Monday, January 21, 2008

Why is it still (mostly) a dream?

Hey, when your theme involves diversity, it is almost mandated that your comment in your blog on Martin Luther King Day (a new blog protocol) -- today I did not start teaching the spring term for the first time since I have worked at Haverford College, a place famous for its Quaker roots and mission of social justice -- well, better late than never, perhaps now they will work on giving us a day of reflection for Labor Day! (to all my Haver-Colleagues, I have an explanation at the end of this post.)

Tonight I watched the end of the News Hour where they broadcast some of Dr. King's speech from the Lincoln Memorial -- I had to tell my six-year old son that before he was born they used black and white film; I then realized that it was not before I was born :-(. Fighting, arguing, promoting diversity may have been "needed" in 1963, but it's 2008 -- why is it in the theme for SIGCSE 2008? I mean, it's like promoting chocolate (which we did at SIGCSE 2007; what will they have this year for SIGCSE 2009?) -- who could be against chocolate, or music, or romance, or puppies, or music for romance between puppies, ... or diversity?

Well, there are many reasons I'm sure, but what comes to mind as a computer scientist is that we also want great software, and I know why that is often hard to produce (or to teach how to produce). I have yet to meet anyone overtly against diversity; I believe I have met many people inadvertently contributing to the obstacles (and yes, including me). My favorite observation regarding diversity goes something like this:
  1. the majority of people are for equality, or equal access (i.e., diversity)
  2. the majority of people believe equality already exists
  3. the majority of people see that certain groups are not as "successful" as other groups
  4. thus they conclude (you pick .... laziness, not as competent, lack of skill)
After I heard this observation for a Haver-Colleague, I started thinking about how many times I must have been guilty of this way of thinking when a student "failed" in my course -- not all the time, maybe (hopefully) not even the majority of the time, but it is likely non-zero.

I did, as many did when diversity in computing rose into our consciousness, read Margolis and Fisher, I added more group work, I explored alternatives to "contests" -- I am presently reading "She's Such a Geek" by Newitz and Anders, and all I can think is, "How much more can I learn given my background and history?" -- and I have not even started with racial, cultural, other types of diversity to consider!

I am hoping that organizations like NCWIT, ACM-W, CRA-W, and the CDC (and others?) will be at SIGCSE 2008, and so should you! Well if you have questions, answers, passions about diversity in computing, please be sure to attend SIGCSE 2008 and really participate -- I hope I was able to convey some substance, felt like some rambling -- and that was diversity, stay tuned for accessibility (my other dream) :-).

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Oh, you are welcome to view this Daily Show interview relating to issues of race and diversity in other venues; warning, sense of humor suggested before clicking.

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