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girls and K-12 science education

wijsman at max.u.washington.edu wijsman at max.u.washington.edu
Mon Jan 18 14:11:12 EST 1993

Excellent, Buzz!  You have simply stated 3 points for discussion.  
What do others think?

>>I would like to solicit discussion in THIS newsgroup on the topic of
>>how we get and keep more girls in the pipeline...

>I have just participated in a study here at MIT concerning this topic.  It 
>seems that the single biggest factor in our group was having encouraging 
>parents.  None of the women in the study group (all of us were graduate 
>students or Post-Docs in science) had parents who failed to ACTIVELY encourage 
>the pursuit of science.

What is the experience of readers on the net?  I can definitely say 
that the above describes my parents to a T.  I am female.  Is this 
essential for female scientists, or for all scientists, male or 

>Many of us also had very encouraging teachers, but often as not there was an 
>adversarial relationship with elementary school teachers.  The teachers tended 
>to tell girls they couldn't do well in science and the parents encouraged the 
>girls to "show them".

What do readers on the net remember?  I would say that this was also
typical of my elementary school years, with the exception of my sixth
grade teacher, who was dynamite, and did everything Buzz suggested in
terms of encouraging girls, (and, I might add, was probably the single
most important person in my life outside of my parents in terms of
moving me towards a science career). 

>As far as how teachers can improve the fraction of girls who choose to pursue 
>scientific study, I say encourage them.  Stop expecting them to fail.  Call on 
>them in class.  ... (stuff deleted) ...
>They just told me to be quiet, called on the boys, and left me on my own. 
> ... (more stuff deleted) ...

This raises another (I think important) point.  I am sure most of you 
notice how much more verbal participation in seminars, group 
discussions, etc. comes from the male scientists as compared to the 
female scientists.  This in itself has got to have a dampening effect 
on the progress of women in science; we need to put ourselves out on a 
limb sometimes, and don't do it enough.  Is this something we were 
taught in school?  Do other (female) readers feel that the above described 
their schooling?

Ellen Wijsman

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