Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Title IX and (Computing) Science

With a blog like this, I had to read the latest NY Times article on the possibility of applying Title IX to science. This federal law is intended to ensure a equal playing field for professionals, both women and men, and has been applied most often (and most prominently) in college sports. I understand that this law, and its implementation in sports, is still controversial but has provided more athletic opportunities for women than in the past. I am not here to debate this as applied to sports.

However, applying Title IX to science seems, on the surface, to be a potential response to diversity issues on gender, especially in computing sciences. Still, it feels "forced" if choices are no longer choices but mandated options.

The NY Times article cites research that I find worthy of further consideration. One reports discusses that women who enjoy manipulating objects and machines were just as likely to pursue computing/IT as men who feel this way.

It is this last observation that I want to note here -- I have always felt my role as an educator was less about retention than discovery -- retention has this implicit notion (perhaps undeservedly) of persuasion against one's actual wishes for the good of the discipline; on the other hand, discovery works first to uncover these individual wishes, and then nurture all students (women or men) to achieve their aspirations in a unfolding process of learning, adjusting and (hopefully) succeeding (i.e., make computing accessible). In this way, people work in careers that are more likely to be meaningful, successful, and thus contribute.

I stipulate that teaching in this ideal way is far more difficult that mandating equality through law and measuring it through counting; again, most worthwhile things are more challenging to achieve.

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