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March 28, 2011

Scientiae is back

So head on over to Now, what was I doing and enjoy reading about change.,

March 24, 2011

The Gender Wars Must Cease

Susan Bailey and I wrote this about the so called gender wars 12 years ago. Sadly it seems like it is even more needed today, so here it is:

The gender wars in education are heating up again. Too much of the current dialog on the education of girls and boys has the sound of a prizefight. In one corner are those who say that boys, not girls are shortchanged in school. In fact, they say, the attention paid to girls has harmed boys. In the other corner are those who contend that boys are fine and that girls are the ones with the real problems. The bell rings and the two sides come out swinging, each with its own set of statistics to prove not only that their side is the truly shortchanged, but that it is the fault of the "other side."

What is going on here? How did we get to this point? As researchers and authors of the 1992 American Association of University Women report, How Schools Shortchange Girls, which has been both credited and blamed for focusing attention on girls, we are discouraged by the boy vs girl framework and tone of the current discussion. We wrote How Schools Shortchange Girls to show how gender stereotypes, particularly those related to education, hurt both girls and boys and to explore ways educators and the rest of us can improve schools.

Back in 1992, we pointed out that stereotypes have long limited the options of girls and boys. Viewing science and math as things boys did and art and dance as things they did not do influenced the course taking patterns and achievement levels of both sexes. We noted that although girls were getting better grades and going on for post-secondary education in greater numbers than boys, the job segregation that limits women's employment choices and the gender gap in wages continued. This is still the case.

Today teachers and parents are working together in many schools to implement polices and programs that work for girls and for boys. Girls are participating more and doing better in math, science and sports than they were a decade ago. Boys' participation and achievement in math and science are up, too, and their participation in sports remains as high as ever.

We must get past the idea that education is a zero sum game where a step forward for girls is automatically a step backward for boys. Problems remain in our schools but these problems are not limited to "only girls" or "only boys". Teachers know that when something works for girls, it often works for boys as well. For example, providing students with hands on experiments reflecting the ways science relates to daily life has proven helpful in involving girls in science. This approach works for boys, too. Not allowing student "putdowns" makes many girls feel more comfortable in class and boys find they also learn better when they don't have to worry about being teased or insulted.

Society has made significant progress in reducing some of the barriers confronting girls and women who choose traditionally male courses or jobs. Because these are almost always higher status and higher paying positions, girls and women making these choices are seen as "moving up". Less progress has been made in addressing the barriers confronting boys and men who choose courses or jobs considered "girls' stuff" or "women's work".

We continue to value activities traditionally done by men more than we value those done by women. Adults and children alike know that society is going to be more supportive of the girl who wants to be assertive and athletic or to become an investment banker than of the boy who wants to be quiet and reflective or to become a childcare worker. "You act like a girl!" is still one of the premier insults that can be hurled at a boy.

It is clear that one factor shaping the girls vs boys framework currently in use is a concern that if being a "good student" is too closely identified with girls, many boys won't want to be good students. But rather than dealing with the real issue, why things girls do are devalued, the talk is about how "helping girls hurts boys."

What isn't talked about is our fear that boys who do "girl" things will somehow become "less manly". When caring, nurturing and the expression of feelings are seen as "girls' stuff" and "girls' stuff" is seen as not good for boys, boys are at emotional risk. This is not about being "masculine" or "feminine". It is about having the courage to challenge tradition. Without this courage neither boys nor girls will have all the choices they deserve.

Pitting boys against girls in competition for a good education is out of place in today's world. It shortchanges both sexes. The educational gender wars must cease. If we must have a war, let it be a war against ignorance. In this surely we are all on the same side!

March 11, 2011

Pat on the radio

If you want to get up really early on a Saturday (like 7:00) you can catch me live (well sort of live- I did the interview today) on The Everyday Leadership Show hosted by Dan Mulhern who is the husband of Michigan’s Former Governor Jennifer Granholm.. Ok I know I shouldn't have said that because Dan is pretty impressive in is own right but heck Jennifer Granholm..

Anyway we spoke predominately about stereotypes and why there has been more progress about reducing stereotypes about what women and girls can and do do than there has been for men and boys. I of course plugged valuing more (and paying more for) traditionally feminine activities. Anyway it was fun, he was good and he had done his homework.

BTW if you don't want to get up that early (and I'm not sure I will) there is a podcast. A lot of his stuff is about gender and I'm going to start listening to at least some of his shows.

On the downside he called me a pioneer which made me feel old. FairerScience friend David Mortman said being a pioneer didn't make me old, it meant I was in a young field. That Mort-- he's good!

March 08, 2011

Cool stuff for free

As part of one of our projects, Jenn- you remember Jenn, she's the crafty one. Anyway, Jenn has been collecting fun easy to use everyday examples that can be part of 1st and 2nd year engineering and physics courses-- read what she has to say:

For anyone who has ever gotten splashed by a wet dog shaking off, you’ll want to read the lesson plan by Andrew Dickerson (Georgia Tech). Concepts from Dynamics and Physics are covered in Wet Dog Shake, complete with cute animal pictures.

Are you a foodie or a fan of Top Chef? Impress everyone with the Thermodynamics concepts behind Cooking with Microwaves (by Dr. Peter Wong from Tufts University) and Sous Vide Cooking (by Naveen Sinha from Harvard University).

Help your students learn how much power they’re really using with Powering the Everyday Home, a Circuits example by Dr. Tim Healy (Santa Clara University).

With all of the snow in New England this winter, we could really use the lesson learned in Dr. Chun Wu’s Chemisty example: Why Does Snow Melts Ice? Dr. Wu is a faculty member at Mount Marty College.

Are you a film buff? Then check out one of the 8 lesson plans contributed by Dr. Chad Young (Nicholls State University), from his Einstein in Hollywood project. They cover content from Physics, Dynamics, and Fluids and all feature links to video clips. The examples feature Bugs Bunny, Winnie the Pooh, Superman, Mini Coopers, an X-15, a figure skater, and a young woman playing basketball.

The Aerodynamics of Kites, an example for Fluids and Physics, is from the NASA Glenn Research Center’s Educational Programs Office and will make you want to…well, you can probably guess!

Try to increase your chances of getting on American Idol by learning all about the physics of a Guitar with this lesson plan by Dr. Sam Hokin, author of The Physics of Everyday Stuff.

Dr. David Benson, from Kettering University, recently contributed 4 Fluids and Thermodynamics examples. Check out his lesson plans on playing with Water Guns, Liquid Motion Toys, and Springs along with an example that used Egg Cartons to demonstrate Specific Heat Capacity.

Since the ENGAGE website first launched last year we’ve been busy adding more Everyday Examples.

There are now 36 lesson plans available for immediate download plus 81 ideas that you can develop into Everyday Examples. Everyday Examples are organized by course area and we currently have 18 courses listed:

Control Systems
Differential Equations
Elasticity and Plasticity
Engineering Design
Engineering Graphics
Introduction to Engineering
Material Failure
Properties of Materials
Stress and Strain

Don’t forget, if you’d like to submit an Everyday Example for courses in Engineering, Physics, Chemistry, Calculus, or Differential Equations, contact Jenn, aka Dr. Jennifer Weisman, (jweisman@campbell-kibler.com).

March 04, 2011

The first world wide on-line science fair

Yup- you guessed it, Google's having a science fair . It's for kids aged 13 to 18 from around the world working on their own or in a team of two or three.

The grant prize- a trip to the Galapagos Islands. There are rules, a blog, and trips to Google for the semi-finalists. So pass it on to any and all 13-18 year olds. The deadline is April 4.