Re: Educational brainstorming & technology

Kat (
Thu, 07 May 1998 08:44:24 -0700

At 01:46 PM 5/6/98 -0600, you wrote:
>But I don't see many feminists shouting about getting boys into more of
>the humanities, which are suffering in terms of being cut out of funding
>and such. With boys having a disproportionate percentage in the illiteracy
>group, and with the dire need of humanities in school, you would think that
>we would be pushing humanities as well. Also, a majority of the teachers I
>had were female. Should we demand more male teachers? And how would we
>get more males into teaching? Apparantly this is not a top priority in
>this technophile society.

I think that you have answered your own question with your last sentence.
The humanities, unfortunately, are not seen as vital in the workplace as
having solid technical skills. For an analogous, non-gender situation,
think of how we view technical intelligence versus other more "humanities
based intelligence; i.e., when we hear someone is a surgeon, an engineer, a
scientist we make assumptions on the magnitude of their intelligence. We,
as a society value their intelligence more than someone who is a historian
or a social worker or even a lawyer. We assume they are smarter, when the
reality is their forte lies in skills that are different, but in no way
greater, than those that are humanities based. Therefore, as a society we
don't acknowledge the importance of humanities-based learnging and we
therefore only encourage by default students to study the humanities. By
default, I mean that only when we assume that a student isn't smart enough
to grasp the hard sciences or the math curriculum do we then encourage them
into the social sciences.

> Also, it will take a special kind of person to succeed in technology,
>and I am not talking about male or female. Let's take programming,
>although that is only a small part of the whole technological puzzle.
>When you program for 50 hours a week, looking at a monitor with your eyes
>focused like a laser, trying to find a single bug in your program that
>keeps it from working, you find out a true test of endurance. If
>feminists want more female programmers, that's fine; just remember that
>putting a person in programming and having them survive for long are two
>different ideals.

I think teaching kids to be technologically savvy is more than teaching them
to be little programmers. As a project director of a programmer trying to
bring women and girls to computers without bias, I am not trying to teach my
students how to program in java or C++ or any such program. What I am trying
to do is to teach them and myself that girls and computers are not mutually
exclusive. It has nothing to do with programming and everything to do with
learning that you can use a machine as a tool as long as you don't fear it.

> My own belief is that in order for education to thrive, we need a
>to the "Renaissance Man/Woman".

Ironically, I fit your bill. My background is in the social sciences: I have
a degree in US Foreign Policy ( you can't get softer than that!) and I used
to work with a company that was primarily involved in foreign aid projects.
But I'm also a computer programmer. I can read and write code in HTML, Java
and CGI Scripts. I can understand Oracle code and Delphi well enough to
find a break in the code. Yet, I was never encouraged to learn in the tech
fields. I picked it up because I was interested, I never knew I shouldn't do
it and I view programming as learning a language in the same way I learned

We need men and women who are interested
>in a varity of topics, not just "specializing". And with the turnover and
>layoff rates in the economy, a lot of people are going to have to broaden
>their horizons as well.

actually most economists strongly disagree with you statement above. If
you've ever read Peter Drucker, his view is that we need to specialize more
rather than generalize. Again, as anecodatel evidence - my partner is an
aerospace engineer who specializes in the production of mechanisms for
un-manned/robotic space flights (think of the Mars Rover or Galileo). It
has been comically easy for her to find an appropriate similar position. I
am self-employed now, but with my ragtag bag of skills, it was increasingly
difficult for me to find a position becuase my skills vary - I have worked
enough in the legal profession that I could go that route; I have tech
skills which sell the most; and I used to teach high school government.
However, becuase I didn't specialize, employers assumed I was a dilettante
and not serious about my chosen profession. The highly specialized
aerospace engineer had it much easier!

Just some food for thought.

Kathryn Gullo
Project Director
Girl's Domain Project (818) 761-5872

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