Quickies: Science fairs, LEGO beauty tips, and a Bechdel test for music

  • Science fairs aren’t so fair – “In addition to favoring kids whose parents can either spend time or money (or both) on a project, many science fairs seem to include little in the way of actual science.”
  • A Bechdel test for music – “Women may be fairly present on the Billboard charts these days but the sparse master list of songs from which to build a playlist like this—ones that fit the following parameters—indicates that there’s a way to go toward gender parity.” From Courtney.
  • Much rests on the enhanced Large Hadron Collider – “Physicists, though, are nervously awaiting the unleashing of the bolder LHC; the payoff could be huge, leading, for example, to the discovery of the so-called supersymmetric particles that could possibly solve the mystery of dark matter in the universe.”
  • Burn it with fire: LEGO Friends now giving beauty tips to girls with “difficult” faces – “Luckily, a ton of savvy parents and consumers called LEGO out on the tasteless feature; head over to the company’s Twitter page now and you’ll see a long parade of apologies.”
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Amanda works in healthcare, is a loudmouthed feminist, and proud supporter of the Oxford comma.

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  1. This was my experience with Science Fair projects: no guidance, no understanding of science, no help with time budgeting (I mean, I was eight/nine years old, wtf?). Lots of stress.
    Look, when I was eight, I loved math. If you gave me sheets of times tables, I ran through them as fast as I could. But for most kids, math sheets kindled hatred.
    Science fair projects did the same for me.
    All you learn is to think of yourself as stupid because all of the other kids *seem* to be doing theirs without the help of their parents, while you’re incapable.

    1. To me, science fairs always seemed like a perfect case for the whole “Flipped classroom” model. Sending kids home to do for homework in what essentially requires an expert to guide you.

      Parents don’t necessarily know how to structure a science experiment, which means every child whose parents don’t know science well are going to not learn anything. You need a science teacher to help you pick a hypothesis. To guide you on what variables to control for. What measures are relevant to your results.

      To kids, it just creates busywork, and to parents it seems pretty problematic as well. It reinforces class divides, it teaches far less science than it should, and it frames science as a competition which isn’t a helpful attitude.

  2. I remember when my older son was in 2nd grade, and they were telling us about “enrichment” classes. They were expecting the kids to do research on the Web and do a project. It was pretty obvious to his mother and me that this was really all about the parents’ having bragging rights, rather than any benefit for the kids.

    It was particularly crass since our school district is a mixed district — there are families headed by high-powered Wall Street traders and corporate lawyers on down to families on welfare or living on minimum wage. The same 10-20% of the kids are in the enrichment classes, the same 10-20% in the school plays and the orchestra, the curriculum is adjusted to suit what are perceived as the “needs” of that same 10-20%. And the rest are left to sink or swim as best they can.

    It’s yet another way in which society insures that those who are already on the winner’s track get even further ahead of the rest and those who started out behind get dragged even further behind.

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