Girls and STEM

bubblechamber2My daughter is taking high school physics.  This morning, she told me about the class results following the midterm.  “Four people got A’s; four people got B’s; and six people got C’s.”  Then she giggled and added, “All the people who got C’s were girls!”

Deadpan, I said, “Your teacher must be a sexist.”  (I was thinking, of course, although she couldn’t know this, about the way the Ivy League feminists tried to destroy Larry Summer’s career for daring to suggest that there might be a connection between gender and women’s low representation in STEM degrees.)

“No, that’s not true” my daughter replied, quite shocked that I would suggest such a thing.  “He teaches everyone the same way.”

“I was just joking,” I told her.

“Well,” she answered, “A lot of people aren’t joking when they say that.”

Leftism sucks both humor and reality out of just about everything.

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  • Seanroconnor

    Did I miss something in the reading of this post – is your daughter one of the girls that got a “C” and she is giggling because she though that was funny?
    Not sure I get the humor.
    I took physics in high school.  For two reasons – one – to get ready for physics in college and two – out of simple boredom (I could not take another “study hall”…!)  I did not understand most of what was taught to me in my high school physics class until probably my second or third year in my college engineering classes when it all started to make sense…

  • JKB

    Your daughter seems to be aware of how dangerous such “jokes” can be to the person accused.  
    It is a shame that Physics like Math aren’t seen for what they are.  To do well in both you have to change the way you view the world, at least when doing them.  As such, the teaching of Physics and abstract Math is very different from the “things known” of other subjects.   It also helps if you have the math, Calculus, but the physics also helps to understand the math.  
    It doesn’t help that Physics is usually the first time kids are exposed to logic being primary over memorization in a class, outside Math.  
    Most subjects require a lot of memorization with a little bit of logic (introductory biology), or they require very little memorization and a lot of logic (physics, math).  People seem to gravitate towards one group of subjects or another.
    I suspect, if permitted, some generalizations between the sexes on who gravitates to which form of  subject could be determined.  Just so long as it isn’t applied individually .

    • JKB

      You know, having written this, I wonder if anyone has tested to see if the outcomes are different if they actually explained this to the students at the start of Physics.  You know, to prime them that the successful coping (study) strategies they used in other classes  probably won’t work.  
      I never got the overt explanation, although I did see the problem solving emphasis in my first year engineering courses.  But then I changed to Physics for my undergrad.  I didn’t even become overtly aware of this push to a new way of viewing the world until I saw an interview with Richard Feynman a couple years ago and he was talking about what they do with their grad students to get them into quantum physics.  

  • Ymarsakar

    You know in Japan they sometimes post the names and the scores of everyone in a year, together, on a big billboard in the hall way.
    Why? Mostly to promote competition, raise the social status of those at the top, and use social pressure to accelerate academic hard work. One of the strangest thing about Japanese culture is that scoring high on mid and final tests, national tests, is equivalent socially to winning the national sports competitions.

  • 11B40

    As much as I am emotionally eviscerated by the  on-going STEM segregation, I’m afraid that I’m even more upset about the “sports inequality” abomination that is foisted upon our young women athlettes under the clearly unconstitutional Title IX. 
    For way too long now, our young ladies womenfolk have been condemned to the back of the sports bus by the atrociousness of this misguided legislative atrocity.  I just wish that President Obama, a noted basketballer and golfer, the reported father of two girls, and owner of a somewhat inactive “Y” chromosome, would promptly rule the law unconstitutional and earn himself the Rosa Parks Prize for Women’s Sport Equality Forever.
    Just think of the benefits. How our young ladies females’ self-esteem would rise as they are freed from the plantation of second-class competition and allowed to use their many skills fully.  And think of the savings for our somewhat underfunded somewhat educational institutions in having to pay for only one team per sport.  Those dollars could easily be repurposed to open more non-American studies departments and that too would increase self-esteem all around.
    It’s time for the aforementioned President Obama of the first part to put on his high-heeled sneakers and, after the Mrs. laces then up properly for him, spring into action on this or at least evolve.  
    Stop the segregation!  

  • March Hare

    “No, that’s not true” my daughter replied, quite shocked that I would suggest such a thing.  ”He teaches everyone the same way.”
    And that might actually be the problem…
    During my sojourn at Cal, I atteneded an lunchtime lecture by Dr. Marion Diamond, a professor of physiology.  Her field of study was the effect of estrogen and testosterone on the brain structures of rats.  The lecture had slides of the changes, which were physically noticeable and Dr. Diamond speculated on what that might mean for humans.
    Fast forward…  Educators are aware that the standardized test scores in math for girls and boys are statistically equivalent.  However, four years later, those scores diverge drastically, with girls’ scores statistically much lower than boys.  What changed in those four years, between the ages of nine or ten and thirteen or fourteen?  Puberty, primarily for girls, bringing with it an onrush of estrogen.  Now the “correct” answer is along with puberty comes a social push that makes being smart, especially in math & science, socially “not cool” among middle schoolers.  But could it be that estrogen is “re-wiring” girls’ brains, and that affects their ability (and interest) in math?
    I was fortunate in that I had female math and science teachers in high school.  Because our class was all girls, my chemistry teacher used the analogy of going to a dance and finding a partner to explain eletron-proton pairing and atomic charges.  The analogy worked–we laughed and we got it.  Would it have worked as well if the class was co-ed?  Would we have laughed or would we have been somewhat embarassed?  Many years later, in a very relaxed, “off-the-books” conversation, a couple of teachers I know  have admitted that, yes, boys and girls do learn differently.  In a co-ed class, you shoot for the middle.  Or you aim to reach one sex and then the next time, aim to reach the other.
    Physics tends to be male-dominated.  Your daughter’s teacher is male.  Chances are all his teachers and most of his classmates were male.  The way he learned to teach physics was probably heavily influenced by the way he learned it and probably tends to favor the way males think. 
    And, lastly, even bonafide liberals like Chuck Lorre fall into “sexist” steerotypes about science.  In The Big Bang Theory, the guys are all “hard” scientists:  theoretical physicist (Sheldon), applied physicist (Leonard), astrophysicist (Raj), and mechanical engineer (Howard).  The women are in the “softer” sciences:  neurophysiology (Amy), microbiology (Howard’s wife, whose name escapes me), and psychiatrist (Leonard’s mother).  Which is reflective of the gender split in science in real life.

    • Bookworm

      I always assumed that I didn’t learn math and science because my teachers were abysmal tenured fossils just counting the days until retirement.  The aimed their lectures at the chalk board, thought questions were inappropriate, and pretty much assumed that everyone got the subject the first time around.  All retired within a year or two after my having been in their classes — and, no, they didn’t require because of me.  I was a terrible student but a pleasant classroom presence.

    • Ymarsakar

      Women have better color recognition, so their pattern and color recognition for information is generally superior. This can be seen on some simple tests as well. The median for women in crunching data and hard numbers were 20-30 points lower than the median for males of the same age and education. Whereas pattern recognition of said same numbers was reversed.
      Anatomy, I know I learned anatomy on the side via color charts. Or what were supposed to be color charts. Biology and cell chains also tend to be pattern based.
      One of the ways I might consider valid to test for genetic homosexuality, is to see if their brains and senses mirror gender biases.

  • Caped Crusader

    In my experience the difference between the sexes is not much different provided they are privileged to partake and learn from similar experiences in life. We raised our children to experience all sides of life as much as possible while staying in normal gender roles. When we go shooting, everyone goes and learns and practices the use, marksmanship, and care of firearms. When you get to drive, you learn to change a tire, check motor functions, and basic care care. Turned out we learned the daughter is a natural marksman, a regular Annie Oakley. If you have to cancel a attacker’s ticket, you need to know how to do it swiftly and efficiently, and not be learning on the job the first time. Usually men are better surgeons, but some of the women I have scrubbed with are terrific, but invariably they have had fathers or some male who has taken interest, trained, and taught more male skills, so that they can “shift gears” flawlessly when performing technical skills. Same is true for men; I am a good cook learned by necessity when young, and do at least half the cooking in our house. In no way hinders anyone’s masculinity or femininity or development. As I got older and limited my scope, half the subspecialists I referred complex cases to were women I had scrubbed when when helping to train them when they were young.

  • Caped Crusader

    Your first comment struck a note with me. I wasn’t in Japan but my schools always posted the grades of all on the door of that department hall for all to see. In med school they even posted your exact standing in the class. No worry in that time frame of hurting anyone’s ego. You just had to learn to suck it up and go with it. The only balm applied to wounds was the joke, “Don’t worry, the top third become professors, the middle third become the best clinical doctors, and the bottom third make the most money”. That tended to make all feel better!

    • Ymarsakar

      Japan had a lot of Western education integrated during their Meiji Restoration. But since I can’t read Japanese (yet), it’s hard for me to tell which schools derive their traditions from whom. British boarding schools made a significant impact on 1900s Japan. It was why many military leaders couldn’t believe the brutality of Bataan or the Rape of occupied territories by Japanese soldiers, since their experience was with a very sane, very Westernized Japan. The military junta that took control of politics was more traditional and feudal though. After all, many of those military leaders committed ritual suicide once the Emperor forcibly gave a surrender.
      Japan is thus what the West might have become like, if we had lost WWII or if the Left had not corrupted us. We can always look back to the 1950s with nostalgia, but there was no guarantee that such a society could withstand or work in Modern Conditions. Japan is very Modern however.