(reposted from last year, almost to the week.)
They’re Not Dumb, They’re Different: Stalking the Second Tier, “An OccasionalPaper on Neglected Problems in Science Education” by Sheila Tobias, Research Corporation 1990
Back of the book blurb: They’re Not Dumb, They’re Different is a study to determine why students abandon science for other disciplines.
Whatever possessed me to purchase this (for a dime) at a library sale in southeastern Nebraska? Well, the fact that perhaps I was not a good candidate for the degree program in college that I signed up for. Hmmmm. Engineering wasn’t easy but I stuck with it. Matter of pride, of economics, of belief that I was ‘smart enough’; but that doesn’t mean I found a good fit.
This booklet describes a study of placing students into pre-engineering and science classes to find out why they would or would not MAJOR in these programs. I found it quite interesting. It also stirred up memories of people I met as a freshman and why people chose to major in engineering. I recall a girl who had a generous one-year full scholarship to the College of Engineering who fully intended to take the money and then switch to Business since she couldn’t qualify for any dollars from that college! There was less competition for scholarships for women to study engineering. She knew she was ‘smart enough’ to get an engineering degree but it was ‘boring’.
I also thought this book would address how we can encourage more women to study for traditionally male careers. It touched on it some but its focus was not gender-based.
Anyhoo, what I got out of it was that Engineering schools have (had?) no interest in wooing over anyone who ‘might’ be interested in sciences. They prefer to scare new students and allow that only the tough should survive. So if ‘kids’ abandon these programs, are they stupid or was it the educational style? Who says there is a shortage of engineers, anyway? Supply and demand – if fewer engineers are graduated, than starting salaries remain high. What’s the problem? No problem.
Thus, professors need not concern themselves with being excellent EDUCATORS and students only just need to study hard and really want to be scientists and engineers. All those who pass through this system subscribe to it, endure it and perpetuate it. Thus, we breed ‘typical’ engineers; the stereotypes fit. Smart kids who could do well if they had classes that appealed to their personalities or styles of learning are not being encouraged and thus miss out on what could be an excellent career choice. Or not.
Unfortunately, I am not in a position to know much about whether or not this is still a problem nor if any schools addressed the idea of reform pertinent to the results of this study. The document was published 2o+ years ago. I found the study interesting, nonetheless. And it was no help in my quest to grow up and figure out what I want to do with myself for the rest of my life. I have a pretty good gig* right now , but I feel like I should ‘do’ something more…
* ‘keeping the house’, caring for and training the dogs, volunteering, reading & book-blogging, practising yoga, tutoring in math, and occasionally substitute teaching… I am very thankful for my life and appreciate all that I have. Happy Thanksgiving!