Friday, June 11, 2010

Daring to discuss being female AND being good at math

Many folks more eloquent than me have discussed John Tierney's recent article in the New York Times: "Daring to Discuss Women's Potential in Science". Boing Boing has the views of four female scientists here. Female Science Professor shares her thoughts here. Female Science Professor sums up Tierney's perspective this way:

There are flawed studies that show that females and males have similar quantitative skills and better studies that show that more males than females are extremely talented at math.

Or, as Dr. Isis says in the Boing Boing article:

Personally, I would find it much more interesting if he would start posting recipes for pies we could make with all the cherries he's picking..

Here's my take: you cannot apply the results of subject tests taken by people under the influence of a cultural bias to say that there IS no cultural bias and any difference noted in the results therefore must be INNATE. Period. The girls taking the tests have been influenced all their lives by the cultural portrayals of math as being a male-dominated pursuit and not as necessary or easy for girls. Has Tierney ever heard of the concept of "stereotype threat" or does he dismiss that out of hand? Or perhaps the recent widely publicized study that one indicator of math success rates is tied to the anxiety exhibited by female teachers? (Who, as education majors, come into my classroom already telling me that they are not "math people".)

As an educator, I see so many students coming into my classroom full of doubt about their abilities, and it is true that females seem to lack confidence more than males. However, what the females don't lack is innate ability.


Jackie M. said...

Mmmm, pie.

Jackie M. said...

Also: shall we dare to discuss the really embarrassing, overwhelming white-maleness of the NY Times op-ed and section columnists?

Dr. Lisa said...

Especially since Doug Glanville left to join ESPN.

astrogeek01 said...

I really love the phrasing of Dr. Isis' comment. Also: Mmm, pie.

Dr. Lisa said...

I blame Dr. Isis for my next five pound weight gain.