Why I am excited about Teen Skepchick

science girlI am so excited about Teen Skepchick! As you all know, over the past couple of years I’ve been thinking a lot about my childhood and how I was raised, first as a Catholic and later as a born-again Christian. I am convinced that if I did not have an early interests in reading, math, and science built on a solid education from public (read non-religious) school, that I may never have been able to get out of the fundamentalist trap I found myself in in my late teens and early twenties.

I had my head buried in books for as long as I can remember. From the time I read Ann Likes Red on my own, I was hooked.

Would you like a green dress, Ann?

No, I want a red dress.

Would you like a blue hat, Ann?

No, I want a red hat.

It wasn’t profound, but this little book opened up the world to me. When our new library opened, replacing the book mobile that had previously kept me supplied with reading material, I had to learn how to write my name to get my own library card. I practiced and practiced on that special paper with pale blue lines showing how tall the capital and small letters should be. After a week, I was able to scribble

D o n n a    D r u c h u n a s

on the library card request form. It was legible, but it wasn’t neat. It was, however, good enough to get my library own card, my prize possession. I started with picture books, but soon was checking out chapter books with smaller print and longer stories.

math girlWhen I was a bit older, I visited the school library frequently, picking up books about Annie Sullivan, Anne Frank, and Florence Nightingale. I didn’t find any books about female physicists, biologists, astronauts, or politicians. But it never occurred to me that because I was a girl, my role models should be women. (I’m not sure that it actually ever occurred to me that I was a girl, I always thought of myself as a person.) I read about Abraham Lincoln learning to read by candle-light, and envisioned myself in his shoes. I read about Lief Erickson leading an expedition to Canada, and I pictured myself by his side on a Viking ship crossing the North Atlantic.

In the sixth grade, I read Flowers for Algernon when every other sixth-grade girl was engrossed in Judy Blume’s book, Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret. I was not interested in talking about getting my period, kissing boys, or chanting, “I must, I must, I must increase my bust.” But by this time, most of the boys and the girls in my class were more interested in each other than in learning anything in school, and I became the outcast of the sixth grade class of Boyle Road Elementary School. I may have been a misfit, but I didn’t care. I had never known that you were supposed to have a lot of friends and play with popular toys. I hadn’t thought that you were supposed to wear the same clothes as the popular girls or ask Santa for the same things that everyone else wanted. And it certainly t never occurred to me that I should read the same books as the other kids.

I found a lot of interesting things to read in libraries, but today young readers have even more of an opportunity to find reading material to stimulate their minds on the internet. Even kids who are home schooled and kids who live in small towns that might not have great libraries can go online and read. I’m so happy that Teen Skepchick is now available to contribute to this huge virtual library. Just think what I might have done if I knew other girls who were interested in math and science, or if I had more female role models to look up to. My life turned out to be OK in the end, but I took some difficult detours that could have been avoided. I wish something like Teen Skepchick had been available to me when I was in in my teens, and I can’t wait to read what our young contributors have to say!


Donna Druchunas is a freelance technical writer and editor and a knitwear designer. When she's not working, she blogs, studies Lithuanian, reads science and sci-fi books, mouths off on atheist forums, and checks her email every three minutes. (She does that when she's working, too.) Although she loves to chat, she can't keep an IM program open or she'd never get anything else done.

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  1. That’s a beautiful story, DD… Something tells me you won’t get remotely the amount of argument about this as you did about ID. If we can keep instilling people with a love of reading and a thirst for knowledge, then there’s hope for humanity yet.

    Also, I really enjoyed Flowers for Algernon – it was one of the early inspirations of my love of rats. It turns out that they’re incredibly smart even without brain-enhancing drugs.

  2. Being a teen myself, this blog entry was all the more interesting. I’ve always been desperately trying to fit in–my family moved a lot–and quite self-conscious about being different, so I can’t say I felt the same about being a misfit, but I have always had a love for literature.

    My first chapter book was Felicity, part of the American Girl series. I think I was in first grade when I read it. Then I read pretty much everything by Enid Blyton and I was obsessed with “Watership Down”–the struggles of the rabbits still touch me.

    The Internet was pretty upsetting for me. Previously I had felt like a hero, fighting the battle against religions and pseudosciences alone. Then I realised that millions of people knew what I knew. It sucked. But I’ve learned to live with it.

    I think I’ll venture over to Teen Skepchick now to see what it’s all about.

  3. I wish something like Teen Skepchick had been available to me when I was in in my teens, and I can’t wait to read what our young contributors have to say!

    I fully support you in this; And one day soon, we will have an INVINCIBLE ARMY OF SKEPCHICKAL MINIONS, trained from extreme youth to think rationally, who shall go forth and conquer the world for us!


  4. I’ll echo Rystefn here, Donna. That was a great story! As far as I can tell, you turned out pretty well in the end. As for life’s detours, I think I have learned more from them than from the “mapped out” parts of my life.

    The younguns over at TeenSkepchick will be lucky to have your words of wisdom.

    As are we.

  5. I agree with Rystefn (this is starting to be a disturbing trend).

    I’d vote for hero. Adding a feminine ending onto a word always seems a bit dodgy to me. If possible, I prefer to use the same word when referring to both genders. I think “hero” fits well into that situation.

  6. I’ve noticed that Americans have been abandoning the feminine versions of several nouns lately. Heroine is one, actress is another. Just an observation…

  7. Rav Winston, my past is even more inglorious — I was the copy editor for our high-school literary magazine! And all that that implies. . . .

    I got better.

    Well, I have to admit, I do still have a few persnicketies lodged in my brain. For example, abbreviating “Wikipedia” as “wiki” in my presence is rather like saying “chicken” to Marty McFly.

    As for hero and heroine, I tend to think that both words have legitimate uses. I like to be able to discuss a film which has male and female lead characters without having to use constructions like “the female protagonist” all the time. If I’m contrasting one character with another, it seems natural to say, e.g., “The heroine proves herself more calm under fire than the hero.” When no comparisons are being made, then I don’t need an extra word: for example, “The hero of Kill Bill is a swordfighter played by Uma Thurman.”

  8. I had a boss who used to say ‘impactful.’

    And gender-neutralizing nouns is fun. For example, around Christmas time I like to talk about gingerbread individuals.

  9. Libraries!!!!!!!!! Some of my favorite places in the entire universe, and one of the few “safe” places for a social misfit girl 50 years ago.

    I was around 2-1/2 when I first learned to read, and I got so bored with kids’ books that my mom talked the local library into giving me an adult library card when I turned 4. In grade school I used to sneak off to the library at recess and during lunch hour instead of going outside. In junior high and high school I would go through 15 books, mostly either sci fi or nonfiction, a week. Even now I never go anywhere without a book or two.


    If I have to distinguish such things by gender, I much prefer “Shero.” But I prefer not to have to make distinctions like that.

  10. Rav Winston

    I used to be an English teacher. Please pardon my pedanticism.


    Although heroin always brings up visions of syringes and scrawny looking addicts needing their fix, rather than ass-kicking females leads.

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