22 September 2007

Science outreach for girls

I volunteered to help out with an outreach program that involves introducing major physics concepts to middle school girls. I find a few things disturbing about the program.

First, the professor running the outreach program is a woman and the outreach program is a requirement for her NSF grant. Are there men doing this outreach programs as a requirement for their NSF grants, too? It would be extremely unfair if female professors were required to do outreach in addition to all their other responsibilities. Frankly, no tenure committee will care if a professor does outreach. It seems like a way for female professors to have even less time for their research. Certainly, the male assistant physics professors in my department are not doing any outreach.

For this outreach program, the male volunteers are supposed to stand in the back while the female volunteers are in the spotlight. I find that a bit disconcerting. In real life, male and female scientists work together. I don't really see why it's necessary for the male volunteers to hide. In fact, it seems a bit like lying to me; just like how people write children's books trying to push their political views (e.g. saving the environment). Brainwashing children is evil.

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