Miss Musings

A modern miss provides commentary on sociological and psychological issues concerning politics, the media, literature, and everyday observances.

No College Allowed: Shaking up the Education System

With a beginner’s mind, I am heading off to university in the Fall. But how would I feel if I had not been socialized to believe college opens doors? What if you hadn’t either? Would you still have your degree and merely wonder how your fingertips would tingle on a plane ride to Paris or Rome? Would you still have not written your dream novel because you were too busy studying, instead of doing?

 

collegegirl

 

I urge you, my reader, to get hypothetical. It’s dreadfully fun.

Imagine: no college allowed… we just can’t go. Period. No college is allowed because no college truly exists. Suddenly, we sit in a world where after high school, our options are dramatically different.

Since no world can exist without some silly social stigma, imagine that the hot thing to do after high school is to receive technical training. You do not have to be a plumber or an electrician; you can still be a lawyer or an engineer or whatever else your heart desires. After school, you sign up to work directly with a company through a shadowing program, hence you “watch and learn” instead of read, memorize, test, repeat. By emphasizing experiential learning, shadowing, and true “technical education,” perhaps we could skip the fluff and go straight for the main course of learning: hands-on discovery and training.

Some of you may still crave the classical “liberal arts” education. While on-the-job training is more applied and interdisciplinary than the modern collegiate experience, exposure to great literary works and mathematical proofs has great mental merit. Well, after being homeschooled for ten years, I learned that the classical education is easily attainable through individual motivation and inquiry. There are libraries and museums that one could spend the day at and learn more than one would in a lecture hall. That’s the thing about classical education: it’s ubiquitous, and often, free.

Too often in our modern world people do not value technical careers – programmers, security analysts, and other BAS and AS degree level jobs. Yet, if our culture shifted from the high school to college mentality to the high school to job mentality, we would not just have educated people: we’d have a trained society, one of workers who can follow their dreams with freedom directly after high school. We would have members of society who obtain classical education through public centers: libraries, museums, book stores, and community theaters. All in all, our world would have no unemployment and no meaningless memorization. We would have choices in our education system, as we would develop it ourselves.

Let’s take the blindfolds off of our children that have “go to college” written in bold inside; let’s put modern education in the blender and mix it up if we truly want to be interdisciplinary.

February is National Career and Technical Education Month, as proclaimed by Fla. Governor Rick Scott. Photo courtesy of the Public Domain. 

Barbie can’t be a computer engineer… can she?

No longer is Barbie just a disproportionate plastic doll – she’s a computer engineer! Well, sort of….

The widely-discussed book “Barbie: I Can Be a Computer Engineer” has made quite a wave in the feminist and tech-o-spheres, as its portrayal of the doll as the “creative soul yet incompetent programmer” has enough sociopolitical ammo in it to arouse viral upheaval.

Barbie is portrayed as a girl who accidentally downloads a virus onto her computer, but admits that she needs the help of her male friends to fix it. Bring in the feminist organizations – we need a clean up on the toy aisle, particularly Barbie’s plastic laptop kit. Later, she explains that she is designing a video game (rad!), but when her gal pals ask to play it, she admits that she will need her guy friend’s help to turn it into a real game (bad!). But Barb, we thought you were the computer engineer?

If I were a young reader, I would probably not understand what everyone is upset about. Barbie would not have seemed incompetent to me, because she frequently seeks out magic and other-worldly help in all of her plot lines – the girl doesn’t do much for herself, because if she could, what would be the point of having other characters and wild mystical possibilities involved? But as someone who is in tune to the qualms of the modern STEM woman, I understand the issue of Barbie not being able to code the video game herself – I mean, she is claiming to be an engineer, yet she puts the workload on someone else and does little tech work herself. While having imagination is critical to any project, it is not sufficient to supply ideas and call yourself the chief creator or “engineer” of a game. I worry more about the fraud and ethical implications Barbie is pushing in the story than the gender stereotypes that one could assume are propelled at our youth.

According to Time.com, Mattel apologized for how Barbie is portrayed in this story, which came out in 2010, yet only just now was brought to the attention of the internet. Time notes that Barbie has been “to space and business school,” and is a competent woman.

Surely if Barbie can do all that, she can be a computer engineer – I hope.

Don’t MISS a MUSING! Visit MM on Facebook to stay in touch with the latest conversations.

Photo: theverge.com

 

 

My new perspective on feminism

About 4 months ago I wrote a post about the socially-scary “f” word… you know, feminism. 

Perhaps I was a naive 16-year-old when I wrote about wanting equality for women, only because I praised the “f” word and encouraged people to use it more often. Somehow, I do not think that would answer society’s beef with females. In fact, the word “feminism” itself might be the pristine hamburger patty of beef, disguised as an innocent and delicious sandwich.

When we say “feminist” and “feminism” and “right to choose” and “patriarchy,”  we preach to the choir. These phrases have become so mainstream that men and women alike have heard the qualms of the modern feminist. So, to cease the arguments, companies and politicians address these hot buttons with everything from media campaigns to women-oriented press releases solely about female issues. The right to choose is discussed in a girly way more than taxes, budget cuts, security, border control, and online privacy.

Breaking news!

Women care about these issues too.

But when we preach a desire for feminism, we state that the main issues that are important to us are problems that directly affect primarily females. Private and government industry matters directly impact us, yet women are encouraged to follow a one-track mindset. For example, getting girls involved in STEM, an issue I wrote about only a few weeks ago, is a problem. Yet isn’t it an anti-feminist notion to single out a woman’s contribution to STEM, when all contributions are important regardless of sex? It only makes a woman in the sciences seem to be more of a rarity, which I doubt is anyone’s intention.

Sorry all, but maybe talking about “feminism” is not giving everyone the best advice; it certainly doesn’t always work out as intended. Then again, maybe it is a difficult issue to work with.

But enough of the heavy stuff, girls and boys, let’s end on a happy note: dancing kittens.

 

Where was my invite?

Where was my invite? Found at cheezburger.com

Making STEM appealing to the modern ‘girly girl’

I grew up as a Barbie®-loving girly girl who only had fashion design and ballet on the brain. I thought robots and planes were for boys, despite my dad’s desire to share these hobbies with me at a young age. No one told me technology and engineering was men’s work – I just assumed it was since Erector® sets did not come in pink.

If they had, I would have had an easier time visualizing myself making strides in STEM.

 

Courtesy of girltalkhq.com

Courtesy of girltalkhq.com

 

The fact is, STEM toys, groups like FIRST Robotics, and technology-infested films such as Transformers and Iron Man are not targeted towards the typical girly girl. Granted, not all girls are girly, but some who are have the aptitude to excel in various STEM fields. I was never interested in any extracurriculars related to STEM as a child or young teenager, although math was my favorite subject and I was a creative thinker and problem solver. Yet when I walked into a FIRST Robotics meeting one year I instantly clammed up; I was intimidated by the technology I had never been exposed to throughout my years I spent focusing on my girlier interests.After all, how could I have the ability to succeed in STEM if I had not been building robots or soldering my entire life?

Later on I realized the importance of STEM confidence – you may not be able to succeed in the fields unless you know that you can learn the tricky topics. This is simply not taught to bright girls who would rather play with dolls or write poetry than dig into STEM at a young age.

Maybe this confidence can be built through designing engaging and girly STEM activities. Perhaps we can market them in an effective way to a subset of girls that is rarely recruited.

So think like a girly girl: writing a computer program may be more appealing when the correct algorithm can simulate an online dress up game. Math equations and solutions could be clues for Barbie® as she tries to find the missing amulet in a computer game adventure. Beading bracelets could emphasize the importance of planning programs, and you can even traverse the bead array and perform physical searches and sorts on it.

While the STEM world may not be the girliest one, girls should be able to feel confident with their reasoning abilities and have the opportunity to develop these abilities at a young age. If we are serious about closing the STEM gender gap, maybe we just need to target the unorthodox audience. Just imagine the potential scientists who could be unearthed once we make youth STEM activities less intimidating and more diverse.

How do you think we should get girls involved in STEM? Send Miss Musings a tweet or join the conversation on Facebook

When you give a girl a cup of Java…

To me, writing computer programs is practically like eating candy; it’s an addictive treat I allow myself to indulge in after a long day’s work and each language is a platform of new, exciting flavor. Sometimes, I sneak in a quick program-writing session when no one is watching and get hooked eliminating the inevitable bugs, partaking in the endless cat-and-mouse game that leaves me mentally tired, yet oddly satisfied. I cast the wrappers, or binary numbers, aside and cosset myself with a cup of Java; I could see myself kicking back and programming every night hereafter.

 

proposal

Source: http://www.geeksugar.com/Geeky-Wedding-Vows-22722529#photo-30952714

 

 

Admittedly, when I first took a computer programming class at age fifteen, I had no idea where to write code. But my inexperience was not what initially frustrated me about computer science: it was the fact that I did not understand the potential at my fingertips. It took a few re-watching periods of the movie War Games and several documentaries on artificial intelligence for me to figure out that the more coding knowledge I acquired, the more power I would have over the most dominant machine on earth. Hence, the quest for control progressed quickly, and I almost did not even take the time to realize that I was head-over-heels with typing lines of code, or as I liked to call them, blocks of supremacy.

To put it simply, I want to be a superhero… of computer science. My AP Computer Science A course made me well aware of the ability computers have, and the skill of the programmer. In the future, I would like to make my home-made programs grand scale: I want to re-create the Enigma machine, analyze risk within seconds, and cure disease with computers by writing programs. My curiosity has led me to writing rudimentary programs similar to these projects, but I know that given access to more software and research mentors, I can let my imagination run wildly along the lines. To prepare for a life of code, I attended an engineering camp, and at the end of the computer science class a list of electives to take at the university appeared on the screen. I thought only two things: I want to take them all, and I want to take them now. I am hoping that my analytical skills will lead me to a successful career in CS, and I could eventually become a hallmark woman who develops her own programming language and owns a software development company, and perhaps inspire girls to pursue CS along the way.

My goals in computer science can easily be summarized as follows: research in college, learn the ropes, and become a professional business woman who has developed her own programming language that can be used for anything from artificial intelligence to healing the world. Is it an ambitious aspiration? Perhaps so, but I have every intent to attain it. Later on, more will unfold: will I become a start-up consultant? Will I get hooked on research and become a director at some prestigious (or not, but soon to be) college? Will I have a TED talk, my life’s aspiration?

Whatever I do, I’ll do in a superhero cape and a pioneer hat.