Failing Grade
March 06, 2006

SOME OF MY BEST FRIENDS ARE professors. Many of my relatives, too. I'd probably be one myself, had I done better in graduate school. But, this week at least, I'm glad I chose another line of work, because the most prestigious professoriate in the world, Harvard's, has just made an ass of itself. It has done so by toppling President Lawrence Summers, who resigned rather than face a second faculty no-confidence vote, which he seemed set to lose. In explaining the coup, conservatives will cite political correctness.

Boy Trouble
January 23, 2006

It's been a year since Harvard President Larry Summers uttered some unfortunate speculations about why so few women hold elite professorships in the sciences. During Summers's speech, a biologist, overwhelmed by the injustice of it all, nearly collapsed with what George F. Will unkindly described as the vapors. Since that odd January day, Summers has been rebuked with a faculty no-confidence vote, untold talk-show hosts have weighed in, and 936 stories about the controversy have appeared in newspapers and magazines (according to LexisNexis).

American Idle
December 19, 2005

"Without the Cold War," Rabbit Angstrom asks in John Updike's Rabbit at Rest, "what's the point of being an American?" Rabbit's question, which he posed in 1990, anticipated something in the national mood during the decade that followed. In 1995, social critic Christopher Lasch wrote that the United States had descended into a "democratic malaise," the most telling symptom of which, Harvard public policy scholar Robert Putnam wrote, was a decline in civic engagement.

Sister Act
October 10, 2005

The Peabody Sisters: Three Women Who Ignited American Romanticism By Megan Marshall (Houghton Mifflin, 602 pp., $28) “I am determined on distinction,” the teenaged Margaret Fuller vowed in 1825, as she made her first forays into Boston society. Elizabeth and Sophia Peabody, whom Fuller would soon meet, came of age in the same place and time with similar convictions. They were slightly older than Fuller, and much poorer, but they were determined to cultivate “genius.” For the first time in the Republic’s history, such hopes in a woman seemed dreamy, not mad.

May 23, 2005

ACCOUNT ABILITY Professor N. Gregory Mankiw says that extra government borrowing required by personal accounts "is offset by a reduction in the government's liability to pay future Social Security benefits" ("Personal Dispute," March 21). This may be true in a balance-sheet sense, but it is not the end of the story. The government's liability on Treasury bonds differs from its liability on Social Security. If you increase the government's liability on Treasury bonds and reduce its liability to pay future Social Security benefits, you are doing three things.

Prayer Center
May 23, 2005

It's 8 a.m.

When Government Writes History
May 23, 2005

The 9/11 Commission was "set up to fail." So says its chairman, former Republican Governor of New Jersey Thomas Kean. "If you want something to fail," he explains, "you take a controversial topic and appoint five people from each party. You make sure they are appointed by the most partisan people from each party--the leaders of the party. And, just to be sure, let's ask the commission to finish the report during the most partisan period of time--the presidential election season." He could have added that President Bush and Republican leaders in Congress had agreed to create the commission onl

Sex Ed
February 14, 2005

The science of gender difference.

Body of Evidence
February 14, 2005

There are many iconic photographs of Marie Curie: Early on with her husband, Pierre, with whom she shared the first of her Nobel Prizes; and, after his death, standing alone with her instruments in the lab. But there are other, more telling, images as well: With her peers--among them Michelson, Rutherford, Millikan, Poincare, Kapitza, Pauli, Bohr, Fermi, and, of course, Einstein--always the lone woman. In a 1911 photograph, she is surrounded by 23 men at the Solvay physics conference in Brussels. In a photograph at Lausanne, she sits, front-row, dead center, between Einstein and Fermi in a con

Closing of the Presidential Mind
July 05, 2004

On February 27, 2001, George W. Bush addressed a joint session of Congress. When the president had last ventured to the Capitol for his inauguration 37 days earlier, he had delivered a homily urging the nation to move past the sting of the Florida recount.