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Should grades be curved in order to bring more women into STEM?

Why is it necessary in the first place?

A new working paper by several academics has made the case for curving the grades of science, technology, engineering and mathematics courses in order to draw more women into those fields. As one of the paper’s authors told The College Fix this week, preliminary “psychological research” indicates that women are more personally negatively affected by lower grades than men are, and that raising the average grades of these particular courses might help to ease young female scholars’ fears about pursuing such subjects.

Well. The research into this particular phenomenon is likely in its infancy. But suppose the early thesis turns out to be correct—that women are indeed more personally troubled by low grades, which leads them to avoid difficult subjects in favor of easier ones. Is that a sound reason for, in effect, lowering the standards of those courses?

It’s hard to see why that should be the case. Hard science and mathematics courses require rigorous discipline, commitment, and resoluteness; you don’t become an engineer because you like an easy A or even an easy B-. Plenty of women are capable of meeting those hard standards. Yet if in the aggregate women simply choose to avoid those areas of study that tax them in ways they find disagreeable, how is it fair to anyone to effectively dumb them down? These fields need higher standards than that.

Academia is populated by-and-large by people who believe that, for every question or discrepancy or sociological quandary, we must do something—that the response to the question of STEM gender gaps, which appear for all the world to be largely natural and value-neutral, should be something other than, “Well, that’s just the way it is.”

It would be immensely better if we maintained high standards in the fields of study that require them and let men and women chose whether or not they’re willing to undergo the rigors therein. You may not get as many female engineers out of that deal, but at least you wouldn’t be patronizing them in the process.

MORE: Professor defends call to institute grading curve to shrink gender gap in STEM

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