and Saudi Arabia

The U.N. Women statement (on “Facts & Figures”) linked below claims that, “[t]he work of UN Women will be framed by… the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women [CEDAW]…”

Update: the U.N. Women website now indicates that CEDAW is one of four or so documents guiding their work:

Apparently, Saudi Arabia ratified CEDAW with three or so reservations. Here is one of them:
1) “The Kingdom does not consider itself bound by paragraphe 2 of article 9 of the Convention…”

– *** Please note that paragraph 2 of article 9 states, “Parties shall grant women equal rights with men with respect to the nationality of their children.”

What do readers make of this?

In case anyone is interested, here is a link to the 2009 Freedom House Ratings for Saudi Arabia – you can easily find ratings (or country reports) for different years and regions by changing the two drop down menus.