Skepticism

Skepchick Quickies, 8.6

Jen

Jen is a writer and web designer/developer in Columbus, Ohio. She spends too much time on Twitter at @antiheroine.

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14 Comments

  1. I would say that the right-wing rant bits in the science/culture article weren’t exactly hidden! The author clearly suffers from the all-too-common malady of believing that every issue can be neatly divided into two sides. You can either promote diversity and social justice OR intellectual rigor. No middle ground. He’s not much of a scholar, if you ask me!

    Why not do both? Somehow, both of my girls have managed to get a much better understanding of the value of diversity and social justice than I ever did in school, while still managing to get a really good start in science and literature. It amazes me what they learn in elementary school these days! Now maybe this model isn’t being well replicated in the junior high and high schools (or college), but that doesn’t mean that it couldn’t be. I honestly fail to see why we can’t have it both ways. Promote diversity and social justice, encourage more women (and men!) to study science by identifying the barriers, and maintain intellectual rigor while you’re at it. Is that really so hard? People need to stop being so “either, or” about everything. Maybe the balance has indeed shifted too far towards diversity training, etc. (I’m not convinced, by the way), but that doesn’t mean you should ignore the value in that by throwing it away in favor of a return to some mythical “golden age” of education where guys studied science and women took home-ec!

  2. Long time reader, first time poster…

    Chromosomal differences aside, I’m unfortunately intimately familiar with the failures of the “self esteem” movement. I taught high school physics for a couple of years and was aghast at the level of preparedness of my students coming right out of middle school.

    The county in which I taught had a policy of never failing a student in K-8, except in the most egregious of situations. The rationale, as near as I could figure from discussion with long-time teachers and administrators, stemmed from an idea that holding students back a grade was detrimental to students’ self-esteem and ultimately led to a greater chance of these students dropping out before graduation. Administrators, wanting to be able to boast of higher graduation rates, enacted this policy. The result was a diploma that is nothing more than an attendance record.

    Students entered high school and, like submersing a hot pan in ice cold water, had to endure severe culture shock. In high school, they *could* be held back. They *could* fail a class. But they had learned the system from the previous eight years of schooling and refused to believe that they would actually be held accountable. So students in 9th grade didn’t try and then were shocked, *shocked*, to find that they had failed a class.

    Culture shock aside, students also learned that they could get through by just showing up. They never needed to master the material. And so, I had students in 9th grade science who couldn’t figure out the area of a rectangle and didn’t know what an outline was. (When I asked one student how one determined the area of a rectangle he responded, without hesitation: “3”. After a few moments of a blank stare from me he revised his answer: “Oh, wait, 4. 3 is a triangle.” This was only my second day as a student teacher…) The result was students who had never mastered the basic tools and were now being asked to master material well above their ability level. They were screwed coming into high school and, being so far behind, could never catch up. This of course led to further frustration on the part of the students (understandably) and a growing distaste for education (and science).

    Sorry for the overly long post (and on my very first one!) but parts of the article really struck a chord with me. Fads like the ‘self-esteem’ movement and so-called ‘social promotion’ are among the many things that are destroying our schools and the chances for these students to succeed in life.

    Peace.

  3. Even past the rant about multiculturalism, I don’t agree with his other “insights” either. A yearning for wealth means fostering science and technology research? Americans hate progress?

    I just think he’s ranting through and through, and trying to make it sound relevant.

  4. What was really odd about that Culture Keeps Students out of Science article was its inclusion of David Hilbert’s 23 problems as an example of the approach to science which he wishes we hadn’t abandoned. Hilbert was well known for his advocacy of the increased inclusion of women in mathematics, going so far as to list himself as the official lecturer of a course which Emmy Noether taught because the university wouldn’t allow female professors.

    “Meine Herren, der Senat ist doch keine Badeanstalt.” (The faculty is not a pool changing room.) – D. Hilbert

  5. Grrr … too bad the sound got all messed up as soon as Pinker came on the stage! My hearing is not reliable enough to sort out a voice from all the muddly echoes, so I had to turn it off after just a minute or so. The intros were great, though … would’ve loved to hear the original H2G2 cast reading through the script, like the one gal mentioned. (And I had to laugh at the gratuitous boob shot … having a pair rather like that myself, it’s somewhat refreshing to see someone who’ll own up to the fact that yes, he is looking at your chest.)

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