Tuesday 14 January 2020

Dick the Engineer

Hey boys, you don't have to buy into The Patriarchy
As I start into my last year in the full time work-force, it is natural to reflect on what it all means: work, life, balance, the Universe and Everything. For the last seven years and seven days I've been toiling away at The Institute, a third level college in the Irish midlands. I think it's fair to say that standards and outcomes have slumped since I've been working there. There most indictable manifestation of this is having students fail some modules of their final exams in May and so boot their chances of securing an Honours degree; even if they pass the resit exams in August. It is indictable, and the teaching faculty and administration must accept some responsibility, because it is quite predictable who will fail those exams because there are students who are serial failers. But we've got them over the line with extra tutorials (and lowering standards?) and back-stop assessments again and again.

I have been careful to designate these chaps failers rather than failures, because I'm sure that they will have happy and fulfilling lives in fields and enterprises where their exam anxiety, dyslexia and poverty won't be a handicap. Look at Richard Branson or Orlando Bloom: the poster-boys for feckless, dyslexic, school drop-outs who eventually done good. The Institute has a vested financial interest in keeping bums on seats paying fees for the full four years; but we're not serving the un-bookish kids well or even fairly. They'll earn a lot more as a plumber than as a lecturer and they may as well start earning and learning their trade at 19 as at 23. One of the problems is that youngsters spend so much time in school and then in college where the most obvious and apparent adult role model is someone who did well in school . . . and became a teacher.

Two enterprising teenagers Cormac Harris and Alan O’Sullivan [R with excellent teeth], of Coláiste Choilm, Cork have just won the big prize at the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition 2020 with “A statistical investigation into the prevalence of gender stereotyping in 5-7 year olds and the development of an initiative to combat gender bias”.  The everywhere retweeted soundbyte is that, when asked to draw an engineer, 96% of boys drew a bloke, but that only 50% of girls drew a female engineer. [BTYSTE - Silicon Rep - Indo]. “We saw that more girls were choosing subjects like Art and Home Ec, and boys were choosing STEM subjects like Physics or Construction and DCG,said Cormac. “So we were wondering where did this divide come from? So we decided that the best way to find out was to go right back to the beginning, to senior infants and first class and to carry out some tests to see what their views on gender stereotyping are,” added Alan.

The point was made that at the moment we're beating on girls to be more STEMy as if a) it was their fault b) they'll be happier getting the rewards of technological education. We could rather encourage chaps to cook and code and care which are, or have been traditionally, female roles. They might be happier there. As kids we rarely know how to become our true selves but it's almost certainly not what our parents and teachers hope and expect us to be.

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