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Visual Basic? Seriously.
September 10, 2013 1:50 AM   Subscribe

To my daughter's high school programming teacher: "I spent 16 years raising a daughter who had all the tools and encouragement she needed to explore computer programming as a career. In one short semester, you and her classmates undid all of my years of encouragement."
posted by Mezentian (303 comments total) 67 users marked this as a favorite

 
Doesn't sound like the teacher's fault to me. More indicative of the "programming culture" (if you could even call it that.)
posted by mafted jacksie at 2:16 AM on September 10, 2013


I'd suggest the teacher has some level of influence over the culture of the classroom.
posted by dumbland at 2:18 AM on September 10, 2013 [143 favorites]


Wow, there's no need to infantilize the teacher. She doesn't seem to think that some things aren't within direct control.
posted by nicolin at 2:19 AM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, that's way more polite and constructive than I would have been.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 2:23 AM on September 10, 2013 [11 favorites]


Sigh.

Depressing.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:24 AM on September 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


This would be more meaningful if there was an opportunity for the teacher to respond. Did the teacher know the daughter was being harassed? Did it happen in class or was it online harassment (or otherwise outside the teacher's purview)? Did the daughter tell the teacher what was happening?

What happened to the daughter is terrible, but a little more information is needed before the teacher is roundly castigated.
posted by modernnomad at 2:26 AM on September 10, 2013 [7 favorites]


Kids taking their first programming class in high school aren't part of "programming culture" yet.
posted by nangar at 2:26 AM on September 10, 2013 [26 favorites]


Doesn't sound like the teacher's fault to me. More indicative of the "programming culture"

The teacher sounded somewhat clueless, not malicious himself, but not aware enough of the "programming culture" in his class.

The suggestions the author gave to improve the class, especially the first three (actively recruit, set the tone for the class, make the students aware of the harassment policy) would do a lot to lessen this poisonous culture.

(One of the things I'm more and more convinced off is that formal recognition and approaches are key to combatting sexism in geek culture.)
posted by MartinWisse at 2:29 AM on September 10, 2013 [20 favorites]


Teachers usually ignore bullying and harassment, whether gendered or not, so this isn't very surprising.
posted by nangar at 2:32 AM on September 10, 2013 [37 favorites]


I think of this whenever I hear 'sandwich jokes'
posted by Blasdelb at 2:33 AM on September 10, 2013 [27 favorites]


What happened to the daughter is terrible, but a little more information is needed before the teacher is roundly castigated.

No one has "castigated" the teacher. Not here, not in the open letter.

Actionable, constructive suggestions pointing towards solutions have been given. Constructive criticism is necessary in order to clarify the far-reaching negative consequences of facile ignorance of harassment. (And yes! Just because it was directed towards a girl, does not mean it's only for girls! The suggestions given would improve classes for anyone harassed.) Reality-based descriptions, i.e. the concrete experiences of her daughter, are given as the fallout when such basic solutions are not implemented.

There is no castigating happening. By casting it as such, however, it essentially tells the harassed, "careful what you say, you're coming across as mean" which tends to have a silencing effect, which is not constructive.
posted by fraula at 2:36 AM on September 10, 2013 [112 favorites]


Well, I tweeted with an apology and posted the following to that post. I doubt it will help, but I can only hope it does.

---
cut here
---

Yes, I would be the same person that tweeted you. The self identified guy geek.

I am so sorry for you and your daughter. There should never be situations/behavior like that. EVER. When I was younger, I did an abysmal job fitting in anywhere. When I discovered geekdom, I embraced it as it seemed to be a place where no one cared about you except for what you knew and could get done. No worries about appearance or physical ability. I jumped in headfirst.

I know it is little comfort for either of you, but, as a male geek, I am sorry those people that share a gender with me can act so horribly wrong and treat a fellow with such callousness. This should never happen to anyone anywhere anytime.

Just let her know that not all of us are like that, nor will we ever be. We relish diversity and different viewpoints. Please don't let this abundant idiocy discourage her, if this is what she wants to do. It can't rain every day...

(As I tend to deal with discomfort by using humor, please don't hate me for saying I am also sorry she had to learn using Visual Basic. I doubt that trauma will ever leave her.)
posted by Samizdata at 2:37 AM on September 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


Yeah, I never saw a teacher prevent or punish bullying or other forms of torment unless blood was shed. Lots of horrible shit went down but as long as it wasn't right in front of their faces they knew nothing.

They weren't malicious just completely clueless. That doesn't make it right. 'Course I never saw parents get involved either. Mostly it was like Lord of the Flies with a dress code.
posted by Justinian at 2:39 AM on September 10, 2013 [7 favorites]


I'm working VB at least once a day. Seriously.

I know the author mentions this isn't the reason for the article but she mentions it enough that it sounds a touch arrogant.

Apart from that I have to say my own experience with teachers (of all subjects) of any kind is that most were ineffectual at best. Each year there were one or two teachers that seemed to enjoy being there.
posted by twistedonion at 2:40 AM on September 10, 2013 [11 favorites]


This would be more meaningful if there was an opportunity for the teacher to respond.

Over to you, teacher... What? You're not willing to write an 'open letter' and risk your career by having a public debate with a parent via the Internet? Well then... sorry, but you've lost.
posted by pipeski at 2:40 AM on September 10, 2013 [19 favorites]


Kids taking their first programming class in high school aren't part of "programming culture" yet.

At what point does someone become a part of "programming culture", then?

It's foolish (or outright disingenuous) to deny that formative experiences, like the classroom environment described here, play a fundamental role in defining what "programming culture" is. These experiences will define what the boys in that class consider to be acceptable behaviour in later life, and if the authority figure in this situation is willing to tolerate an atmosphere of casual misogyny, then it'll be impressed upon them that there's nothing wrong with harassing and excluding women.
posted by No! Not the MIND WORMS! Anything but that! Eeeagh! at 2:43 AM on September 10, 2013 [18 favorites]


Recruiting is a good idea, but focused recruiting (specifically going after girls) is what's actually needed. Someone (teacher? guidance counselor?) needs to talk to promising students alone and let them know that they are wanted and needed in that class. Promise each of them that she won't be the only girl in the class and then make it so.

It's also important to get organizations like LinuxChix involved, because the teacher may just not know what to do without some outside help and encouragement. And when you bring in experts to talk, make a point of bringing in women to talk, but bring them in not as women, but as experts, because women are a normal part of the industry, not an exception.
posted by pracowity at 2:44 AM on September 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


I like her suggestions at the end, but agree that this is basically what happens in every class ever. I don't remember a single class in school, and I went to a pretty good one, where bullying was addressed in a systematic way. Sure, if you went and talked to the teacher they might try to action it (although their actions would be pretty inadequate most of the time) but stuff happening in class is difficult to deal with. Kids in school said homophobic and sexist stuff all the time, and often racist (although that stuff was usually a bit more hidden).

By this I'm not saying any of this is ok, but merely that this appears (from my experience, and the reported experience of others) to be a problem with the teaching culture rather than this particular teacher and this particular class. Perhaps a teacher could explain why the kind of interventions which we insist on for adults wouldn't be effective for children.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 2:47 AM on September 10, 2013 [7 favorites]


"This would be more meaningful if there was an opportunity for the teacher to respond. Did the teacher know the daughter was being harassed? Did it happen in class or was it online harassment (or otherwise outside the teacher's purview)? Did the daughter tell the teacher what was happening?

What happened to the daughter is terrible, but a little more information is needed before the teacher is roundly castigated.
"
A teacher who is not supremely clueless or a fucking tool sees and knows a lot more about their students than former students tend to remember of their teachers being aware of, its part of the fucking job.

If something like this ever happened in one of my classes and I got a letter a tenth as good as this one I would treasure it forever and staple it to my desk so I could be sure to never forget it. This whole letter is so supremely plausible I can't see any reason to question whether there is some "other side to the story" beyond the need for male validation of women's problems that men seem to always feel. However, a teacher so clueless as to not see something this obvious is a teacher who needs to know how fucking clueless they are, a teacher who is so unaware of the dynamics of their classroom as to not see this coming a mile away even if the harassment did not primarily occur in the classroom is a teacher who needs to know how fucking clueless they are, and a teacher who would actually need a student to tell them this is a teacher who needs a letter like this one to tell them how fucking clueless they are so they can shape the fuck up and act like a professional who values the sacred duty that their job entails.

I'm going to tape this up to the side of my desktop anyway, just in case I ever forget it.
posted by Blasdelb at 2:50 AM on September 10, 2013 [67 favorites]


Doesn't sound like the teacher's fault to me. More indicative of the "programming culture" (if you could even call it that.)

And how would that make it any better? We say that it's really just everybody's collective fault, and so therefore it's nobody's fault in particular. Through this language jiujitsu the problem turns into a "sucks, but what can you do?" and a shrug of the head. If only those kids were impressionable, and not set in this idea that the tech community needed to be like that, and if only there were someone in a leadership role to teach them.

But alas, it's not the teacher's fault that's just the way things are I guess. Nothing he could have done.
posted by cotterpin at 2:51 AM on September 10, 2013 [11 favorites]


It's not surprising that kids can be mean to each other, even more so toward a peer that is different than them. Hell, it's not even surprising for adults to be mean to people that are different than them.

The unfortunate thing that's pointed out here though, is that the teacher sets the tone that this type of environment and situation is tolerated. And the boys are used to the idea that it's okay to pick on the girl in the class, and the girl gets used to the idea that the domain of programming is Not For Them.
posted by xtine at 2:52 AM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


This would be more meaningful if there was an opportunity for the teacher to respond. Did the teacher know the daughter was being harassed? Did it happen in class or was it online harassment (or otherwise outside the teacher's purview)? Did the daughter tell the teacher what was happening?

Given that it was cast as an open letter, I presume it was also sent privately to the teacher in question (who was not named publicly, either). So they presumably do have an opportunity to respond - to the private letter they were sent. Their supposed right to a public reply doesn't seem to me to be that relevant when the public letter does not identify them - it's not like there's a meaningful honour to defend.
posted by Dysk at 2:57 AM on September 10, 2013


It appears that you are trying to make a complaint about sexual discrimination and/or harassment in the workplace/classroom.

I'm sorry, but your complaint isn't valid and/or will be ignored because

(x) Boys will be boys, AMIRITE?
(x) You did not phrase your complaint politely enough.
(x) It will only get worse in the "Real World", so you better get used to it.
(x) It's just as bad for boys.
(x) You didn't speak up soon enough.
(x) I wasn't personally there to witness it, so I don't even know if you're making it all up and/or exaggerating.

Did I cover everything?
posted by empath at 2:58 AM on September 10, 2013 [249 favorites]


You forgot:

(x) Go fix me a sandwich
posted by double block and bleed at 3:00 AM on September 10, 2013 [15 favorites]


xtine: "And the boys are used to the idea that it's okay to pick on the girl in the class, and the girl gets used to the idea that the domain of programming is Not For Them."

Which sucks out loud on ice, as coding is for EVERYONE (but me who sucks at it).

See, coding is SCIENCE!, and SCIENCE! is for all humankind. (Some people might argue about me being classified as "humankind", but que sera, sera.)

EDIT: NESTING ERROR.
See I TOLD you!
posted by Samizdata at 3:00 AM on September 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


To be fair, that family obviously has a tradition of teachers failing them.

** trigger alert
(gratuitous references to products, technology and events meant to establish that the author is a serious geek;)


If something of that nature happened to my daughter, I'd be much less concerned about cramming so much self-promotion into it. It makes me question the authenticity of the central issue.

(Which is not to downplay the existence of serious sexism amongst adolescents. I know it's real, and I live in a little fear of it for my kid. But this presentation smells.)
posted by Mayor Curley at 3:02 AM on September 10, 2013 [12 favorites]


How common is this sort of thing: high school classes with so few of the other gender?

When I was in high school (it was a dark time, Before Nirvana) scheduling was such that I found myself educating myself in such womanly pursuits and home economics and typing (oh, Typing, if I had tried harder), and later, when given a choice between Dance and Mechanical Workshop I chose Mechanical Workshop, and there were more than a few delightful creatures of the feminine persuasion there.

I mean, it was a long time ago in a different schooling system, but the thing that doesn't ring quite true to my experience is that there would be a high school class with a single X (where X is male or female).
posted by Mezentian at 3:04 AM on September 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 3:05 AM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


While this case really is a crying shame, it's just an example of what happens in education - to all subjects. Strip away the programming-related elements and it fits the schooling experience of a lot of people.

Of course, we don't see most of those. And perhaps they're not in subjects we care about. And they're not written up in an open letter that gets passed around the tech community online. But, yeah; schools. Not great at teaching, not great at not being sexist, not great at encouraging you to do what you want to.
posted by The River Ivel at 3:05 AM on September 10, 2013 [6 favorites]


"Did I cover everything?"

(x) You spoke up too soon
(x) Its not like its really a problem right? Men do just fine without the women they scare away
(x) The woman in question is insufficiently inhumanly thick skinned and has failed to out-Spock her weak emotions and therefore her complaints are invalid, unlike the men who are harassing her who are immutable forces of nature and also delicate snowflakes that must be protected from any possible insult as well as themselves
(x) FREE SPEECH MEANS YOUR YOUR SPEECH IS CENSORSHIP BECAUSE I DON'T LIKE IT, THEREFORE WE MUST STAMP IT OUT
posted by Blasdelb at 3:06 AM on September 10, 2013 [105 favorites]


"If something of that nature happened to my daughter, I'd be much less concerned about cramming so much self-promotion into it. It makes me question the authenticity of the central issue."

Jesus Chirst, you really can't win with these things. Nothing in that letter is anything remotely like actual self-promotion, all it will do for her career is potentially attract more fuckwads to harass her, and its self-aware presence is to forestall the inevitable BUT THEY'RE NOT REAL GEEKS.
posted by Blasdelb at 3:10 AM on September 10, 2013 [61 favorites]


If the author is trying to emphasize her "geek cred," it's probably because she realizes that many readers will assume that because she's a woman she doesn't know anything about technology, and her arguments will be dismissed because she's an outsider.
posted by my favorite orange at 3:10 AM on September 10, 2013 [57 favorites]


If something of that nature happened to my daughter, I'd be much less concerned about cramming so much self-promotion into it.

That's because you're a bloke. Men get the kudos for being geeky regardless of our actual knowledge/skills. Somebody like the author quickly learns she does have to list her accomplishments just to have a slim chance to be taken seriously.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:12 AM on September 10, 2013 [62 favorites]


If something of that nature happened to my daughter, I'd be much less concerned about cramming so much self-promotion into it. It makes me question the authenticity of the central issue.

I agree with Mayor Curley, this article seems to be way more about the mother than the daughter. I mean it is possible that the daughter just didn't share the same interest in pursuing programming further as a career....

Believe me, I work in a school, I know they can crush people's spirits so I am not taking away from that at all...I just think like Mayor Curley said, there is perhaps another angle too.
posted by bquarters at 3:12 AM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


If the author is trying to emphasize her "geek cred," it's probably because she realizes that many readers will assume that because she's a woman she doesn't know anything about technology, and her arguments will be dismissed because she's an outsider.

Or she's used to doing that.
I do it all the time too in my work, and I'm a male writing in a male industry.
Humans, we need to carve our niche.
posted by Mezentian at 3:12 AM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I guess I missed:

(x) The complainant is not morally pure enough.
posted by empath at 3:13 AM on September 10, 2013 [88 favorites]


Yeah, I'd like to see the parents of these nasty little bully-boys held to account, not just the teacher. I get that the teacher is the adult on the spot when it's happening, but still...these kids are bringing their disrespectful attitudes with them from outside programming class.

Also, I think this is about 'teenage boys en masse in a class with a single girl', not about programming as such. Which makes me glad (sometimes) that I went to an all-girls school.
posted by Salamander at 3:14 AM on September 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


To be fair, we have no idea whether or not she's also raised this appropriately with her daughter's teacher. She might well have done, but still felt it was important to get a public spotlight on an example which rather neatly illustrates a systemic problem.
posted by Dysk at 3:17 AM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Depressing.

I don't quite understand why she presents her objections to Visual Basic as a kind of joke, though. They're perfectly reasonable and the letter doesn't require humour.
posted by Segundus at 3:17 AM on September 10, 2013


Yeah, that stuff about Visual BASIC was annoying and stupid. It's not the GOTO-laden dreck of yore; it's a perfectly fine structured language that makes writing Windows stuff easier, just what an intro-to-programming-for-kids class needs. If you'd teach Pascal, you'd teach VB.

The teacher didn't exactly do anything wrong in some sort of actively malicious sense. But people are right what they've been saying here about the almost-willful blindness of teachers in American public schools to any sort of bullying no matter how blatant. Having come to understand how pervasive it is, I can now kinda sympathize with teachers who Just. Don't. Want. To. Get. Involved.

But the degree to which the crap in this story is gendered, the way it was specifically aimed at sending the message "Get Out Of Our Clubhouse, Gurls!", is what takes this above and beyond the ordinary sort of personal harassment into something that acts to structure the field of computer programming along the lines of the angst and territoriality of teenage boys. It really does apply to the subject being taught and as such it is the teacher's responsibility to BE AWARE of what's going on and take action.

I think this is one case where an Open Letter is the best approach -- the goal is to raise a flag in the mind of the teacher in the story, and in all computer programming teachers in grade schools and high schools across America, because sure as hell it's not isolated or unique.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 3:18 AM on September 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


"Did I cover everything?"

(x) You really should have instead handled this quietly, and by quietly I mean not all all so that I would never have to be confronted with my own fuckwadery
(x) Why didn't you handle this as loudly and absurdly as possible right from the beginning, because people don't generally do this I've never heard about it so I doubt this is a thing
(x) Has a male voice chimed in to validate you yet? If not this must just be a mysterious lady thing I don't need to think about, I'll just listen to 4chan style comments instead, they understand me.
(x) I cannot possibly hear you without a sandwich in my hands
(x) Oh this tiny stylistic detail is something I'm going to decide was a mistake, therefore everything is.
(x) YOU RAISED YOUR VOICE??? AND YOU'RE A WOMAN??? INCONCEIVABLE
(x) I have never faced this issue before, and really only heard about it two minutes ago, but here let me explain all about it to you.
(x) Can't we all just get along? You pointing out true things about how shitty people are to you is really shitty to them, their precious shittiness must be protected.
posted by Blasdelb at 3:20 AM on September 10, 2013 [97 favorites]


That's because you're a bloke. Men get the kudos for being geeky regardless of our actual knowledge/skills. Somebody like the author quickly learns she does have to list her accomplishments just to have a slim chance to be taken seriously.

That's a point worth considering, actually. I don't know for sure that I accept it, because it really does strike me as self-promoting, but you make a decent counter.

That said, this is one of those topics where if you don't accept the established narrative and express outrage, you get a Metafilter pile-on. So I would like to reiterate that I believe that institutional sexism in unacceptable. I am not defending the actions of anyone, real or hypothetical, who makes a girl feel unwelcomed in a programming class. Even if her mother's loathing of Visual Basic is being used as blunt tool to make me accept that she has cred.
posted by Mayor Curley at 3:27 AM on September 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


(x) The woman in question is insufficiently inhumanly thick skinned and has failed to out-Spock her weak emotions and therefore her complaints are invalid, unlike the men who are harassing her who are immutable forces of nature and also delicate snowflakes that must be protected from any possible insult as well as themselves

This is beautiful and relevant to all sexism threads.

Also:

(x) Obviously the complainant is only doing it for attention - complaints can only have worth if all possible applicable rules are complied with in attempting to address the event and the complainant is meekly silent in all other communications about the grievance.

Usually accompanied by:

(x) Well, if following the rules didn't solve the problem the complainant should publicize the issue in an as-yet-undiscovered tone that is firm and assertive but also properly submissive. Unless of course a real person (i.e. a man) is impacted in any way by the publication of the account in which case the complainant should suffer in silence.
posted by winna at 3:28 AM on September 10, 2013 [27 favorites]


(X) Pointing out my silencing tactic is censorship and a silencing tactic and negates your credibility.
posted by gingerest at 3:31 AM on September 10, 2013 [29 favorites]


If the author is trying to emphasize her "geek cred," it's probably because she realizes that many readers will assume that because she's a woman she doesn't know anything about technology, and her arguments will be dismissed because she's an outsider.

But this isn't, or shouldn't be, about technology. It's about harassment. The girl has graduated and moved on. There's no indication that either she or her mother spoke to the teacher about what was happening. If they had, the school would be expected to act. Depending on the jurisdiction, they would be legally required to. I see the daughter choosing to not pursue programming as an informed choice; she doesn't want to refight her mother's battles against sexism in tech. That's her decision to make, isn't it?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:31 AM on September 10, 2013


Nothing in that letter is anything remotely like actual self-promotion

True. Most of us remind others of specific tech conferences we've attended when we feel that the education system is failing our children.
posted by Mayor Curley at 3:36 AM on September 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


God, that's terrible. A lot of that came from the cesspit that's online gaming, I'd wager -- "programming culture" contains a lot of video gamer culture.

But even then -- how did video game culture get to be so bad? Is it just that unchecked community of rowdy teenage boys all trying to one-up each other in terms offensiveness?

I'd like to see if I could get the meme spread that sandwich jokes are old -- if shaming them for sexism won't work, maybe shaming them for unoriginality will?
posted by JHarris at 3:44 AM on September 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


As a teacher, any excuse for the teacher not noticing anything, not doing anything? It's bullshit. If you're in the classroom, and you don't know what's going on, who is whispering to whom, who is the leader of the class, who in the class is in danger of being bullied, marginalized, or otherwise made miserable, you don't belong there.

If you're aware of this, and you know what's going on, but you don't even do the barest of minimums to make things better? You're the reason why there are so many responses in the thread by people who assume you're either complicit in bullying, or pathetically powerless, and therefore not to be expected to be someone who should, or even can, make a difference.

If that's you, if that's who you are as a teacher, fuck you. You're an embarrassment to those of us who work our asses off to not only teach our subject, but to let kids know that some behavior is just fucking wrong.
posted by Ghidorah at 3:46 AM on September 10, 2013 [24 favorites]


I see the daughter choosing to not pursue programming as an informed choice

Up to a point. But the thing is that she had to make that choice because of the shitty behaviour of her classmates. Perhaps if that hadn't happened, she would still want a programming career.

Classes like this function like gatekeepers in which the wrong sort of people (women, people of colour, LGBT people) have to run the gauntlet of sexist, racist and bigoted behaviour. At each stage people like this drop out, not because they don't like programming perse or couldn't hack it, but because others spent time and effort bullying them into dropping out.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:52 AM on September 10, 2013 [12 favorites]


(x) The complaint is too long.
posted by wachhundfisch at 3:52 AM on September 10, 2013 [20 favorites]


Could a USAian give me a culture hint please. In the UK we talk to the child's teacher at the time if they are being bullied. Is this different from other cultures?
posted by BenPens at 3:57 AM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Most of us remind others of specific tech conferences we've attended when we feel that the education system is failing our children.
(  ) You didn't mention any qualifications, so obviously you have no direct experience in the matter and this was all done for the sake of attention.
(x) You did mention qualifications, so this is all just a transparent attempt at self-promotion. Nice try, attention thief!
posted by aw_yiss at 3:58 AM on September 10, 2013 [70 favorites]


Up to a point. But the thing is that she had to make that choice because of the shitty behaviour of her classmates.

No, she didn't. She could have chosen to fight that behavior. Because of her mother's struggles against the same ignorant behavior, she must have known she'd encounter it again if she pursued a career in tech, and she chose to avoid that. But she did not have to make that choice.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:01 AM on September 10, 2013


Well, no. If they hadn't behaved shittily, she didn't have to make the choice to either continue and fight their behaviour or drop out and not be bothered anymore. Either way she's worse off.
posted by MartinWisse at 4:05 AM on September 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


Or, to put it more succintly, dropping out due to sexist pressure is not something a bloke ever has to deal with in a programming class.
posted by MartinWisse at 4:05 AM on September 10, 2013 [13 favorites]


"No, she didn't. She could have chosen to fight that behavior. Because of her mother's struggles against the same ignorant behavior, she must have known she'd encounter it again if she pursued a career in tech, and she chose to avoid that. But she did not have to make that choice."

Well the boys in that classroom certainly didn't even have to think about it. Are you honestly trying to project onto us that if you were in the situation of you passion being filled by a huge cohort of people who hated you simply because of the shape of your junk and would work actively to thwart any ambition you might have that you wouldn't find that at all convincing when assessing your career options? Because that would be is either astonishingly stupid or astonishingly hypocritical.
posted by Blasdelb at 4:07 AM on September 10, 2013 [17 favorites]


Could a USAian give me a culture hint please. In the UK we talk to the child's teacher at the time if they are being bullied. Is this different from other cultures?

From the article:
I suggested that she talk to you. I offered to talk to you. I offered to come talk to the class. I offered to send one of my male friends, perhaps a well-known local programmer, to go talk to the class. Finally, my daughter decided to plow through, finish the class, and avoid all her classmates.
The daughter made her own decision not to have her mother do that. There's an argument that can be made that she isn't really old/mature enough to make that call, but she was given the agency and made a different decision.
posted by Etrigan at 4:10 AM on September 10, 2013 [12 favorites]


Did the teacher know the daughter was being harassed? Did it happen in class or was it online harassment (or otherwise outside the teacher's purview)? Did the daughter tell the teacher what was happening?

From TFA:
Do you expect girls to come tell you when they are being harassed? Well, don't count on it. Instead, they pull away, get depressed, or drop out completely, just like they do in IT careers. You want to know what happens when women speak up about verbal abuse or report harassment? Backlash, and it's ugly.
In the UK we talk to the child's teacher at the time if they are being bullied. Is this different from other cultures?

Maybe - if they know about it. However, it is common among US schoolchild culture that if your parent comes in to talk to the teacher then that makes you a whiny baby who is even more so the target of further abuse. So lots of kids don't even tell their parents that anything is wrong.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:19 AM on September 10, 2013 [22 favorites]


Are you honestly trying to project onto us that if you were in the situation of you passion being filled by a huge cohort of people who hated you simply because of the shape of your junk and would work actively to thwart any ambition you might have that you wouldn't find that at all convincing when assessing your career options?

No. Are you honestly trying to say she had no choice at all? I'm not projecting anything, but I wonder if you are.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:35 AM on September 10, 2013


Well, no. If they hadn't behaved shittily, she didn't have to make the choice to either continue and fight their behaviour or drop out and not be bothered anymore.

So now you're saying she did have more than one choice. Which is what I was saying. Nowhere did I say that she should be faced with that choice, or that it was a good thing, or that the mother is wrong to be angry that the class and its teacher failed her daughter.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:40 AM on September 10, 2013


Or, to put it more succintly, dropping out due to sexist pressure is not something a bloke ever has to deal with in a programming class.

TBH, I think that my high school programming teacher dropped out because he couldn't cope with teaching girls.

Admittedly, when I say "girls", I mean three. Out of a class of 20. And this was in a high school focused on getting women and minorities into STEM in the 90s.

Which was a shame, because he was teaching us LISP, and the new guy decided to teach us LOGO instead. Boring!

Also, dude, Visual Basic or Ruby or a Raspberry Pi or whatever - programming is programming is programming. You learn a language, yeah, but you should also be learning good practice, standardisation, and proper documentation, which will get you miles ahead of everyone else in the field no matter what languages you've learned.
posted by Katemonkey at 4:43 AM on September 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


Aye Empress we have similar pressures although the schools I have dealt with have all been pretty good at handling the complaint and aftermath. I have had to intervene 3 times about school bullying. Always in the face of massive resistance from the kids, overcome by discusiion. All had positive outcomes. I think standing up to bullies and winning is a good lesson to learn. This isnt to criticise the author who had to make a difficult decision and we all find out some of them were bad.
posted by BenPens at 4:52 AM on September 10, 2013


How common is this sort of thing: high school classes with so few of the other gender?

At my school, choir was always heavily, but not exclusively, female. My brother took small engine repair (and was bullied mercilessly in it) and I think it was all male (but I wasn't there--if there was a girl, she wasn't bullying him and never got mentioned). Everything else was not terribly skewed, as I remember.

My school had two years of programming classes. I remember seven boys and three girls. The class was taught by the guy who oversaw the school's computer systems who stepped into teach it to stop it from being cancelled (and visited every honors math class the year before trying to recruit students), but he was too busy to actually teach the class, so we fended for ourselves a lot of the time with no teacher. (In the spring semester, the math teacher who taught computer science was on maternity leave, so our teacher taught the second year class (and maybe even showed up) and we were supervised by her long-term sub, who was an elderly retired math teacher, who did teach me the chain rule, but didn't try to teach the class.) This was either going to be spectacularly successful or a disaster (and was probably a big factor in who continued to the second year). The second year, there were three of us, two boys and one girl. I think one girl had graduated. Because there were only three of us, we were folded into the first year programming class (and mostly fended for ourselves, but the math/cs teacher was back and gave us actual lessons periodically), which I recall being more balanced gender-wise than the year before (what was with the sudden popularity of programming I don't know--there were nearly 20 people in the class).
posted by hoyland at 4:54 AM on September 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Well, no. If they hadn't behaved shittily, she didn't have to make the choice to either continue and fight their behaviour or drop out and not be bothered anymore.

So now you're saying she did have more than one choice.
No, that's one choice from two alternatives. You always have at least two alternatives to chose from, or, erm, it's not a choice.
posted by MartinWisse at 5:00 AM on September 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Mezentian: "How common is this sort of thing: high school classes with so few of the other gender?"

Ever taken a Home Ec class? Metal or auto shop? It's pretty common.
posted by workerant at 5:00 AM on September 10, 2013


This is why I'm glad neither of my daughters is involved in tech in any way.
posted by tommasz at 5:00 AM on September 10, 2013


Why doesn't the mom teach a high school class in programming? My high school used to have professionals teach classes. She would be a great role model and maybe other girls would sign up.
posted by TheLibrarian at 5:01 AM on September 10, 2013


Why doesn't the mom teach a high school class in programming? My high school used to have professionals teach classes. She would be a great role model and maybe other girls would sign up.

If the byline is correct, it's because she already has at least one full-time job:
Rikki Endsley started her career in IT as the managing editor of Sys Admin magazine. She moved on to become managing editor and then associate publisher of Linux Pro Magazine and ADMIN magazine, and editor in chief of Ubuntu User magazine. In addition to her current role as the community manager for the USENIX Association and managing editor of ;login:, Rikki writes for a variety of tech publications.
posted by zombieflanders at 5:06 AM on September 10, 2013 [13 favorites]


As a teacher, any excuse for the teacher not noticing anything, not doing anything? It's bullshit. If you're in the classroom, and you don't know what's going on, who is whispering to whom, who is the leader of the class, who in the class is in danger of being bullied, marginalized, or otherwise made miserable, you don't belong there.

If you were not actually on top of everything going down of this nature... how would you know? By your standard, I'm not sure I've ever had a teacher that belongs in the classroom.
posted by Jpfed at 5:10 AM on September 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


To the article writer, from a high school programming teacher:

When my AP Computer Science class walks in today at 9:40, I'm going to see exactly one girl. She's the one who's taking classes with three of the technology teachers this year and TA'ing for the fourth. The word "hardcore" doesn't begin to describe her, and I (platonically) love her to death and would probably step in front of a firing squad for her.

But I hate that she's the only girl who will be walking into the room. I hate that too many girls think you have to be hardcore to seriously explore programming in high school.

I hate that she comes from a PreAP group that was actually quite balanced. I regaled that group with tales of Ada Lovelace and Grace Hopper, embellishing when I needed to. I made it abundantly clear that the very class I was teaching wouldn't even exist were it not for women who were front-and-center in driving programming.

I hate that one after another, they decided that AP Calculus or AP Chemistry would be a better fit for them long-term. Or that they want to focus on (shudder) the humanities instead. I know I'm going to see some of them again. They're going to walk into a programming class at UT or A&M in their first year and have a "holy fuck" moment as they realize that they've played it wrong. I know this because my first experience with Python was to help wayward former students survive.

One after another, these brilliant young minds decided that their hearts lied elsewhere. And by the time it was said and done, I was left with a (pardon the expression) sausagefest.

But I also kinda hate the teacher from the article. Just a little. Because the article write is exactly the person I want in my room and in my school, volunteering, showing your knowledge and skills and understanding, and helping to break down these stupid barriers that keep showing up. You offered to come to the class, and he turned you down? You don't turn down an offer from a practicing professional to come speak to your class.

Here's the big thing I hate, though. Recruiting for high school classes is entirely a cult of personality. No matter what we think, kids respond to teachers as much as they do lessons. If I have one girl in my APCS class, I have to figure out where I lost the rest of them. I'm never going to build a successful programming sequence on force of teaching ability or classroom material alone. And frankly, I need help. People, if your kids are at a school with programming classes, you have to be that help. Please, please don't be a sideline parent. Get in those classrooms and let them see you in force. I really need that to happen.
posted by parliboy at 5:11 AM on September 10, 2013 [34 favorites]


Yeah, that stuff about Visual BASIC was annoying and stupid. It's not the GOTO-laden dreck of yore; it's a perfectly fine structured language that makes writing Windows stuff easier

Also, dude, Visual Basic or Ruby or a Raspberry Pi or whatever - programming is programming is programming.


Not to spend too much time on the derail, but the harping on VB, much as it grated on me as well, does reinforce the idea the teacher or the program is clueless. Even if we assume it's VB.NET and not Visual Basic (and I didn't see any suggestion that's the case), it's a lazy choice. While "programming is programming" for the most part, there are much better options available. If VB.NET is available, then so is C# and that's a much better language. I'm not even going to stick an IMHO there. C# is a good OOP language and one whose syntax is C-like enough that it's easy to then move to things like JavaScript or PHP*. VB.NET has major failings as a first language. While it isn't the non-OOP abomination that Visual Basic is/ was, it still has legacy warts and supports all manner of bad ideas (plus I always feel like I'm working in a language designed for those with major head injuries: "Me" instead of "this/ self", "Friend" instead of "Protected", terms that do not appear in other languages as far as I've seen).

The other problem with the lazy choice of using a Windows language because it's easy is you risk failing students who do connect with the class. One of the things I found to be such a barrier when starting was I'd give up on a new language because I didn't understand how to install it/ use it. Why not pick an open source language that's available on whatever computer a kid may have access to? Yeah there's Mono for non-Windows platforms, but you're never going to get that set up and the amount of help you'll find on the 'net is close to 0.

* I'm not saying those are comparable or better or anything, just readily-available open source options that look enough like C# you could jump to them pretty easily.
posted by yerfatma at 5:15 AM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Visual Basic is nearly isomorphic to C#. The keywords are dumb but everything your kid learned about how to structure a program is applicable to C#, which is a really nice language.

There are only a very few things I can think of that C# and VB do not share:

1. VB does more implicit conversions (bad!)
2. VB does not have multi-line strings (kinda bad, I guess)
3. VB has XML literals with interpolation (good!)
4. VB has Catch When clauses (meh)

Singing the praises of C# while decrying VB is silly, IMO. It's just syntax.
posted by Jpfed at 5:19 AM on September 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


VB is a big derail.
posted by pracowity at 5:21 AM on September 10, 2013 [10 favorites]


You offered to come to the class, and he turned you down?

It doesn't read that way to me. It was the daughter's decision.
posted by 0 at 5:28 AM on September 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


Why doesn't the mom teach a high school class in programming? My high school used to have professionals teach classes. She would be a great role model and maybe other girls would sign up.

This is also a classic response to things like this: why doesn't the person complaining step up and take on this job, if they think they know how it could be done better?

It's always so interesting the defense mechanisms we use to insulate ourselves from challenging material. I catch myself doing this as well--"how can I take anyone seriously who mis-quotes Walt Whtiman, my favorite poet?" There's a kind of self-discipline involved in forcing yourself to set aside irrelevant factors that might be annoying, like "she mentions her credentials too much" and "she harps on the Visual Basic thing one too many times" so you can focus on the substance of the article.

If the mom hadn't mentioned her credencitals, and her daughters', would that have made a difference in the harrassment the daughter experienced? If the teacher had chosen to teach the kids to program a Raspberry Pi, would that have made a difference in the harrassment? What if we imagine stripping out all of the credentials and the thing about Visual Basic, and pared the article down to, "a high school girl who is enthusiasic about computers takes her first high school programming class, is the only girl in the class, and experiences teasing and harrassment based on her gender that lead her to withdraw her engagement in the class and choose not to pursue programming in the future." What do we think then?

Or what if we just take the mom's list of suggestions at the end of the article as a listicle: 10 Ways to Recruit Girls to Your High School Programming Class and Keep Them Engaged Once There, with lots of shiny clip art of pretty girls with long hair chewing pencils and frowning thoughtfully at the computer screen? What do we think of her ideas about recruitment and classroom management?
posted by not that girl at 5:29 AM on September 10, 2013 [35 favorites]


parliboy, can you clarify? If you're really in a situation where AP CS conflicts with AP Calculus (either because of an actual schedule conflict or because the school limits the number of AP classes a student can take), I doubt losing students to calculus has anything to do with gender. It would have wiped out AP CS at my school. (Not taking AP Calculus would have harmed my college admissions prospects rather severely, I think. But, more importantly, I would have been bored out of my skull in the alternatives.)
posted by hoyland at 5:30 AM on September 10, 2013


Even if we assume it's VB.NET and not Visual Basic (and I didn't see any suggestion that's the case), it's a lazy choice.

VB6 was end-of-lifed by Microsoft in 2008, and to my knowledge Microsoft will not sell it to anyone. In contrast, VB.NET is supported by the latest versions of Visual Studio, which Microsoft will happily supply to students and educational institutions for free.

Why would you assume that unless otherwise stated, this class is being taught in a language that hasn't had a supported development tool available to purchase for 5 years, the last non-hotfix release of which was 15 years ago?
posted by tocts at 5:37 AM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was all too familiar with what my daughter was going through, but I was unprepared for the harassment to start in high school, in her programming class.

I'm going to class this with the other "OMG WTF!" moments I see people my age encountering now that they have daughters and can begin to see the world at least a bit through the eyes of a girl and eventually, maturing young woman. The author seems to have been in the humanities and entered the tech world via journalism, so maybe I shouldn't be surprised she has not directly encountered this before. This encapsulates my experience in most math and science and computer classes throughout my education. It is bog-standard for girls in any STEM-related discipline to encounter an environment that is, shall we say, not inviting. The "culture" of those fields is not male by natural default - it's male because those fields have been dominated and protected by men since their inception, meaning that they were never not highly gendered in their social aspects.

I'm not upset that people are discovering this all of a sudden - better that they become aware of it than never become aware - part of me is still like yeah, we've been telling you this. Your mothers, daughters, wives and friends have been telling you this for decades. Are we still really surprised?

His recommendations for improvement, however, are spot on, and would that STEM teachers would care enough to embrace them. Here is a relevant NPR story about the promising development of an intentional commitment to improve the numbers of female students in computer science classes at Harvey Mudd College - a story I thought was an extremely important example and which did not get the attention it deserved at the time it aired (systemic problems act that way).
posted by Miko at 5:44 AM on September 10, 2013 [8 favorites]


"How common is this sort of thing: high school classes with so few of the other gender?"


Psychology.

Drama.
posted by Miko at 5:46 AM on September 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


You forgot:

(x) Go fix me a sandwich


You forgot the sudo.
posted by srboisvert at 5:50 AM on September 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


Visual Basic? Seriously?

While I think the overall point is a very valid one, the delivery would make me want to circular-file this letter. If your problem is people making snide comments to your daughter, making snide comments to the teacher hardly seems like a constructive course of action.

It's not the language that's important. It's the concepts behind the language that can translate to most other languages. The rest is just syntax rules.
posted by prepmonkey at 5:50 AM on September 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Psychology.

Drama.


Interestingly, Psychology was pretty balanced at my school. Drama wasn't offered as a class in high school. Nor was home ec. (There was some class that taught you about budgeting and doing your taxes and what have you that had probably morphed out of home ec.) Both existed in junior high and were pretty balanced gender-wise. I think if you weren't in band/orchestra/chorus, you had to rotate through art, drama, home ec and computers (you did three of four or something). Home ec was initially perceived as very strongly gendered, but there was a lot of effort put into talking it up to get boys to take it. Once people realised they were missing out on eating cupcakes and that seventh graders got to make pajama pants (which was a big deal for reasons I never understood), those that had resisted in sixth grade tended to get over themselves (plus I think most people hated the drama teacher).
posted by hoyland at 5:56 AM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


While I think the overall point is a very valid one, the delivery would make me want to circular-file this letter. If your problem is people making snide comments to your daughter, making snide comments to the teacher hardly seems like a constructive course of action.

"if I get upset because this parent seemed sarcastic about my choice to teach Visual Basic, I can just snort derisively and throw the letter away. I won't have to think at all about whether her more serious concerns have any basis in fact or whether there is anything I could and should be doing to change the gender make-up and the culture of my classes. Phew! That might have been hard work, and even if I'd done it right, it might not have made any difference in the long run. Dodged a bullet there!"
posted by not that girl at 5:56 AM on September 10, 2013 [13 favorites]


Video game culture - which is where I think of the 'sandwich' thing as coming from - really is just a toxic blight.
posted by rmd1023 at 5:57 AM on September 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


Home ec was initially perceived as very strongly gendered, but there was a lot of effort put into talking it up to get boys to take it. Once people realised they were missing out on eating cupcakes and that seventh graders got to make pajama pants (which was a big deal for reasons I never understood), those that had resisted in sixth grade tended to get over themselves

Excellent case for the impact of recruiting.
posted by Miko at 5:58 AM on September 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


I am aware of a lot in the classroom and I know about the vital importance of classroom dynamics and I've swatted away a lot of racism, sexism, and other other-isms (and I mean swat-to-kill) and I've chosen materials that will address those ideas in context. I keep kids after class and talk to counselors and parents, but, really? I'm sure that there are things that I miss. I'm not so old, but the kids are always inventing new ways to be mean--my seventh graders finally gave up trying to sneak coded bullying messages into their grammar exercises--and I can't hear every little aside. Relationships are so volatile and kids can be good at hiding their feelings.

If this letter had come to me, yes, I'd keep it and think about what I need to do better in my class in the future, so even if the next class has a similarly huge gender disparity, this would not happen again. Even if the student was super-successful in her work. (I checked in so constantly that quarter when I only had one boy in my class, I think I drove him crazy.)

I'm glad that the student was comfortable talking with her mom and the school counselor about the situation, but man, would I be bummed that I lost her and that the class was so bad for her. I would be so disappointed that I didn't find out until there was nothing I could do to improve things for her, not just the future girls. I want things to be awesome for all my students, each and every one.
posted by MsDaniB at 6:01 AM on September 10, 2013 [6 favorites]


hoyland - for me, i was taking such a huge course load and also trying to carry band that i stopped taking math after 10th grade (because my requirements were done) and i needed that space for something else - probably humanities related. my guidance counselor encouraged me to specialize and to stop math/science as soon as i could because i didn't need those pesky things. it wasn't so bad for me because i really did want to focus on english/history/french, but looking back it's hard to ignore that my classes did get weirdly weighted towards more women and when i'd go hang out in the science wing of the school there were more guys.

Mezentian - my ap french 4 class had 1 guy in it and he didn't make it to winter break. my brother was in advanced choir and he was the only guy. one school i went to had a study hall period that doubled as a club period and i was the only girl in math and science club. it doesn't seem that far fetched to me, especially when you talk about things that aren't core classes.
posted by nadawi at 6:01 AM on September 10, 2013


A tangent:

I hate that one after another, they decided that AP Calculus or AP Chemistry would be a better fit for them long-term. Or that they want to focus on (shudder) the humanities instead.

I'm totally down with what you're saying, but oi, don't hate on the humanities, bro!

Signed,

A drama club geek who ended up with the techies because she found out she liked combining arts AND tech stuff
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:04 AM on September 10, 2013 [23 favorites]


oh yeah, high school psychology, totally not a lot of guys in that class.
posted by nadawi at 6:05 AM on September 10, 2013


Is it normal to recruit for high school classes? I guess there were probably some "Write for the Paper!" fliers around, but I can't remember any. I went to smallish Catholic schools and I've only taught in small schools, so there were never that many choices.

At any rate, I agree that it is probably a great idea for a non-core class with such gender disparity. The teacher might even want to check in with the associated junior highs to make sure that girls aren't being turned off way earlier.
posted by MsDaniB at 6:06 AM on September 10, 2013


I think it's interesting contrasting this thread with the recent "teach naked" thread.
posted by kavasa at 6:07 AM on September 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


there was totally recruiting at some of the schools i went to, a rep from each department (of non-core and/or advanced classes) would go around the jr. highs and pitch their class or leave flyers (or would have the jr. high teachers do it for them). there was recruiting for the tech school too.
posted by nadawi at 6:09 AM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


"If your problem is people making snide comments to your daughter..."

That is not her problem with the teacher
posted by Blasdelb at 6:13 AM on September 10, 2013 [7 favorites]


I'm old enough that some classes in my high school were single gender by policy (girls couldn't take shop and boys couldn't take home-ec) but interestingly the programming course I took had a pretty much even split (as far as I remember). Perhaps because there were so many classes we couldn't take we were more excited to take something like programming and it hadn't acquired a boyzone reputation yet.
posted by interplanetjanet at 6:15 AM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's the shy, bullied programers that become the Gates and Jobs of the future.
posted by judson at 6:16 AM on September 10, 2013


It's the shy, bullied programers that become the Gates and Jobs of the future.

Are you seriously suggesting Steve Jobs was ever shy?
posted by Space Coyote at 6:21 AM on September 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's the shy, bullied programers that become the Gates and Jobs of the future.

But it's the harassed and objectified proto-programmers who give up because "they're never going to take me seriously just because I'm a girl so what the fuck is the point".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:22 AM on September 10, 2013 [25 favorites]


parliboy: Or that they want to focus on (shudder) the humanities instead.

Can we not do this?
posted by Rory Marinich at 6:22 AM on September 10, 2013 [27 favorites]


Are you seriously suggesting Steve Jobs was ever a programmer?
posted by Zed at 6:22 AM on September 10, 2013 [14 favorites]


It's the shy, bullied programers that become the Gates and Jobs of the future.

Steve Jobs oozed manstosterone everywhere he went. I'm not saying that as a good thing: his aggressiveness and arrogance often led to some of Apple's worst design choices.
posted by Rory Marinich at 6:24 AM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is this a case of idiot teenagers acting like misogynist programmers, gamers, and nerds? Or do misogynist programmers, gamers, and nerds -- and the "cultures" around them -- act like idiot teenagers?
posted by Legomancer at 6:26 AM on September 10, 2013


Or do misogynist programmers, gamers, and nerds -- and the "cultures" around them -- act like idiot teenagers?

There were idiot teenagers before computers were A Thing, so I'd wager this is the problem here.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:29 AM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I took a programming class in JHS (DOS, to show my age), and to be honest, I don't remember much about this class, or the gender make-up of it, other than we got out of two days of the class because someone (me) typed in "del *.*" or something like that into all the computers.

That said, I also remember that same semester, taking a Home-Ec class instead of a shop class. My hormonal self definitely did notice the extreme preponderance of females in that class. I think of about 25 kids, there was two other males.

I was a latchkey kid, who was self taught to cook for himself from an early age, so I figured this would be a gimme "A" (+ girlz!!!). More importantly, and to be honest, I was more interested in cooking than making a birdhouse. My friends gave me shit for taking this class, so with them I phrased it from the angle of trying to score with the ladies, although truth be told, I was too afraid to make eye contact with a girl for more than three seconds at this stage in my life. Secretly, I think a large part of me thought that the ladies would swoon over my cooking skills and view me for the perfect husband material that I was, and they would soon all be fighting each other in the parking lot to see who would get to take me to prom. Needless to say, that didn't happen.

Out of the three guys in the class, the first cooking day, Boy 1 was more interested in throwing dough at his girlfriend, Boy 2 hardly said a word and seemed quiet and miserable. I was overconfident, and apparently quite unprepared for the structure of recipes.

By the middle of the semester, however, I just remember this being a fun class. I thought some of the girls in it were standoffish and uppity, the ones who had their own exclusive group. But there were just as many who would talk with everyone, or stop to help, although they probably knew just as little about making biscuits (or whatever) as I did.

The food we made was awful, but overall, it was one of the more enjoyable classes I took that semester. With a few exceptions (who I easily stayed away from), I never was made to feel like an interloper or a girlie-man. The teacher seemed to be excited at my genuine interest in cooking and I remember looking forward to this class each day.

It's sad, but true, that as a man, I can have experiences like this, and either be treated normally or while being "singled out" it's in an "exceptional" and positive way. Granted, to my friends, to stave off the endless ribbing and reputation of being a "homo," I had to lie about my motivations for being in the class, and may have even lied about getting upskirts when "that chick in Steve's English class who is also in my Home Ec class" bent over to put something in the oven.

I never thought about this until today, but to summarize, the most miserable thing about the otherwise fun class I took, as a male... was other males.
posted by Debaser626 at 6:30 AM on September 10, 2013 [25 favorites]


Strip away the programming-related elements and it fits the schooling experience of a lot of people.

Is this true? Is this as likely to happen in a Geography or Physics class, to girls who excel at the subject? If that is true (and I've experienced nothing like it in my long, low technology life) it's a huge failure in classroom discipline. If it's part of the ordinary culture of schools that should worry everybody but especially educationalists. Although it's possible my outlook is out-of-date through having been in school when only a few went on to do A-levels (years 12 & 13). The A-level classes were a lot more civilised than general school.

I wonder if it's not so much programming culture as that currently online behaviour in general is kind of defaulting towards brutal misogyny?
posted by glasseyes at 6:32 AM on September 10, 2013


That's a point worth considering, actually. I don't know for sure that I accept it, because it really does strike me as self-promoting, but you make a decent counter.

Thank you for oh so magnanimously deigning it worth "considering".

True. Most of us remind others of specific tech conferences we've attended when we feel that the education system is failing our children.

For fucks sake everything she mentioned was something her daughter was also involved in.

I just think like Mayor Curley said, there is perhaps another angle too.

The angle of... what? "I've attended tech conferences"?
posted by kmz at 6:32 AM on September 10, 2013 [7 favorites]


It's the shy, bullied programers that become the Gates and Jobs of the future

Unless high-school has changed dramatically since I was there, it's the shy, bullied kids that turn around and bully outsiders the first chance they get, hence all the teasing of the girls in CS classes, and general asshole-ishness of IT departments everywhere.
posted by empath at 6:41 AM on September 10, 2013 [20 favorites]


Is this as likely to happen in a Geography or Physics class, to girls who excel at the subject?

Yes, I'd say more the norm that not.

I trained as a teacher, albeit that was 18 years ago. Still, because so many of my friends and some collaborators are teachers, I know that training for teaching against social bias is still not a major part of preservice professional education. Even the advent of concern about bullying in post-primary grades is quite recent. I happened to go to a program that intentionally promoted a socially progressive teacher training agenda, and that program was, and is still, a rarity.
posted by Miko at 6:43 AM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why doesn't the mom teach a high school class in programming?

Sounds very practical and feasible and reasonable.

It's the shy, bullied programers that become the Gates and Jobs of the future.

See kids, bullying is good for you!
posted by kmz at 6:45 AM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


The teacher is responsible for group inclusion or otherwise, which is why schools can and will be developmental to society. I'm now curious what language and methods would be best to teach high school programming.
posted by Brian B. at 6:51 AM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's the shy, bullied programers that become the Gates and Jobs of the future.

Bill Gates - Lakeside School
Lakeside was one of the best things that ever happened to me. I'm happy to be here to say a few words about my time at Lakeside, and why it’s so important to support the vision that Lakeside's faculty, staff, and alumni have spent the past five years developing.

One reason I'm so grateful to Lakeside is that I can directly trace the founding of Microsoft back to my earliest days here.

When I came here as a 7th grader in the late 1960s, there were a number of faculty members who worked together to get a computer terminal on the campus.

Of course, computers were totally new to everyone here—faculty as well as students. In one early development, one of the teachers burned up 200 dollars of computer time in a few minutes by accidentally running an infinite loop.

That made computers seem pretty scary to some people here—especially when 13-year-old kids were eager to try their luck next.

The school could have shut down the terminal, or they could have tightly regulated who got to use it. Instead, they opened it up. Instead of teaching us about computers in the conventional sense, Lakeside just unleashed us.

The experience and insight Paul Allen and I gained here gave us the confidence to start a company based on this wild idea that nobody else agreed with—that computer chips were going to become so powerful that computers and software would become a tool that would be on every desk and in every home.
Steve Jobs biography
While Jobs has always been an intelligent and innovative thinker, his youth was riddled with frustrations over formal schooling. A prankster in elementary school, Jobs's fourth-grade teacher needed to bribe him to study. Jobs tested so well, however, that administrators wanted to skip him ahead to high school—a proposal that his parents declined.
posted by zombieflanders at 6:54 AM on September 10, 2013 [9 favorites]


True story, I tried to get into teaching in Silicon valley and one of the administrators referred to the AP computer science class as the one where the kids learn "The C+". I wish I was making that up. Administrators like that hire morons with poor classroom management skills.
posted by plinth at 7:18 AM on September 10, 2013


Why would you assume that unless otherwise stated, this class is being taught in a language that hasn't had a supported development tool available to purchase for 5 years

Because I'm permanently scarred. And because people are still using it and sometimes those people ask me for help after blowing their fingers off. And if I'm being totally honest, because I can't believe anyone would work in VB when C# is available. It's believable to me that someone teaching in a high school might have learned VB and then never kept up after that as their job is teaching, not keeping up with programming languages.

Singing the praises of C# while decrying VB is silly, IMO. It's just syntax.

Not exactly. Anything C# gets, VB gets a year or two later, if it gets it at all. I feel even MS is trying to tell people to give it up.

posted by yerfatma at 7:19 AM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


My god the slippery slopes on EVERY SINGLE SIDE of this discussion.

Not to downplay the "( ) check here if [quality] is not met" meme that you guys seem to be awfully proud of... but that too is just as beleaguering and demeaning to the sacrosanct process that you seem to expect. How in the world can a male possibly have a valid opinion if the "but you didn't mention the sammich" just gets thrown in his face.

Or is it just that males don't get an opinion when it comes to things like this? (Obviously, this seems to be a bit problematic, doesn't it?)
posted by Blue_Villain at 7:20 AM on September 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


we got out of two days of the class because someone (me) typed in "del *.*" or something like that into all the computers.
Switching a multi-socket plug panel off at the wall - that was my claim to fame in (adult) IT training. Deskfulls of people looked up as I was fiddling with the thing, trying to get it to stop sparking. I took that for encouragement and pressed the off switch.
posted by glasseyes at 7:22 AM on September 10, 2013


How in the world can a male possibly have a valid opinion if the "but you didn't mention the sammich" just gets thrown in his face

Is that really your only takeaway from this post? It's a letter to a teacher that says, "You're teaching a subject that's traditionally male-dominated for no good reason other than it's male-dominated and when you do have a female student it might be a good idea to active steps to avoid her being driven out as well." What does it have to do with your feelings?
posted by yerfatma at 7:22 AM on September 10, 2013 [15 favorites]


Is that my only takeaway? No. It's the giant one in the middle of the blue.

Sure, it's a joke. But just like the "sammich" thing is a joke it's still just as belittling.

Which I thought was ironic... being that TFA was essentially about students who belittled other students, the teacher not reacting appropriately (whatever TF that means), and the readers here on the blue took issues with that.
posted by Blue_Villain at 7:31 AM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is that really your only takeaway from this post? It's a letter to a teacher that says, "You're teaching a subject that's traditionally male-dominated for no good reason other than it's male-dominated and when you do have a female student it might be a good idea to active steps to avoid her being driven out as well." What does it have to do with your feelings?
As right or wrong as he is, you have to be willfully obtuse to not recognize he's talking about the responses in this thread, and not the letter.
posted by drewski at 7:33 AM on September 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


How in the world can a male possibly have a valid opinion if the "but you didn't mention the sammich" just gets thrown in his face

I believe that several of the people making the joke checklist posts are men.
posted by hydropsyche at 7:34 AM on September 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


Blue_Villain, at least one way a teacher can act appropriately is that, when a student comes into their class filled with enthusiasm for the subject, the student isn't subjected to an environment (one where the authority figure is said teacher) that kills all enjoyment of the subject.

Not exactly teacher of the year stuff. More like absolute bare minimums of giving a fuck about your students.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:36 AM on September 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


How in the world can a male possibly have a valid opinion if the "but you didn't mention the sammich" just gets thrown in his face.

Huh? You're making logic leaps that just aren't there.

Or is it just that males don't get an opinion when it comes to things like this? (Obviously, this seems to be a bit problematic, doesn't it?)

It would be, yes. Straw men also burn easy.
posted by kmz at 7:37 AM on September 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


Sure, it's a joke. But just like the "sammich" thing is a joke it's still just as belittling.

I suspect that feelings may be a bit heated in threads dealing with gender issues because we have been having a run on such threads lately, and in each and every one of those threads we've been getting those "but this isn't sexism because...." kinds of comments for real. So that wasn't a joke meant to belittle so much as an eye-rolling "oh jeez here we go again" cynic's crack.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:42 AM on September 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


"wasn't meant to"?!?

As in... the same pathetic excuse the bullies in TFA would have given?

Back to my original point... Slippery slopes on every side of this argument.
posted by Blue_Villain at 7:44 AM on September 10, 2013


I take the main point, even sympathize, but I’m betting there’s more to the story here. If the tech savvy and prococious child is taking her first programming class at the end of her highschool career and as a favor to her mother, odds are she already found other things more compelling.

Could a super fabbo programming teacher have changed her life? Possibly. But if the sixteen years that mom tried to shove her in that direction didn’t take, why assume that a programming class would?

Curious to know what the child is doing in India.
posted by IndigoJones at 7:46 AM on September 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


How in the world can a male possibly have a valid opinion if the "but you didn't mention the sammich" just gets thrown in his face.

Huh? You're making logic leaps that just aren't there.
I think the crux of the issue with the ( ) put an 'X' here meme is that it doesn't do anything for the people on the other side of the conversation. It's more of a 'tee-hee everyone who agrees with me this is cute, amirite?!'

Why not have a conversation with logical construction that the other side can digest, and maybe find some common ground, or come to an understanding? Isn't that what the blue is for, afterall?
posted by drewski at 7:47 AM on September 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


Feel free to ignore the list and post whatever you would have said had I not pre-emptively made fun of you for it.
posted by empath at 7:48 AM on September 10, 2013 [14 favorites]


Snark is a useful rhetorical tool. As rhetorical devices go, I'd rank it above "I don't like snark."
posted by leopard at 7:49 AM on September 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think the crux of the issue with the ( ) put an 'X' here meme is that it doesn't do anything for the people on the other side of the conversation. It's more of a 'tee-hee everyone who agrees with me this is cute, amirite?!'

What do you see as the other side of the conversation?
posted by St. Sorryass at 7:50 AM on September 10, 2013 [8 favorites]


Is this as likely to happen in a Geography or Physics class, to girls who excel at the subject?

Yep. My oldest is very bright, very outgoing, and very empathetic....but I fear that she is already withdrawing from some of the academic subjects where girls are often discouraged (e.g., chemistry).

I know that she can handle the material, but in her second week of Freshman year I am hearing things about how "you have to be a genius to get this stuff and I am just not like that." (Note: she is like that. She spent five weeks at Brown University this summer in a select summer camp for girls in technology, and she flourished!)

I am doing everything I can to fight these stereotypes, but it already feels like an uphill struggle.

"People. What a bunch of bastards."
posted by wenestvedt at 7:56 AM on September 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Slippery slopes on every side of this argument.

1. Slippery slopes is generally a fallacy.
2. What are you even talking about? What doom is "every side of this argument" accelerating towards?
posted by kmz at 7:56 AM on September 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


you have to be willfully obtuse to not recognize he's talking about the responses in this thread

I don't see a huge disconnect between them. Comment threads on an article bemoaning male privilege aren't going to be terribly sensitive to mens' feelings. Why are we worrying about a poster's feelings here when discussing the problems this girl faced? Stopping everything to change everyone's diaper before we can have adult conversations isn't productive.
posted by yerfatma at 7:56 AM on September 10, 2013 [9 favorites]


Why not have a conversation with logical construction that the other side can digest, and maybe find some common ground, or come to an understanding? Isn't that what the blue is for, afterall?

The blue is for all kinds of things, and even things that it isn't explicitly "for" are not necessarily banned.

Is there a question you had that hasn't been asked? A point you feel hasn't been adequately addressed? Because you can still do that if you want.
posted by rtha at 8:00 AM on September 10, 2013


I'm surprised to see a discussion about a problem women are facing turn into a discussion about a problem men are facing. How unusual.
posted by leopard at 8:01 AM on September 10, 2013 [58 favorites]


What do you see as the other side of the conversation?
I see a lot of the other side of the conversation upthread, stated by many users. Do I agree with what they are saying? Not really. Do I see the responses in snarky list form helpful for swaying their opinion? Far from it.
Stopping everything to change everyone's diaper before we can have adult conversations isn't productive.
I am still not convinced that snark is the bright beacon of adult conversation we should strive for. That's just me.
posted by drewski at 8:01 AM on September 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


There's already a MeTa about gender threads, maybe this belongs there?
posted by zombieflanders at 8:05 AM on September 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


i am a man and people are talking about women and i'm not getting enough attention and i don't like to be ignored and people are so mean and it hurts my delicate feelings waaaaaaaaaaaaaah waaaaaaaaaaaah waaaaaaaaaaaaah
posted by medusa at 8:06 AM on September 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


High school programming, eh? When I was at school, we had a few Microsoft Office courses if we were lucky...

Anyway, what can we do about these horrible teenage boys? There's a big outcry in the UK at the moment regarding the trolls, and it's only going to get worse. It seems that the ones that don't eventually grow out of it, now become brogrammers. Oh dear.
posted by derbs at 8:08 AM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


i am a man and people are talking about women and i'm not getting enough attention and i don't like to be ignored and people are so mean and it hurts my delicate feelings waaaaaaaaaaaaaah waaaaaaaaaaaah waaaaaaaaaaaaah

Seriously, there is already an open MeTa thread about gender threads and how they go. There really isn't a reason to not go there to discuss the meta-issue and save the grousing about this topic for a place where it's appropriate.
posted by jessamyn at 8:09 AM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


That MeTa y'all want is here.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:21 AM on September 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Reading this article when it made the rounds on FB this morning made me think for the first time that I would have wanted to send my (imaginary) daughter to a single-sex school. My high school programming experience was nothing like this because I was in an all-girls school. I never thought much about it, but I'm grateful for that difference.

(Also on FB: much [male] teacher whinging about how it's not his job to fix this kind of thing. On the one hand, I nearly ended up a high school teacher, to the point of student teaching, so I sympathize. On the other, socializing teenagers is part of your job, dude.)
posted by immlass at 8:29 AM on September 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


VBA has kept food on my family, so I can't join in the utter hatefest for it. It is horrid, but you can treat it like, oh, Pascal, and it will act like that.
posted by thelonius at 8:29 AM on September 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


heh immlass, my high school experience was not unlike the daughter in this article, and a) I never raised it with my parents, because I was mortified and b) it made me decide to go to an all-women's college, so yeah.
posted by ambrosia at 8:31 AM on September 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wow it never occurred to me how lucky I was. I took similarly sort of silly programming classes (I think it was Pascal, I've since forgotten) and was the only girl in my class. The "casual" shot of me in the yearbook was me sitting cross-legged in front of a dumb terminal in the VAX-based classroom that we had (it was the 80's Digital Equipment Corporation was down the street) just like I'm sitting cross-legged in front of the "I make my living with this thing" Mac I am sitting in front of now. At least one of the guys in my class went on to be a really successful dude-at-Google.

It may be that this was long enough ago that the only people who took these classes were mostly serious nerds and I never got any sort of weird/creep vibe from anyone including the teacher who seemed so stoked to have a female in his class (and he was also my math teacher) that I was sometimes afraid that I'd look like the teacher's pet since I was only really an average programmer. I read this thread before I read the article and was expecting it to be a different sort of article but I found the outline of things tech teachers could do to encourage inclusivity to be generally useful. It doesn't happen on its own for the most part.
posted by jessamyn at 8:39 AM on September 10, 2013 [10 favorites]


even if the daughter would have quit anyway, even if she just took the class to appease her mother, the dynamics described are flat not acceptable. when we talk about women in stem careers the conversation veers towards, "well, they just weren't in my class or decided on another focus, what are ya gonna do?" when the conversations are about college it's said "well, i started my focus in high school and there just weren't any girls in my class or if there were i didn't notice them or they didn't stick around long.what are you gonna do?"

this. this is what we're going to do. we're going to shine lights on it at every level and try to come up with solutions to encourage girls to consider this as a valid path for their lives.
posted by nadawi at 8:42 AM on September 10, 2013 [7 favorites]


I see a lot of the other side of the conversation upthread, stated by many users. Do I agree with what they are saying? Not really.

I guess I am just not seeing this thread as a binary conversation, with any two opposing viewpoints, and and genuinely curious as to what you see the "sides" as. People who like the tone of letter vs people who do not? People who see think institutional sexisim is a problem in STEM education vs those who don't? C# vs VB?


Do I see the responses in snarky list form helpful for swaying their opinion?


I don't love when these treads get to preemptively snarky, and I don't know that minds will be changed, but I do think that pointing out that there is a pattern of deraily arguments that tend to make every thread about sexism into a thread about something else instead is necessary to keep the conversation moving at all, and it is probably pretty exhausting to try to write the convincing, and tone appropriate essay explaining everything again in every thread. So yeah, sometimes a succinct snarky list will have to do the job.

I'm a feminist, I fully realize that sexism in tech is a real issue, but I have probably used a few of those dismissive arguments myself, I can be a lazy thinker, and have a bit of a bad habit of doing the devils advocate thing just for the hell of it, and dismissing the problem or nitpicking the tone is just so much easier then really engaging with a difficult issue. So for me anyhow the reminder really is helpful.
posted by St. Sorryass at 8:58 AM on September 10, 2013 [10 favorites]


for all of you with admin rights on your computers at work other languages are surely better, for those of us locked into windows/office vb and all its embedded support is a godsend

if you like spending your time rewriting the gui then play away...

for automating routine work related tasks then VB is king, I suppose it depends on if you see that as a future state architecture
posted by fistynuts at 9:00 AM on September 10, 2013


Huh. I didn't realize that so many people had such sex segregated classes in high school. My physics and calc classes were pretty evenly split, as were creative writing and theater. I'm sure there was fucked up stuff going on, but on thinking back, high school was probably the most gender-mixed set of classes I've taken. In middle school, everyone had to take shop and home ec (two units each), so they were pretty well mixed. The shop teacher was a weirdo, and I found out after the class that he'd perv on the middle school girls (dropping pencils for them to pick up kind of shit), but mostly I remember that in showing us a safety demonstration, he put a drill press through his thumb.

I will say that unfortunately, in college, most of my poli sci and philosophy classes only had one or two women in them, though there were some exceptions there too, and that was kinda weird since the best profs were almost all women. Those were a lot more notable for having the high school libertarian dudes wanting to stand up and declaim for an hour on whatever they most thought flattered them at the moment. But my major, journalism, had more women than men, and most of my best profs were women.

I wonder if making a programming class mandatory — like shop and home ec were — would help balance out the genders. From what I understand, though I'm not really a programmer, it's mostly about constructing logical arguments to do what you want, so it would seem like a good skill for everyone to have. Certainly better than the computers class I took in middle school that was just typing with hercules monochrome (in part because the teacher was the former typing teacher, and I don't think she had any interest in expanding her skills beyond creating line-by-line ascii art instructions).
posted by klangklangston at 9:05 AM on September 10, 2013


With such a ridiculous gender imbalance in the class, there's really no excuse for the teacher not to have a fairly comprehensive and proactive plan for addressing sexism in the classroom.

No matter how well you understand the mechanics of programming, if you can't collaborate effectively with others, you're going to be a shitty programmer. And if you are making stupid sexist jokes that are so universally recognized that you can just call them sandwich/kitchen jokes and everyone knows what you mean, you are aggressively bad at collaborating and by extension, bad at programming.

The bonus too of this being an entry level high school class is that the teacher has a fair amount of power both to set the mood for the subject overall, and to punish the students. A sandwich joke should invoke some serious consequences, right off the bat.

There are about as many women in the world as there are men, probably a little more. If you were to count up all the men in the world vs. all the non-men, men would be an even smaller minority. If you are incapable of collaborating with, understanding, and working alongside people who are not male, it's not some discrete niche problem. It's a systemic issue that makes you bad at a lot of things, and it's not something that should be tolerated and treated as a norm, particularly in a controlled environment such as a classroom.

Such dull and obvious sexism should be treated the way any other grossly inappropriate and anti-social behavior would be. I'm not a teacher, and I haven't had a kid in school for many years, but treat a sandwich joke the way you'd treat a student wiping boogers on their classmates. Send them home, send them to the principal's office, kick them out of class, get them into some remedial life skills program, whatever it is you do.
posted by ernielundquist at 9:10 AM on September 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


I wish I could convey to this girl just how weak these boys who are trying to undermine her really are: they're completely envious of not only her talents, and probably her positive attitude, but they've come into contact with their complete inability to communicate with exactly the kind of girl who shares their interests. Insecurity as cruelty, etc.

And I agree with the author. Visual Basic is a miserable, shitty language that doesn't do anything cool or reveal anything interesting about programming. It's been hanging on by its legacy threads.

Teach C like teaching college algebra or calculus (rigorous repetition, explain how the compiler evaluates a line of code, precedence) and kids will respect it, and find it interesting because it will reveal more about how a computer works. (Perhaps this could be described as a top->down vs. bottom->up argument?)

I believe this is what young curious kids want to know. Kids may learn to hate programming like they sometimes learn to hate math, because they discover it is hard. However, the way programming is currently taught they can't do any worse, only the self motivated end up getting through it anyway.
posted by hellslinger at 9:10 AM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


[There is an existing Meta thread for discussing how we deal with gender issues on MeTa, don't get your youreatroll-rage on in this thread.]
posted by jessamyn at 9:13 AM on September 10, 2013


I was one of only two girls in my shop class, and we were completely ignored and not really allowed access to the equipment. We couldn't even do our assignments because we couldn't get near the power tools and heavy stuff, and the teacher didn't seem to notice and would not help us. At home, I sometimes helped my mechanic father out in the garage, so I did have some reason for interest in the topic.

I was an A student and was pretty bummed that I was going to get my first bad grade in shop through no fault of my own. The other girl and I turned in the one dumb project (some kind of key chain fob) we could manage to complete, because it only required access to a buffing machine, which the boys were not as weirdly possessive about, and absolutely nothing else. He gave us both an A for the entire semester.

At that moment, it became clear to me that, in his mind, things had gone exactly as they were supposed to.

I think the suggestions in this article are great.
posted by Ouisch at 9:13 AM on September 10, 2013 [25 favorites]


I liked the open letter. I think it made some points really well.

I'm not going to comment on the deconstructions of sexism except that I believe that the issue of whether or not a woman writer has to justify her geekiness and provide some credentials has been very well addressed both in this and in the MetaTalk thread about Gendered discussions. And I come down on the side of pragmatism. In my pragmatic world, if you're a member of a minority class criticizing one of a majority class, there's usually a lot of dismissal based on qualifications. Unfortunately there are no good choices as pointed out by the brilliant lists of (x) form letter entries in this thread and often the person doing the judging has you set up for failure as in aw_yiss' example.

But ignoring the folks set on dismissing the content of the message while criticizing the style, I think the point of the letter and of most of the discussion is solid and maps well to my experience of being an effeminate boy in a man's world and of my observations of young women and girl classmates. The bullying, the harassing and the most pragmatic response: Ignore the shit and stick with what you enjoy and are good at. Tattling is generally too fraught, asking for parental or teacher help is generally conflated with attling, and damned if I'm going to back down on something that's important to me, even if there are bullies. But if it's not important to me, ignore the bullies as much as possible (it's not always possible, dudes - pretending that it is is naive or condescending) and get through the class, get the grade and move on to find something I like better.

Hostile environments function to make us question our passions and do influence our choices. It's not a failing to be bullied out of doing or wanting something. Bullying raises the bar and overcoming it in heroic style is usually only worth it if we really really want it.

It was ever thus.

Oh and VB? It's okay (with an eyeroll). It's there because of VBA which still exists in modern versions of Microsoft Office, and also some of the enterprise suite server roles which still haven't been migrated to Powershell. And legacy products that'll never get ported and that, for business reasons you (read me) are still running because people won't prioritize getting off the older platforms.

For a procedural language it is functional. I don't think Microsoft gives a shit what you think about VB. That's not what their primary business focus is and they don't have as many programmers paid simply to be brilliant. Or if they do, they don't really care what comes out of there.

But I love some of the newer languages. But I get paid as an infinitesimal part of my salary for knowing crazy old weird languages, among them VB, in case something needs to be fixed well after its sell-by date. So it's sort of marginally useful to know. And as it is a procedural language, it helps learning programming in general - a lot of folks need to learn procedural programming before moving on to object oriented.

But I like instead the idea of leveraging solutions like CodeAcademy (in the original letter) that leave the choice of what language to the student.
posted by kalessin at 9:13 AM on September 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


I feel lucky that I kind of got into computing while it was still new enough not to have a ton of gender stigma around it. First, my dad's work was always in computer systems engineering, and in the late 70s he took us to his office on weekends so we could play checkers and eventually things like Adventure (proto-Zork) on the giant magnetic-tape mainframes. Computers were never anything but cool fun to me. In 5th grade, we got our first terminals in the school library, and programming in BASIC was taught as part of the library curriculum. It was simple and fun. There might have been some LOGO as well. By high school we were writing on word processors in my Creative Writing class - there were 3 terminals and we were required to learn 2 different systems. In college I learned some basic Unix commands so I could email my friends (which was cheaper than using the long-distance phone service), and get on the early early Internet to do BBSes and MUDs. When the graphical web came along I was already pretty much at home.

THen, too, when you look at really early/experimental computing in the communications world, a lot of who did the programming and analysis was women. Sometime in the late 80s/90s, the science/math/engineering bias against women crept into computer culture and got really codified.
posted by Miko at 9:16 AM on September 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


It seems to me that focusing on the issue as it pertains to women is missing a broader issue with human nature. It doesn't matter whether it's misogyny, racism, homophobia, classism, religious or political affiliation, or whatever; human beings have a deep-seated need to identify their own place in the pecking order. This means identifying and lauding those who are better than you, and stoning those who are worse. This provides people with their sense of place and worth within the world.

Early geek culture thrived on antipathy with jock culture, and this meant not having to look for more groups to place lower in the hierarchy. As the distinction has gone away, new Others must be identified to preserve your place in the hierarchy. There has to be someone worse than you so that you're not at the bottom. I see this in every facet of life, even here.

I don't think that treating any particular symptom (such as misogyny) will have any effect on the underlying cause, but simply drive people to find different groups to harass.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 9:19 AM on September 10, 2013


I see a lot of the other side of the conversation upthread

At that point I went away for a three-mile walk. Reading what's been posted since, I still have absolutely no idea what 'the other side' of an argument criticising a real world example of systematic sexist discouragement against a particular female student could be.

And I have to say I'd be interested to see it. Disregarding any pre-emptive caveats do you want to go ahead and post something along those lines? You or the person who first made that point?
posted by glasseyes at 9:25 AM on September 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


I-Write-Essays, this flies in the face of all activism. I think you will find your opinion very unpopular. It certainly is with me.
posted by kalessin at 9:26 AM on September 10, 2013 [6 favorites]


Kalessin: And as any geek knows, popularity is the measure of worth. It's okay. I'm used to being unpopular.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 9:28 AM on September 10, 2013


> It seems to me that focusing on the issue as it pertains to women is missing a broader issue with human nature. [...] I don't think that treating any particular symptom (such as misogyny) will have any effect on the underlying cause, but simply drive people to find other groups to harass.

Harvard Business School, per another thread, seems to have gone a long way towards balancing their gender inequity (by internal measures such as class ranking and awards, if not yet by job placement after graduation, and ignoring other inequalities) and done so in a very short time explicitly by addressing the 'symptoms' of that inequity.
posted by postcommunism at 9:29 AM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


wenestvedt, I have to say my daughter found Chemistry at Uni level much more technically and mathematically challenging than she had expected. She had to wrangle, but got there in the end.
posted by glasseyes at 9:29 AM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


The programming language choice is pretty much completely irrelevant. It really comes down to the teacher and how they engage with the students and run the class, which is what the open letter is mostly about. Most high school students get one opportunity to take a programming class, if at all (my rather large high school didn't have the interest/staff to do even one programming class). The whole point of the class should be "Do you think you might like programming? Here, try it." Open source languages are probably better because it's much easier for students that want to go further on their own to pick up where they left off at home. A programming language you can write games in is probably a good choice because if you ask kids what kind of program they want to write they usually pick games. And running the class in a fun and inclusive way is better than just handing out boring assignments that the students treat as work. But choice of programming language doesn't really matter, you could do a really awesome entry-level programming class in old-school BASIC if you really wanted to.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:32 AM on September 10, 2013


I don't think that treating any particular symptom (such as misogyny) will have any effect on the underlying cause, but simply drive people to find different groups to harass.

And so do we just give up? Stop addressing all forms of discrimination and harassment?
posted by rtha at 9:33 AM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


> And so do we just give up? Stop addressing all forms of discrimination and harassment?

No, we focus on the underlying problem, which is that people want someone (anyone) worse them them to feel like they aren't trash themselves.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 9:34 AM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is this true? Is this as likely to happen in a Geography or Physics class, to girls who excel at the subject?

Yep. Earth Science, 9th grade, 1990, basic Regents level required class for all students. Teacher was a man, I (girl) was a good student and new to the public school system having gone to Catholic school for K-8. I remember early on, like in the first few weeks, answering a question in class correctly and the teacher admonishing the guys in the class with "Come on guys, a girl got this, you can do better."

I remember extra credit questions on quizzes being things like "Who won the Sabres [hockey] game last night?" and my being able to answer the question and give the score was yet another thing to be held up in front of class as a "wow, a girl got this right" moment.

I loved science. But damn if that didn't dampen my enthusiasm for it. It was clear the expectation was that I would suck at science because I was a girl, and although there were moments of pride that I surprised that jackass teacher at every turn, I also felt terrified of failing because it would prove him to be correct. So I never took risks and just kept my head down and did my work as quietly as possible.
posted by misskaz at 9:36 AM on September 10, 2013 [17 favorites]


people on the other side of the conversation

I mean really, there are people who are going to stand up for sexist peer-pressure being conducive to a learning-supportive classroom environment?
posted by glasseyes at 9:36 AM on September 10, 2013


No, we focus on the underlying problem, which is that people require someone (anyone) worse them them to feel like they aren't trash themselves.

So you want to wait to help any persecuted people until we can fix fundamental human nature that has been such for at least the 6000 years of written history?

And as any geek knows, popularity is the measure of worth. It's okay. I'm used to being unpopular.

It's unpopular because it echoes all the worst impulses for resisting change for the better throughout history, not because you're some sort of visionary with a bold new vision.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:39 AM on September 10, 2013 [12 favorites]


> No, we focus on the underlying problem, which is that people require someone (anyone) worse them them to feel like they aren't trash themselves.

That definition of the underlying problem kind of leapfrogs right past the actual IRL context of how gender worked in that particular programming classroom, the commonalities between it and other examples of how gender inequality plays out in tech arenas, and lands somewhere in "people are all equally terrible and no one is at fault for this situation because it is human nature."
posted by postcommunism at 9:39 AM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


twistedonion: "I'm working VB at least once a day. Seriously.

I know the author mentions this isn't the reason for the article but she mentions it enough that it sounds a touch arrogant.

Apart from that I have to say my own experience with teachers (of all subjects) of any kind is that most were ineffectual at best. Each year there were one or two teachers that seemed to enjoy being there.
"

It's a derail to the main topic, I'll admit, but: VB is the most common language in current usage, so yeah, the author is pretentious and dead wrong on that point.

Everything else, the meat of the sandwich (so to speak): dead on.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:39 AM on September 10, 2013


I-Write-Essays: "Kalessin: And as any geek knows, popularity is the measure of worth. It's okay. I'm used to being unpopular."

Read the whole comment: it might be unpopular because it's counter to people's experiences and effective advocacy. It's not just popularity-as-popularity.
posted by boo_radley at 9:40 AM on September 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


So you want to wait to help any persecuted people until we can fix fundamental human nature

it sorta sounds like he wants us to fix the self esteem issues of the persecutors instead of focusing on the real world issues of the persecuted. which, you know, it's an ethos. just not a particularly revolutionary one.
posted by nadawi at 9:41 AM on September 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


How common is this sort of thing: high school classes with so few of the other gender?

When I was in 7th grade (back in the 70s, when there was money in school budgets and a public will for this sort of thing) everyone was required to take a varied slate of electives including wood shop, metal shop, home ec/cooking, electronics, and sewing.

In 9th grade we were allowed to choose our electives and I signed up for mechanical drafting because I was an aspiring architect, and I was one of two or three girls in the class. The atmosphere in the classroom was still a positive one and I have no reason to think that if any kind of computer class had been around at the time it would have been any different.

I used to think those electives were a good way to teach kids a few basic skills that would serve them well in life, but I'm starting to think that normalizing and equalizing all these subjects was also sending a powerful message because there was no "boyzone", no "woodworking culture", no bullying. Just a bunch of kids making cutting boards or sewing book bags. Even in electric shop, which had the only "hardcore" group of students I can think of, no one hassled those of us that spent all their time playing with solder.
posted by Room 641-A at 9:41 AM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't think that treating any particular symptom (such as misogyny) will have any effect on the underlying cause, but simply drive people to find different groups to harass.

I don't care about the underlying "some people don't like other people" cause. I care about the level of explicit harassment seen here. It's not a fact of nature, it's not the damned weather. This kind of harassment happens because kids think it's acceptable to harass people like that. I don't care if they think "heh heh gimme a sammich" if they can keep their damned mouths shut about it.
posted by rmd1023 at 9:42 AM on September 10, 2013 [10 favorites]


which, you know, it's an ethos

Next you'll be telling me I can't keep amphibious rodents within the city limits.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:42 AM on September 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


I am not against activism. I think the Harvard experiment noted above is great. What I don't like is that these discussions often fall into the trap of "Look at this or that group that's so terrible because they put this other group down." Every single human being suffers from this in one form or another, even the activists trying to help the victims of it. There needs to be a broader context.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 9:42 AM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


"people are all equally terrible and no one is at fault for this situation because it is human nature."

Enh, I shouldn't say 'fault'. But as a diagnoses it does ignore the particulars of a predictably unequal setup in favor of saying that the particulars don't matter because given everything is equally bad for all.
posted by postcommunism at 9:43 AM on September 10, 2013


VB is the most common language in current usage, so yeah, the author is pretentious and dead wrong on that point.

Do you have a cite for that or a context you didn't include (maybe in high schools or something)? Because I don't see that at 1, 2 or 3.
posted by yerfatma at 9:43 AM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


There needs to be a broader context.

Despite what you have seen in monthly reruns of PCU on Comedy Central, most activism focuses on broader improvement of the human race rather than individual issues, because most issues are inextricably intertwined with many others.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:48 AM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


In 9th grade we were allowed to choose our electives and I signed up for mechanical drafting because I was an aspiring architect, and I was one of two or three girls in the class. The atmosphere in the classroom was still a positive one and I have no reason to think that if any kind of computer class had been around at the time it would have been any different.

When I was in junior high (7th and 8th grades here) if you weren't taking a language you pretty much had to take every elective because you had a lot of free space. I also took drafting and was the only girl in my class and it was a bit weirder than programming because the teacher was super friendly, maybe too friendly. I was and am pretty oblivious to that sort of thing and the class was mostly hesher-types who left me alone but it wasn't like a fun friendly atmosphere. I got some shit from the woodshop teacher (who, to be fair, was a dick to everyone) and decided not to take metal shop because the teacher was an avowed sexist jerk who liked to wax on and on about how a wife should treat a husband ("She should have the bath running when he gets home..." what? why was this something I knew about this guy?). Contrast this to home ec and music theater which were pretty much all-girl environments except for the odd guy who was probably someone that people poked fun at for being effeminate or something (I was, again, oblivious).

I won the tech drawing awards for two years running since they gave a male and female award and, well, there was pretty much only me.
posted by jessamyn at 9:49 AM on September 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


There needs to be a broader context.

Broader context doesn't work because then not all special exceptions (by which I mean the cause of equal rights for women, minorities, different kinds of abilities and disabilities, economic inequities, trans* rights, etc.) get addressed. Activists have found in general greater progress by focusing on individual exceptions than by focusing on the larger problem of general and total inequality.

Reasons are sort of paradoxical also if you lose the context and range between:
- Too much hyperfocus on one extreme form of exception is trivialized and there exist too few people to make an effective cohort and effect change.
- Too much generalization dilutes the point and the platforms to the point that people in the general populace feel perfectly justified in ignoring the whole complaint because it's ridiculous.

Most activists try to find causes that are popular enough that they can make some change, effect some progress. But zombieflanders is also right. More focused activism usually tries to sweep up the broader good in its overall cause. In fact most activists (unless they're particularly sociopathic) see that their way forward will result in overall improvement for everyone.

I believe that your focus on too broad a context is dooming your effort to rid the world of inequality to failure, but I won't stop you trying. I do respectfully ask that you stop diminishing and dismissing MY efforts.
posted by kalessin at 9:52 AM on September 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


Slippery Slopes explained and personified:

Having a one-sided discussion where everybody agrees on every single point isn't going to happen, so let's be productive and objectively critique our own side of the discussion to come up with a "better" conversation. This inevitably leads to someone thinking that there are "people who are going to stand up for sexist peer-pressure being conducive to a learning-supportive classroom environment?"

When clearly, no, that's not what anybody here is trying to do.

Having a clear case for the many many number of variables would be a great start. What exactly do we expect from the educator/parent/students in this scenario? Are these expectations reasonable? This turns into the "check this box" gender-confrontational meme from above. Ironically enough, this is the same exact "you don't count because of your gender" problem that TFA mentioned in the first place.

Then there's the "if this doesn't solve the problem entirely, then why are we doing anything" aspect. Which... yeah. Just... no.

Slippery slopes all around.
posted by Blue_Villain at 9:53 AM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


No, we focus on the underlying problem, which is that people want someone (anyone) worse them them to feel like they aren't trash themselves.

This is indeed [a big part of] the underlying problem, but notice that in your postulation you blame the "jocks" for excluding the geeks, who then turn around to exclude someone else. The way to square this circle is to establish and maintain principles of equality of opportunity - and you know where and when to apply those principles because you notice that someone is being excluded. In this case, there's a big long wide history of women being given the cold shoulder in (best case) or harassed out of (worst case) tech fields. That points to the fact that there is a lack of principles of equality of opportunity at play both within educational settings and within professional training.

I'm not sure you're really objecting to anything anyone's said here, if you agree with this. Yes, exclusion can be a result of past trauma at being the excluded. But correcting for exclusion does not mean excluding the next person, it means turning away from the very concept that any class of people who might benefit from being included should be excluded.
posted by Miko at 9:54 AM on September 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


What exactly do we expect from the educator/parent/students in this scenario?

1. I expect the educator, if they have had the opportunity to read this, to think about and act on at least some of these recommendations.
2. I expect the parent to make their objections known to this school and teacher in particular, where some future good may be done, and not just leave this to stand as an indirect critique.
3. I expect the student to be embarrassed that her mom made such a big freaking deal out of this, but later in life to be glad that her mom went to bat on an important issue on her behalf.
4. I expect other educators, other parents, other students, and other people in tech fields to take a moment to think about how exclusion may be playing out in their own lives and schools and workplaces, and perhaps make more efforts toward inclusion.

Are these expectations reasonable?


Yes.
posted by Miko at 9:57 AM on September 10, 2013 [10 favorites]


yerfatma: "VB is the most common language in current usage, so yeah, the author is pretentious and dead wrong on that point.

Do you have a cite for that or a context you didn't include (maybe in high schools or something)? Because I don't see that at 1, 2 or 3.
"

Dammit! Lied to again! (Probably by a VB website, but given your data, it's not worth looking it up...)

I'll still maintain that, as perhaps the easiest mainstream language to learn to code (most English-language-like), VB is a fine intro language.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:58 AM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


> This turns into the "check this box" gender-confrontational meme from above. Ironically enough, this is the same exact "you don't count because of your gender" problem that TFA mentioned in the first place.

I've always read those as pithy way of saying, in response to a predictable and specific set of objections which are either disingenuous or derailing, "Your interjection is a common one which has already been addressed ad nauseam." Not as a disqualification due to gender.
posted by postcommunism at 10:07 AM on September 10, 2013 [10 favorites]


yeah the whole bluster about there's just nothing men can say under these harsh slippery slope conditions of a funny list is immediately turned on its head by some great contributions from men in this thread.
posted by nadawi at 10:10 AM on September 10, 2013 [12 favorites]


This turns into the "check this box" gender-confrontational meme from above. Ironically enough, this is the same exact "you don't count because of your gender" problem that TFA mentioned in the first place.

You have stated this (males won't be able to express an opinion in this thread because the arguments supporting the post are sexist against men) twice now, as a possibility, but you have not made the case that it happened. And you have by no means indicated what on earth 'another side to the discussion' would consist of. Why don't you do that?

My speculation, "people who are going to stand up for sexist peer-pressure in the classroom", was just that, speculation, because I'm trying to imagine what an argument against the premis of the OP would look like.
posted by glasseyes at 10:11 AM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


judson: "It's the shy, bullied programers that become the Gates and Jobs of the future."

Are you seriously suggesting, even a bit, that bullying is good for future leaders and geniuses?

Because fuck that. I'm pretty god-damned sure someone would have invented a better operating system for the IBM PC right now, even without toilet swirlies and fearing punches to the ribs as you pass by in the halls.

God damn it. A bullying apologist. Well, this is the thread that would attract one.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:12 AM on September 10, 2013 [8 favorites]


yeah the whole bluster about there's just nothing men can say under these harsh slippery slope conditions of a funny list is immediately turned on its head by some great contributions from men in this thread.

Among them, the OP and the commenter who made the list being fretted about.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:14 AM on September 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


The OP is the student's mother isn't she?

Oh poo, if not I've just used the term "OP" incorrectly. Undermining my own plausibility for life.
posted by glasseyes at 10:16 AM on September 10, 2013


"I am not against activism. I think the Harvard experiment noted above is great. What I don't like is that these discussions often fall into the trap of "Look at this or that group that's so terrible because they put this other group down." Every single human being suffers from this in one form or another, even the activists trying to help the victims of it. There needs to be a broader context."

Not really. Insisting on a broader context is helpful for some issues (#solidarityisforwhitewomen) but it doesn't have to be there in every case, both because sexism is wrong on its own, and because by insisting on a broader context, we run the risk of broadening the context so much that it becomes a vague umbra of, uh, complaints about hierarchies in general, and then instead of focusing on what can be done in this particular instance, the question becomes what can be done about all the bad things all at once. It ends up actually being counterproductive to try to focus too much on the broader context in the way that you are.
posted by klangklangston at 10:17 AM on September 10, 2013


"The OP is the student's mother isn't she?

Oh poo, if not I've just used the term "OP" incorrectly. Undermining my own plausibility for life.
"

Original poster. Mezentian.
posted by klangklangston at 10:18 AM on September 10, 2013


even completely ignoring the list, there are great on topic comments about how men felt in classes where they were in the minority and how the felt and how it compares/contrasts with this story. i mean, this great comment would have been staring Blue_Villain in the face as he was typing "Or is it just that males don't get an opinion when it comes to things like this?
posted by nadawi at 10:19 AM on September 10, 2013


we've had a meta that i can't hunt down right now about how people define OP differently and some say it to mean the person who wrote the original piece, some mean people who wrote the metafilter post, others mean the post itself, and maybe a view other variations.
posted by nadawi at 10:23 AM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


yeah the whole bluster about there's just nothing men can say under these harsh slippery slope conditions of a funny list is immediately turned on its head by some great contributions from men in this thread.

I want to note for the record here that one of the reasons I identified as transgendered (certainly not the only reason but one of many good ones) at 19 or 20 and have stuck with that is that I had so many personally deeply disappointing experiences with bigoted men (who were bigoted about women and effeminacy and feminism) that I just couldn't stick with the gender.

Upon discovering more about my genetic situation and my upbringing (lesbian feminist even though done primarily by heterosexual feminist mom and dad) being able to leave behind the gender and gendered expectations of me as a man was just one of the many things that sweetened the pot for me.
posted by kalessin at 10:24 AM on September 10, 2013


I know that there are a lot of people who are wondering why this matters. Who cares if this one girl never takes a programming course again? If girls can't hack it in programming classes, then it's nobody's fault but their own.

It matters because software is terrible when only one kind of person builds it. Think of it, the best software, open source or for profit, is the sum of the collective intelligence of humans. The soul of software engineering is the ability to break problems down to their essential elements, find the right tool for the job, execute, and then evaluate and refine. If you have the same sort of people designing, building, and testing software you end up with glaring blind spots that don't get fixed until it's too late. It's how you end up with Siri tossing out gags about escort services, but being unable to find the nearest women's health clinic. It's how you end up with bathroom sink censors that only work for light-skinned hands.

But, BFD, right? Nope. Women might only make up a small minority of the people who build software, but they use software at a rate in parity with men. They buy apps, play games, and spend money online. And there are needs that might be obvious to women that get left out and unaddressed because the people who would know how to solve those problems are largely absent from an industry. For example, the iPad app store is sorely lacking in dress pattern apps. (Seriously, folks, I would pay good portable pattern library with tailoring tips)

Plus, the problem-solving skills, and technical skills that come with a programming education are so valuable even to people who work in non-software related industries. Doctors who can program have an edge in data analysis, biologists who can program have an advantage in getting grants, teachers who can program are able to dream up tools customized to their students. Keeping nearly an entire gender away from these skills puts people of that gender at a gross disadvantage in so many ways.

Fixing this at this point is a numbers game with the goal of getting enough women into the programming education pipeline and keeping them there. When girls can just be a person in class and not the subject of glaring, often hostile attention they will stay and get the skills that will set them ahead for life. Otherwise, we just hemorrhage girls as the education pipeline goes along until there is nothing left but superstars and women with rhino-tough skin.

I know that having graduate students to mentor me while I was an undergraduate made all the difference with my confidence and interest in computer science (Thank you Alice and Amira!). I hope that we as a scoiety keep investing resources into recruiting and retaining female programmers and engineers because it would be nuts to waste such rich intellectual resources. Programming is a basic tool that has the potential to be useful to everyone.
posted by Alison at 10:39 AM on September 10, 2013 [30 favorites]


I feel like this song is called for.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:42 AM on September 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


How common is this sort of thing: high school classes with so few of the other gender?

I was one of two girls in my Physics II class senior year. The first week of school, the teacher suggested every day that my fellow female student & I were simply too dumb to find the home ec classroom, so he may as well teach us. Har-de-har-har-har.

Both of us girls in the class blew the curve on every test. And by the final exams we had to take, I was so fed up with the guy, I arranged to have pizzas delivered (and charged to his account) in the middle of the test.

This was in 1990. And now that I think about it, I am lucky the sexism came from one adult and not from the eight boys in my class. (They merely copied assignments. If I let them.)

I doubt I would have been so proudly defiant and spitefully high-achieving if it had been a chorus of my peers bullying me. A few months after that class, I was one of three female lifeguards on staff at a water park, and I was systematically sexually harassed by the guys on staff for most of the summer. That period was far worse and more demoralizing than one jackass teacher making comments. As a teen, you're still young enough to believe your peers are right when they tell you that you deserve to be bullied.
posted by sobell at 10:47 AM on September 10, 2013 [27 favorites]


Also, when I got my Women's Studies minor, of the 10 or so classes I took for the minor, only the intro had more "men" (which I put in quotes because of my trans identity) than just me, and it started out with 6, 4 dropped out by the second class and the two of us completed the class. After that, I didn't see my compatriot again in the program.

And he had that deer-in-the-headlights look for most of the class.
posted by kalessin at 10:53 AM on September 10, 2013


It's the shy, bullied programmers that become the Gates and Jobs of the future

I don't think either man is known for having a sad, deprived childhood, and even if they did, the majority of bullied people do not grow up to be wildly successful technocrats. They grow up to be adults who were bullied, if they aren't simply dead from the mental health problems that tend to have a high rate of incidence in bullying victims.
posted by Phalene at 10:55 AM on September 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


The bullying in this class sucks, and gender disparity in programming sucks even more. Also the points in the mother's letter are generally good ones.

However, since I wasn't there, I can't know how much the teacher was aware of the bullying, or of the daughter's declining interest in the class. I re-read the letter twice and unless I am missing something:

- the daughter got an A.
- the daughter never said anything to the teacher or anyone else about the problems.
- the mother never spoke to the teacher or anyone else about the problems, but waited until the end of the class to pile on the teacher with a long list of things she would have done if she was the teacher.
- the stuff about Visual Basic is a real turnoff and doesn't belong in the letter. It reads to me like "here's a bunch of stuff you did that annoys me, oh and you're also fat."

My take on it is that the boys in the class were being awful and someone should have disciplined them if they were aware of it, but maybe no one *was* aware. But then the mother is picking this particular teacher to use as a target for her general (warranted) dissatisfaction with how women are treated in tech. I can't tell if the teacher is a sexist asshole or just a guy who was checking people's work on his own computer while the boys were saying rude things to the girl.

Of course none of that should detract from discussion of the bigger issues.
posted by freecellwizard at 11:08 AM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


It matters because software is terrible when only one kind of person builds it.

Because I can't favorite that more than once I just want to quote it and say how frustrating it was when I used to work on development teams to see every female coworker, no matter how valuable their ideas or how comfortable they were in a group dynamic get undercut and talked over. One of the great tragedies of the Triumph of the Nerds is nerds are no more likely to listen to women because they feel just as threatened by the idea of a woman having a good idea. I don't know why guys are so lacking in confidence but I do know with a daughter on the way I will be more than happy to pave the problem areas flat while teaching her how to steamroll that kind of impediment when she's ready to do so on her own.
posted by yerfatma at 11:11 AM on September 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


Of course none of that should detract from discussion of the bigger issues.

...Then what purpose did mentioning those points serve?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:23 AM on September 10, 2013


Read the FPP, read the letter, clicked in here and read the first response:

Doesn't sound like the teacher's fault to me. More indicative of the "programming culture" (if you could even call it that.)

Flabbergasted. And then messages mirroring/supporting that sentiment. I almost stopped reading the thread, I truly couldn't believe it. I'm glad I kept reading.

OF COURSE the teacher is responsible for his classroom -- if not the teacher, then who?!? Should the mother have written a letter to every single boy in that class? To the principal? To the superintendent? No -- she addressed it to the person entrusted with managing the classroom. That person failed this girl.

This writer is an amazing mother, and I hope two things: that her letter gets around enough to help wake up teachers who might not realize what they're doing, and that it encourages her daughter to give programming another shot.

Also, if you haven't yet read the thread on gender issues at Harvard Business School, it's pretty amazing to compare the sort of treatment women get regardless of whether it's high school or Harvard, at 16 or 26.
posted by MoxieProxy at 11:25 AM on September 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


just a guy who was checking people's work on his own computer while the boys were saying rude things to the girl.

Just a terrible teacher then? I mean, unless things have changed drastically in the past 15 years or so, high school classrooms aren't gargantuan college lecture halls where the professor can barely see all the students.
posted by kmz at 11:26 AM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


The fact that this discussion has turned into yet another fucking defense of the right to have this discussion makes me want to rage and throw things.

I am so. fucking. sick. of dealing with this constant, perpetual, unchanging low-level sexism. I want to rage and scream and throw things and I don't because I know that the man "doesn't mean it like that" and will immediately dismiss me as an overemotional hysterical bitch. The minority of people ruining this thread should know better. Just stop. Just because YOU don't have to deal with this in your life doesn't mean that WE should ignore it.

If you have never been dismissed entirely because of who you are, it is poisonous. No, poisonous is too mild a word, it's chemical weapons, nerve gas and sarin and mustard gas straight to your fucking soul. Imagine that, before you open your mouth, knowing in your heart that you will NEVER be believed or trusted, that your successes will be dismissed and your failures will be upheld as proof of the incompetency of an entire class of people. No matter how correct you are, no matter how many years you've put your heart and soul into something, you are instantly suspect before you can even speak. I would never wish this burning rage upon anyone.

There are moments I want the earth to open up and swallow every jackass who dismisses me because I didn't have the grace to be born with external genitals. My landlord who tells me I must not know how to have a duplicate key made because the ones I made don't work, the same one who said "but you're a woman" when I first met him and told my woodworking was one of my hobbies. Every time I am working on a car and a man I have never met walks up and literally pulls the tools out of my hand. Every time my girlfriend tells me yet another story of how a man refused to let her answer any questions about lawnmowers or garden tools simply because she is female. Every time I get that look when I mention computers or programming or math or science. Every time a woman comes to believe that she is less, that she is weak because everyone around her says so all the time.

If you are defending a child being forced out of something she loves and is good at because the teacher is too incompetent or too complacent or too ignorant to care, you are an assclown. If you are defending this toxic geek culture that makes people feel like their souls are being crushed just for wanting to do something they enjoy, you are a jackass. If you think "it's not that bad" when women get groped at SF conferences or propositioned in elevators at tech conferences, you are an asshole that needs to spend some time thinking about what people face on the other side of that line so you know how it feels before you crush any more souls.
posted by zug at 11:32 AM on September 10, 2013 [43 favorites]


My take on it is that the boys in the class were being awful and someone should have disciplined them if they were aware of it, but maybe no one *was* aware. But then the mother is picking this particular teacher to use as a target for her general (warranted) dissatisfaction with how women are treated in tech. I can't tell if the teacher is a sexist asshole or just a guy who was checking people's work on his own computer while the boys were saying rude things to the girl.

Of course none of that should detract from discussion of the bigger issues.


See, this is the thing, though: every time a woman's individual concern is dismissed, it makes it that much harder to address the bigger issues. Because that girl or woman may be afraid or embarrassed to stand up to report rape or harassment...

...and even if she does, her word can't be taken at face value because there weren't witnesses (because obviously that's the last thing rapists and harassers think about)...

...and even if they do, there will be some way to blame it on her clothes or her "reputation" or where she walked or what time of day it was...

...and even if they don't think that, she has to go through additional emotional and sometimes physical trauma...

...and even if she makes it through that she's scarred for life or dissuaded from her goal...

...and even if she pushes through that, she will still suffer the nastiness of the people around her...

...and after that?

Then the cycle starts all over again.
posted by zombieflanders at 11:34 AM on September 10, 2013 [10 favorites]


So, was this letter actually sent to the teacher? I hope it was, preferably with the VB snark removed. I think she has some great suggestions, and I would love to hear that some sort of dialog opened between the teacher and parent.

As a tech industry female parent who wants to encourage and help with tech teaching at my kids school, I am immensely annoyed by the "why didn't she teach the class?" comments. Maybe because she already has a full time job FFS?
posted by Joh at 11:41 AM on September 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


we focus on the underlying problem, which is that people require someone (anyone) worse them them to feel like they aren't trash themselves.

Yeah, this is just not true.

Sexism isn't transphobia isn't racism isn't homophobia. These are not interchangable problems and really, really can't be reduced to "everybody needs an out group to feel better to" or next thing you know you'll have people arguing that jocks bullying nerds is just as big a problem as racism or sexism, which, no.

The idea of it being innate human nature to have to hate on somebody else to feel better is a well worn conservative cliche, the comforting idea that all this is human nature, unchangable, so don't worry so much about it. The reality is, that actually, you can create a less racist, sexist, transphobic or homophobic society, as we've been slowly proven over the past fifty years but, surprise, surprise, it's effing hard work and not everybody likes it.

Furthermore, the idea that it's just people being people also ignores all the structural, systemic sexism that is the real problem, the many ways in which it's made more difficult for a woman to oh, to pluck an example out of the air, actually become a programmer, that aren't even seen as sexism or bullying by those who perpetruate them.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:02 PM on September 10, 2013 [16 favorites]


Was anyone else a little bothered by "I spent 16 years raising a daughter who had all the tools and encouragement she needed to explore computer programming as a career"? I agree that sexism in the tech industries is a huge problem, but that doesn't make me a fan of parents who spend their kid's entire childhoods grooming them for exactly one task (usually a career or sport). I suppose it's possible that she is only responding to her daughter's actual interest in programming, but that comment sure makes me wonder.
posted by Mitrovarr at 12:16 PM on September 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Was anyone else a little bothered by "I spent 16 years raising a daughter who had all the tools and encouragement she needed to explore computer programming as a career"?

No.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:18 PM on September 10, 2013 [20 favorites]


"My take on it is that the boys in the class were being awful and someone should have disciplined them if they were aware of it, but maybe no one *was* aware. But then the mother is picking this particular teacher to use as a target for her general (warranted) dissatisfaction with how women are treated in tech. I can't tell if the teacher is a sexist asshole or just a guy who was checking people's work on his own computer while the boys were saying rude things to the girl."

My take is that it's a teacher's job to be aware of this, and that the letter pointed out why the daughter might not have felt comfortable talking to the teacher about it, and that focusing on the daughter's actions distracts from talking about the teacher and has shades of looking for the perfect victim before problems are addressed.

It doesn't really sound like the teacher was an intentionally sexist asshole, but the letter doesn't call him one. It does sound like he could have done a better job of monitoring his class, which is part of his job.
posted by klangklangston at 12:24 PM on September 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


EmpressCallipygos: No.

It doesn't bother you even a little that this mother has spent her daughter's entire life leading her into a specific career choice? That doesn't strike you even a little as violating her autonomy?

Would it bother you more if it was someone being crowbarred into a role that reinforced gender roles, like a mother guiding her daughter into being a homemaker or a father forcing his son into football? How is this better?
posted by Mitrovarr at 12:27 PM on September 10, 2013


that doesn't make me a fan of parents who spend their kid's entire childhoods grooming them for exactly one task (usually a career or sport)

I think you're reading that a little too closely. My take was, "I spent 16 years raising a daughter who had all the tools and encouragement she needed to explore computer programming as a career [if that's what she chose to do with the general toolset we gave her]." Not that they tried to raise someone to be a coder. Who in their right mind would do that?
posted by yerfatma at 12:27 PM on September 10, 2013 [7 favorites]


Was anyone else a little bothered by "I spent 16 years raising a daughter who had all the tools and encouragement she needed to explore computer programming as a career"?

Nope, not me either. It didn't sound like grooming. It sounded like making sure the kid had access and support if that was what she wanted to do.

(e.g. making sure that computers are never framed as "boys' toys")

Where are you getting the grooming impression from? It just sounds to me like the kid tagged along with her mom to work events.
posted by cadge at 12:29 PM on September 10, 2013 [9 favorites]


It doesn't bother you even a little that this mother has spent her daughter's entire life leading her into a specific career choice? That doesn't strike you even a little as violating her autonomy?

I didn't read that this was the case, actually. My reading of it was more like yerfatma's above.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:29 PM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


It doesn't bother you even a little that this mother has spent her daughter's entire life leading her into a specific career choice? That doesn't strike you even a little as violating her autonomy?

She clearly didn't do that. This was, in high school, her daughter's first real exposure to programming. If someone wants to groom their child to have a career in something, they would probably do more than suggesting that their child choose a single elective class in high school. The point was that her daughter was exposed to the tech industry enough growing up that she knew it was an valid option as a career for her and had the mental capability to do it. And yet her first actual experience trying it for herself was very negative and off-putting even though she performed at a high level in the class.
posted by burnmp3s at 12:32 PM on September 10, 2013 [10 favorites]


It doesn't bother you even a little that this mother has spent her daughter's entire life leading her into a specific career choice? That doesn't strike you even a little as violating her autonomy?

Would it bother you more if it was someone being crowbarred into a role that reinforced gender roles, like a mother guiding her daughter into being a homemaker or a father forcing his son into football? How is this better?


You said it best yourself:
I spent 16 years raising a daughter who had all the tools and encouragement she needed to explore computer programming as a career
Unless you think she demanded that her daughter review tech books, submit Linux bug reports, and Facebook friend "Linux conference organizers, an ARM developer and Linux kernel contributor, open source advocates, and other tech journalists." Or that she dissuaded here from entering other roles, or berated her mercilessly for being imperfect in others (as I've seen many parents do to children for sports), none of which is in evidence in the article.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:33 PM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I didn't read it as grooming one single career choice. I read it as carefully maintaining a perception that she is capable of pursuing it if she is interested in it.
posted by ambrosia at 12:34 PM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


"I spent 16 years raising a daughter who had all the tools and encouragement she needed to explore computer programming as a career" != "I spent 16 years telling my daughter computer programming was her destiny and her only choice".
posted by kmz at 12:35 PM on September 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Mitrovarr: "EmpressCallipygos: No.

It doesn't bother you even a little that this mother has spent her daughter's entire life leading her into a specific career choice? That doesn't strike you even a little as violating her autonomy?

Would it bother you more if it was someone being crowbarred into a role that reinforced gender roles, like a mother guiding her daughter into being a homemaker or a father forcing his son into football? How is this better?
"

That's not remotely what was described.

Would it bother you if a professional dancer enrolled their children in dance classes? Or an English teacher encouraged their children to read fiction?

If not, why do you have such an anti-science bias in your childraising views?
posted by IAmBroom at 12:46 PM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


zombieflanders: Unless you think she demanded that her daughter review tech books, submit Linux bug reports, and Facebook friend "Linux conference organizers, an ARM developer and Linux kernel contributor, open source advocates, and other tech journalists."

I do kind of think that, because those are all things that would never occur to someone that age. Maybe she didn't 'demand' those things, but I guarantee you they were her idea, and she walked her daughter through all of them,
posted by Mitrovarr at 12:49 PM on September 10, 2013


IAmBroom: Would it bother you if a professional dancer enrolled their children in dance classes? Or an English teacher encouraged their children to read fiction?

If not, why do you have such an anti-science bias in your childraising views?


If her mom had said "I spent 16 years raising a daughter who had all the tools and encouragement she needed to explore professional dance as a career", and she had her daughter in dance classes while simultaneously having her do multiple dance-related volunteer activities which she started from a very early age, it absolutely would bother me, in exactly the same way. I guarantee you this isn't about programming, or being anti-science (I'm a molecular bio major, for crying out loud).
posted by Mitrovarr at 12:52 PM on September 10, 2013


I can't imagine anyone else being bothered by that, its more likely that its just a weird idiosyncracy on your part. I mean, I was into tons of shit as a kid that my parents didn't even know about.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 12:54 PM on September 10, 2013


Where are you getting the grooming impression from? It just sounds to me like the kid tagged along with her mom to work events.

Your second sentence answers the first. All the kid's tech creds, except finding a bug in Ubuntu (which, yeah, rather impressive), are defined by the mother's career. The daughter "helped" the mothers review of a tech book (actually a comic book, click through the link in the article), went to some conferences with her mother and facebook friended some of her mom's work acquaintances. Oh, and asked for Macbook Pro.

These could all be examples of the daughter's passion but, I dunno, they could just be stuff her mom wanted her to do (+ a Mac). The accomplishments seem exaggerated by the mother to sound more impressive than they actually are and none of them are programming per se. I'm just not convinced the kid was actually all that into programming to begin with, though she knew it was important to mom that she give it a try.

She knew I'd be thrilled, but she did it anyway.

But, yeah, bottom line is the 7 recommendations at the end are good ones that I hope the teacher makes an effort to implement.
posted by 0 at 12:56 PM on September 10, 2013


"I do kind of think that, because those are all things that would never occur to someone that age. Maybe she didn't 'demand' those things, but I guarantee you they were her idea, and she walked her daughter through all of them,"

Don't just make shit up. Plenty of my friends were doing stuff like that in high school or younger. We were nerds, but that doesn't mean a girl can't be nerdy.

You're making shit up to be unhappy about. Don't do that.
posted by klangklangston at 12:56 PM on September 10, 2013 [18 favorites]


At what point does someone become a part of "programming culture", then?

I don't know. I'm nearly 42 and have been programming since high school, and I haven't found a "programming culture" yet. Partly because I'm antisocial, and partly I've worked at strange places.

I don't know any "brogrammers." Given my own gender oddity I wouldn't have been comfortable working in a brogrammer environment. Sure I've noticed a wide gender disparity in terms of population, and years at a time have gone by where I had no female colleagues at all in my department. When I had them, they were treated exactly like everyone else. (I don't know about salary discrepancies, but at my last job I was woefully underpaid myself for years and years.) The only PhD candidate I have worked with was a woman (and we lost her back to academics).

It isn't necessary or inevitable that software development be a boy zone, and I think that should put extra pressure on educators to make sure it isn't in the future.
posted by Foosnark at 12:57 PM on September 10, 2013


"These could all be examples of the daughter's passion but, I dunno, they could just be stuff her mom wanted her to do. The accomplishments seem exaggerated by the mother to sound more impressive than they actually are and none of them are programming per se. I'm just not convinced the kid was actually all that into programming to begin with, though she knew it was important to mom that she give it a try."

[X] You believe the mother is lying about her daughter being interested in computers as some kind of weird scheme.
posted by klangklangston at 12:57 PM on September 10, 2013 [14 favorites]


Lying is a loaded word. But, yes, parents exaggerate their children's accomplishments all the time. It doesn't have to be a weird scheme.
posted by 0 at 1:00 PM on September 10, 2013


These could all be examples of the daughter's passion but, I dunno, they could just be stuff her mom wanted her to do. The accomplishments seem exaggerated by the mother to sound more impressive than they actually are and none of them are programming per se. I'm just not convinced the kid was actually all that into programming to begin with, though she knew it was important to mom that she give it a try.

This is what I mean by righteously sexist. Given no explicit point by point evidence to the contrary, you seem to feel free to make shit up that supports your pessimistic interpretation of the events in a way that is sexist.

You tend to sound self-righteous about it because being right makes you feel good about it, even if the foundations you base being right on are of your own making.

In contrast, I read the letter as a good mom's critique of an inattentive teacher. I didn't make shit up to come up with that interpretation. I took the letter as written, I didn't read it for paralanguage or cues to conspiracies to keep a daughter down. I took the information as presented by the letter writer as factual and I didn't second guess or make excuses to criticize the mother.
posted by kalessin at 1:02 PM on September 10, 2013 [16 favorites]


Mitrovarr - I do understand your concern, actually, about the parent-pushing-the-kid-to-do-something. But I can't quite explain why I'm not seeing this as an instance of such a thing. It may be a little clumsily-phrased so it could sorta go either way, yeah, but I'm still not seeing it as a Definite Case Of Stage Parenting.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:14 PM on September 10, 2013


These could all be examples of the daughter's passion but, I dunno, they could just be stuff her mom wanted her to do.

My dad was a carpenter. I spent a lot of time as a kid doing the things my dad did. I went with him to jobs and picked up scraps of wood to play with. I looked over his shoulder as he drew plans for houses. None of that was coercion. None of that was because my dad was pushing me to be a carpenter. I wanted to spend time with my dad and that was how we did it.

It seems perfectly normal to me that a daughter might have similar exposure to her mother's career, especially if her mother was the custodial parent, as seems to be the case here.
posted by gauche at 1:16 PM on September 10, 2013 [7 favorites]


"I spent 16 years raising a daughter who had all the tools and encouragement she needed to explore computer programming as a career"

To me "explore" is the key word. Doesn't sound like force to me.
posted by futz at 1:17 PM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


those are all things that would never occur to someone that age

You may well be right about this particular case, though I don't get that sense from the letter, but your generalization is just plain wrong. I and many of my peers spent a great deal of time doing the 1980s-era equivalents of those things when we were as young or younger than the student in this article. Getting started young is very, very common in the programming world and requires only a gentle degree of parental support; no pressure or explicit guidance is necessary. I think I went to my first tech conference at age 12. My parents supported me, of course, but they certainly did not push me into programming as a career; it was just one of many directions they thought I might pursue. I was still telling everyone I was going to be an astronaut, back then.

Reflecting: the programmers I know who have stories like mine are all men. We all pretty much bootstrapped ourselves once the initial spark was lit, and all our parents had to do was keep a computer around, upgrade it every few years, and refrain from giving us too much grief about the hours we spent using it. Maybe there is something about the society we live in which makes that approach work better for boys than girls. Maybe girls need some other kind of support than the hands-off "give 'em a computer and get out of the way" strategy that worked, more or less accidentally, for us.

It never occurred to me that working on a computer was something I couldn't or shouldn't do; it was just another fascinating, complicated machine to tinker with. I see less of that tinkering, in general, with girls. Maybe they're not encouraged to tinker with machines. Maybe they don't have role models for tinkering with machines. How much of my sense that taking things apart and working on them was normal came from all the books I read with inventors and mad scientists, invariably male, heroically building complicated gadgets out of whatever junk they had lying around? And how much of that translated into a confident, experimental attitude when confronted with the fancy new machine my dad brought home one day? Would I have felt differently if my mom had brought the computer home and parked it in the kitchen? Would I have been more reluctant to take its software apart and try putting it back together my own way if I hadn't already developed the idea of myself as a builder, a fixer, an inventor?

Given the force computing has been in my life it's hard to imagine anything other than total fascination occurring whenever and however I first played with the machine, but the utterly lopsided population I see in the industry makes it clear that there is some very strong cultural force interfering with the development of computer programming skills in young girls. Whatever is denying them the opportunity, we need to fix it, for their sake and for ours. We need all the smart coders we can get.
posted by Mars Saxman at 1:18 PM on September 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


I do kind of think that, because those are all things that would never occur to someone that age. Maybe she didn't 'demand' those things, but I guarantee you they were her idea, and she walked her daughter through all of them.

I read The Hacker Crackdown when I was 13 of my own volition, surely anyone else could do the same?

If her mom had said "I spent 16 years raising a daughter who had all the tools and encouragement she needed to explore professional dance as a career", and she had her daughter in dance classes while simultaneously having her do multiple dance-related volunteer activities which she started from a very early age, it absolutely would bother me, in exactly the same way.

Where do you see the mother "having" her daughter do that? Why is it so hard to believe that some children have drive and interests that may match up with what their parents do?
posted by zombieflanders at 1:32 PM on September 10, 2013


Sigh, more evidence that being educated in an establishment is just a load of complete nonsense. When you have kids it sort of amplifies an awareness of incompetence - I really am dreading having to send the wee one to school - not in a there's no school good enough way, but just with that awareness of them being liable to lose their enthusiasm in a system that doesn't really seem to be about learning.
posted by sgt.serenity at 1:33 PM on September 10, 2013


Holy shit, how some of you are contorting things to be sure that the mother and daughter get their "share" of the blame.
posted by MoxieProxy at 1:35 PM on September 10, 2013 [15 favorites]


None of that was because my dad was pushing me to be a carpenter. I wanted to spend time with my dad and that was how we did it.

That's great and indeed perfectly normal. Are you a carpenter now? If not, who did your dad blame when you went a different direction?

To me "explore" is the key word. Doesn't sound like force to me.

With all the encouragement and tools the daughter was given and the passion for programming she is supposed to have, wouldn't there be more to point to as an example than the italized paragraph here that the author characterizes as "reviewing a tech book"? I myself don't think the author forced her daughter into tech stuff, but I do think she may be stretching things a bit to make her point. Which is mostly ok. Again, the recommendations at the end are good stuff.
posted by 0 at 1:41 PM on September 10, 2013


The author's parenting choices aren't really relevant to how her daughter was treated in the class. I find it disturbing that so many of the criticisms of the article are weird personal attacks on the author. She's self-aggrandizing! She's not doing enough! She's a bad, pushy mom!

But that aside, still no. When I was a little girl, my dad 'groomed' me for a technical career by taking me to work with him, talking to me about computer stuff, and later, making sure I and my siblings had access to computers. I got the most attention in that area, though, because he, as a parent, believed that I was particularly suited for a career in tech. He didn't discourage me when I tried other things, but he did guide me as an attentive parent should, based on my personality and my strengths. That is a thing parents do, and it's a thing they should do. Also, it turned out he was right and I ended up doing almost exactly what he'd thought I would (which was, probably not coincidentally, almost exactly what he did).

Besides, parents should all be introducing their kids to technology related topics. It's not like it's some discrete optional career path anymore, anyway. Everyone should have some familiarity with it.
posted by ernielundquist at 1:42 PM on September 10, 2013 [8 favorites]


That's great and indeed perfectly normal. Are you a carpenter now? If not, who did your dad blame when you went a different direction?

Did you miss the part where her daughter was getting harassed in class? If gauche was continuously getting harassed when trying out carpentry, gauche's dad sure would have something worthy to blame.

First it's apparently self-promotion on the part of the mother, now the narrative has shifted to the daughter clearly didn't want to study tech anyway.

JFC, this drive to find something, anything, to blame the victim for is just... wow.
posted by kmz at 1:50 PM on September 10, 2013 [16 favorites]


Video game culture - which is where I think of the 'sandwich' thing as coming from - really is just a toxic blight.

The sandwich thing is -- more or less -- from Southpark.
posted by Amanojaku at 1:51 PM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I certainly didn't intend to blame the victim (for one thing, I'm not accusing the daughter of anything). Certain comments by the mother raised flags for me, and I thought they warranted discussion. The sexism and failure to control bullying in the class is bad, but that's kind of a separate issue to what I'm talking about.
posted by Mitrovarr at 1:53 PM on September 10, 2013


kmz, what could we possibly be blaming the daughter for?
posted by 0 at 1:56 PM on September 10, 2013


Generally I think that woman is right to be disappointed. Two things, though:

1) Visual Basic makes sense to me as a starter language because of the context in which it is often used by people who don't actually go on to be programmers: Excel and Word macros. This in addition to the usual concerns of "VB is actually decent," "school curricula are hard to change," etc. I'm a programmer now, but one internship I had (unrelated to programming) got me to learn a whole ton of VB because it was the only good way to massage a bunch of sales data I was building reports for. That's pretty friggin' practical.

2) Do high school teachers actually do "recruitment"? Maybe my high school was different from the norm, but I don't recall any teacher ever soliciting students for a class they were teaching. All our class decisions were made on the basis of a) what did we feel like doing, b) what credits we needed for university, and c) were the teachers cool. The concept of a teacher having to go out and advertise a course in their own school makes me sad to think it would even be necessary. The thought of getting the school newspaper to write a puff piece on programming strikes me as completely ridiculous.

But yeah. This is a great anecdote about how IT loses so many prospective people to brogramming, even at an early stage. That woman's daughter could still go on to be a great programmer—god knows I didn't have any programming classes in high school—but we're cutting off a really obvious first stage with this kind of neglect.
posted by chrominance at 1:56 PM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Amanojaku - interesting. Thanks! I didn't know it originated with South Park. (I am unsurprised, however.) I do think that it was video game culture (rather than 'IT culture' or 'programming culture') that picked it up and made it a Thing, though. And if it's a beginning CS course, it's not like the other kids were steeped in any kind of programming culture.
posted by rmd1023 at 1:57 PM on September 10, 2013


"With all the encouragement and tools the daughter was given and the passion for programming she is supposed to have, wouldn't there be more to point to as an example than the italized paragraph here that the author characterizes as "reviewing a tech book"? I myself don't think the author forced her daughter into tech stuff, but I do think she may be stretching things a bit to make her point. Which is mostly ok. Again, the recommendations at the end are good stuff."

The fuck, dude? I'm sorry your mom pushed you into having a MeFi account, but criticizing the letter because the mom didn't include a full CV of everything that the daughter has done that's tech related is just inane. First it was that mom was "exaggerating" and that the daughter didn't really want to go into it (which would make the complaints about sexism irrelevant) now it's that there's no concrete record that would bolster the mom — the person who knows her daughter best — saying that her daughter has had the tools to explore tech on her own?

You're coming across as a concern troll. You might want to think about that before you continue commenting.

"Do high school teachers actually do "recruitment"? Maybe my high school was different from the norm, but I don't recall any teacher ever soliciting students for a class they were teaching."

At my high school, we'd have two things: A teacher-led class fair, which would basically be a bunch of tables set up where you could ask each teacher about their classes and see which one you'd prefer, and posters (often made by students in that teacher's homeroom) about what classes they taught.
posted by klangklangston at 2:06 PM on September 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


Yeah, as kmz points out I was responding to the notion that this girl must have been pushed into being interested in computers and programming. That assumption suggests, to me, a perhaps unexpressed or unexamined belief that women just don't like these things, which I think is false and probably also sexist.

I wasn't trying to inject my own experience at all, except as an illustration of how children can be interested in what their parents do without any pressure whatsoever. One's parents are one's models for behavior, and when one's parents work in the home or bring work home or are self-employed, they model work behavior as much as any other kind.
posted by gauche at 2:09 PM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


i question this being the earliest it showed up too, but know your meme has make me a sandwich predating south park.
posted by nadawi at 2:15 PM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


There's a big difference between ensuring that your kids have the basic skills and capabilities to explore something, and pushing them studying any specific thing in depth.

For instance, I hope my kids have the basic skills and capabilities to explore writing, science, history, tech, sports, mathematics, languages, psychology and any number of other fields. They should be well prepared with the foundational knowledge, comfort, and exposure to tackle any of these fieldswith confidence, should those fields attract them. I don't want them to disqualify themselves because something seems foreign or unknowable or too difficult; therefore, I will encourage them in developing these basic capabilities.

Ensuring children are intellectually prepared to learn a variety of things is part of what parenting is, and part of the learning theory that underlies the very idea of secondary education. Preparation to be able to learn something if you so choose is quite a different thing from demanding that someone learn something they don't choose. There's no reason to read a statement about the first as a statement about the latter.
posted by Miko at 2:16 PM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Teachers usually ignore bullying and harassment, whether gendered or not, so this isn't very surprising.
posted by nangar at 2:32 AM on September 10
[31 favorites −] Favorite added! [Flagged]

This!


I actually got on a couple teachers for that. As a KID! A little kid too!

Basically it *is* lazy. I get that teachers are over-worked. I get that the classrooms are over-crowded and by a certain age, the kids are even dangerous sometimes.

It starts as gendered, racial/ethnic harassment in grade-school. If it doesn't get nipped in the bud HARD by third grad the little whippersnappers will form gangs by about sixth grade.
I longed to go to a decent non-Catholic all girl's school by the time I reached Junior High.
It made me a meaner person.
Oh by the way, I love the description of some schools being like 'Lord of the Flies' with a dress-code.
This does carry over into the world of work.
It's hateful and miserable.
It's depressing.
The thing is most people enter teaching with decent intentions.
I basically had good teachers but went to schools which had poisonous student cultures.
I respected and admired my teachers.
Many of them did try to do the right thing.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 2:30 PM on September 10, 2013


These could all be examples of the daughter's passion but, I dunno, they could just be stuff her mom wanted her to do. The accomplishments seem exaggerated by the mother to sound more impressive than they actually are and none of them are programming per se. I'm just not convinced the kid was actually all that into programming to begin with, though she knew it was important to mom that she give it a try.

By the time I was 17, I had a collection of self-collected fossils including part of a T-Rex femur, several hundred shark's teeth, and turritelas along with a research photo collection of many local installations, including several 3D photo collages of amber specimens. I was listed as a (like nineteenth) editor on an entomology paper for my help with amber insects, and I could safely use a chisel and navigate cliff sides.

I mean most of that is not really paleontology, per se, and I'm happy to admit that my interest is almost entirely amateur. But my parents helped me explore, and took me to rock club meetings, and made us do digs on various trips and stuff like that. I'm pretty sure they've exaggerated some of what we've done, but on the other hand, some of the details about the museums I've worked in or the kinds of collections are really only important and interesting in terms of my resume-- not an online letter to the editor. If I had taken a paleontology class in high school (HOW AWESOME WOULD THAT HAVE BEEN) and had my past volunteer work and background belittled because I'm a lady? I'm pretty sure my parents would have written it with similar phrasing too.
posted by jetlagaddict at 2:48 PM on September 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


I do kind of think that, because those are all things that would never occur to someone that age. Maybe she didn't 'demand' those things, but I guarantee you they were her idea, and she walked her daughter through all of them,

Did my mom "groom" me for a career in academia in the humanities by having books in the house and making reading just this normal thing and talking about work stuff sometimes and having potluck dinners with her fellow grad students at our home? Did your parents never talk to you about their jobs or what they liked about their fields or have you come into the office sometimes or meet their colleagues? Were they grooming you? Is there no difference between that kind of exposure and the stage parent stereotype? Are you reading this mom's actions as the latter, and if so, why?
posted by rtha at 2:49 PM on September 10, 2013 [9 favorites]


Are you reading this mom's actions as the latter, and if so, why?

Well, both tiger and helicopter parents are both a thing these days.
posted by FJT at 3:04 PM on September 10, 2013


This would be more meaningful if there was an opportunity for the teacher to respond. Did the teacher know the daughter was being harassed?

Speaking as a kid who was bullied in just about every class in just about every year of school: yes, the teachers always know, they always know, and if you are a teacher and you say to me that you don't know about bullying in your class then I am going to call you out right now as a fucking liar and a shitty teacher to boot, with a poor memory of your own experiences as a school kid and absolutely zero ability to "read" a person, situation, or environment.

Teachers know about bullying and harassment in their classes, they just don't give a shit. Or, more generously, they are completely disempowered to do anything about it.
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:10 PM on September 10, 2013 [6 favorites]


I completely understand why the author's daughter did not talk to the teacher and did not want her mother to do so.

I was the only girl in open projects shop class when I was about 14. My project was computer-aided drafting, so I spent the hour at the computer in the classroom area.
The (almost all older) guys were generally in the shop with the teacher, but inevitably some would wind up in the classroom while the teacher was still in the shop, and over time I was driven out in much the same way as the daughter, except the rude comments were explicitly sexual.

The teacher was fairly clueless, but got wind of it somehow, because he did pull me aside at one point to ask if I was being harassed. It was very awkward, and felt like he'd been told he had to ask (Anita Hill was in the news at the time, and harassment awareness was the new big thing).

I denied it. The school was very small and geographically isolated, there was no possibility of a transfer, and I had to survive another 3 years with these guys and their friends & relatives in much less supervised environments than classrooms with a teacher in the next room who could return at any moment. No way in hell was I going to put a bigger target on my back than already existed.

I never took another shop class, which still irritates me today. I like making things and fixing things, and wish I had a better background in those pursuits. And I liked drafting a lot.

The school did offer 2 elective programming classes. The teacher was female, the classes were tiny (< 8 students) and mostly girls. I wound up getting a degree in Computer Science. If my programming class experience had been anything like the shop class experience, pretty sure that would not have happened.
posted by superna at 3:11 PM on September 10, 2013 [12 favorites]


Why would you assume that unless otherwise stated, this class is being taught in a language that hasn't had a supported development tool available to purchase for 5 years, the last non-hotfix release of which was 15 years ago?

I work in academic tech support. One of my projects this year involved virtualizing a system so that a professor could keep using software which hasn't been sold in about 15 years. I had to do this because the physical hardware it ran on was dying, and despite the software having been written for Windows 95 and not much updated since then, he still teaches with it. The virtual machine exists so that he can keep using it and I never have to try to get the software working on a new machine again.

Another class requires the use of a tool for which the supported operating systems are "Windows 2000, Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows NT". It mostly works on XP, and if you replace a DLL, it mostly works on 7. I'm going to have to make a virtual machine for it when we move to Windows 8, because the DLL trick doesn't seem to work there, and the professor who teaches with that tool has been extremely resistant to finding anything else. This tool works, and if it can be made to continue to work in a virtual machine, then that's what he's going to use.

These aren't even exceptions to the rule. Probably half the software I install is an old or unsupported version, because they know that the labs work with that specific version and they don't have time to test them against whatever's current (or whatever tool has replaced the one they've been using for the last ten years, despite the company that made it ceasing operations five years ago).

So I know I'm not the person you were asking, but that's why I would assume that if the author said Visual Basic, she meant Visual Basic, not VB.NET. Even if that's not what she meant, it's an entirely reasonable assumption.
posted by hades at 3:13 PM on September 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Hostile environments function to make us question our passions and do influence our choices. It's not a failing to be bullied out of doing or wanting something. Bullying raises the bar and overcoming it in heroic style is usually only worth it if we really really want it.

Kalessin, as much as I generally agree with you about other things, this struck me as odd. If the bar we're setting for having a passion is slings and arrows, what about having the curiosity to take a 101 course? Maybe it's not your passion, but it might develop into one, if given time, encouragement, and a nurturing environment. Bullying, sexist or racist exclusionary tactics, and outright hostility should have no place in education, and that they do is a failure, not a means of determining who 'wanted their dream more.'

I attended two different high schools. The first one almost killed me, the second one helped me put myself back together and encouraged me in what I chose to do. At my first school, I was actively discouraged, by teachers, from following up on interests. When I went to a college orientation, my own guidance counselor sneered at me and asked what I though I was doing there.

At the second school, I was encouraged to try as many classes as I could. It was a very insular school, where all the students had also gone to jhs together. Teachers made an active effort to help me become a member of that community. It was pretty much everything a school should be. Before that school, I was actively making plans to drop out. Tons of people at my second school did their best to encourage me, even push me towards college. What I do now, college is the barest minimum to entry.

Had I been faced with the bullying and the hostile environment again, I most likely would have given up. Not because I didn't want it enough, but because I was a kid who was starting to think the whole world was as shitty as I had seen up to then, and that maybe fighting just wasn't worth it.

Bullying doesn't make us stronger. It damages people, and that damage takes years to get over. What's better? Not being damaged. Being nurtured. Being encouraged. Accepting bullying as a norm is one thing that keeps it going.
posted by Ghidorah at 3:42 PM on September 10, 2013 [10 favorites]


I know that training for teaching against social bias is still not a major part of preservice professional education

I am in post-grad teacher training in Oz and am currently near the end of a whole compulsory course (1/12th of the degree) in social justice and the curriculum that includes gender issues, racism, privilege, location bias, ethics, etc. In addition to that course, social biases and ways to dispell them are part of almost every other course, including my specialities. I am loving the social justice course but it is disturbing how many of my co-students don't see the point of it and can't see and see through their own priviliges. Unfortunately, my prac experiences indicate that working against social biases is not yet embedded in the school system (too many old-school teachers), but it is very rewarding to see that things may change in the future with new graduates.
posted by Kerasia at 3:49 PM on September 10, 2013


I suppose I could also add that my first role model for programmers was... my mother.
posted by Foosnark at 4:00 PM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


That Australian program sounds cool. It's definitely not the norm in the US yet.
posted by Miko at 4:28 PM on September 10, 2013


jessamyn: "Wow it never occurred to me how lucky I was. I took similarly sort of silly programming classes (I think it was Pascal, I've since forgotten) and was the only girl in my class. The "casual" shot of me in the yearbook was me sitting cross-legged in front of a dumb terminal in the VAX-based classroom that we had (it was the 80's Digital Equipment Corporation was down the street) just like I'm sitting cross-legged in front of the "I make my living with this thing" Mac I am sitting in front of now. At least one of the guys in my class went on to be a really successful dude-at-Google."

Number 1 - It could NOT be Pascal as you couldn't shake the horror off that completely. (Ex-UCSD Pascal guy here)

Number 2 - You CAN'T taunt us that way without throwing the picture on Flickr or something. 80's DEC terminals. SO HAWT!
posted by Samizdata at 5:06 PM on September 10, 2013


jessamyn: "[There is an existing Meta thread for discussing how we deal with gender issues on MeTa, don't get your youreatroll-rage on in this thread.]"

Why did I read that as Your Eat Roll and get confused so easily?
posted by Samizdata at 5:08 PM on September 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


I-Write-Essays: "Kalessin: And as any geek knows, popularity is the measure of worth. It's okay. I'm used to being unpopular."

I measured my popularity in high school with the fact I spent the previous summer teaching the new computer teacher how to teach computers, and using my C64 computer training time sitting in the back of the classroom playing games. I was, indeed, too cool for school that year.

And, yeah, that year included some facepunching too. Punching not mine, face mine.
posted by Samizdata at 5:11 PM on September 10, 2013


misskaz: "Is this true? Is this as likely to happen in a Geography or Physics class, to girls who excel at the subject?

Yep. Earth Science, 9th grade, 1990, basic Regents level required class for all students. Teacher was a man, I (girl) was a good student and new to the public school system having gone to Catholic school for K-8. I remember early on, like in the first few weeks, answering a question in class correctly and the teacher admonishing the guys in the class with "Come on guys, a girl got this, you can do better."

I remember extra credit questions on quizzes being things like "Who won the Sabres [hockey] game last night?" and my being able to answer the question and give the score was yet another thing to be held up in front of class as a "wow, a girl got this right" moment.

I loved science. But damn if that didn't dampen my enthusiasm for it. It was clear the expectation was that I would suck at science because I was a girl, and although there were moments of pride that I surprised that jackass teacher at every turn, I also felt terrified of failing because it would prove him to be correct. So I never took risks and just kept my head down and did my work as quietly as possible.
"

What? Misskaz A GIRL? Whodathunkit?

I keed. I keed. Discomfort level rising as I read. Needed release
posted by Samizdata at 5:17 PM on September 10, 2013


You know what, samizdata, I read your excuse for your "joke" and all I could think was "well, too damn bad."

You're damn right that's uncomfortable to read. It's even worse to LIVE, though, especially when you can't make a joke as a "release".

So I get that you felt uncomfortable, but - it's not fair to joke about it to make YOU feel better when we can't. That discomfort you feel is what we live. Instead of relieving yourself by joking, how about joining us and stopping this treatment so no one has to face that again?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:24 PM on September 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


EmpressCallipygos: "I feel like this song is called for."

I do dislike people. Not classes of people.

If I don't like someone, it is because I don't like THEM. I often joke that the only way for me not to like someone is for them to make a concerted effort to piss me off.

And on the (hopefully humorous) side of things...

I love that video. But, card gamers? Really? LOSERS.

(Hides his copies of Chainsaw Warrior and Red Empire)
posted by Samizdata at 5:27 PM on September 10, 2013


I was one of two girls in my Physics II class senior year...Both of us girls in the class blew the curve on every test.

Stories like this seem to be a running theme in this thread. I love to hear about girls kicking ass and defying the expectations of sexist asshole teachers and classmates, but it's also sort of worrying. It seems like girls have to be the star students of the class to justify their very existence, and meanwhile plenty of boys in those classes are allowed to be middling students, because it will never be raised up as evidence that they just don't belong there. And I wonder how many girls shy away from those sorts of classes because of the greater consequences of being less than perfect.
posted by naoko at 5:29 PM on September 10, 2013 [11 favorites]


kmz: ""I spent 16 years raising a daughter who had all the tools and encouragement she needed to explore computer programming as a career" != "I spent 16 years telling my daughter computer programming was her destiny and her only choice"."

Yeah. I read the mom's comment as "I spent 16 years telling my daughter that she could forge the destiny she wanted and be what she wanted to be. She seems to like being a geek."
posted by Samizdata at 5:30 PM on September 10, 2013


EmpressCallipygos: "You know what, samizdata, I read your excuse for your "joke" and all I could think was "well, too damn bad."

You're damn right that's uncomfortable to read. It's even worse to LIVE, though, especially when you can't make a joke as a "release".

So I get that you felt uncomfortable, but - it's not fair to joke about it to make YOU feel better when we can't. That discomfort you feel is what we live. Instead of relieving yourself by joking, how about joining us and stopping this treatment so no one has to face that again?
"

Because I do. I don't call people out for anything. The one joke I made in here that could be taken as demeaning as I saw it included me in the class I was mocking, card gamers. The joke about Misskaz was her stating her gender explicitly when her user ID included a gender indication. I thought that was funny. If anyone was offended, I was wrong and I am sorry.

(Also, please note the publically displayed comment I posted that I cite here. Go to the Usenix site if you think I am pulling your leg. Cheers.)
posted by Samizdata at 5:38 PM on September 10, 2013


I believe that EmpressCallipygos was asking you to perhaps not joke at all and maybe turn that energy toward fixing the thing you joke about.
posted by kalessin at 6:07 PM on September 10, 2013


80's DEC terminals. SO HAWT!

Sadly buried away in a yearbook someplace, but I promise to post when I dig them out.
posted by jessamyn at 6:08 PM on September 10, 2013


Well, maybe not "don't joke at all," but...yeah, this particular joke seemed really poorly timed.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:09 PM on September 10, 2013


Well, I am sorry. And if the years of reflection I have put in trying to solve such injustices (including getting my ass kicked interposing myself into physical altercations I didn't feel right about) had been fruitful at all, I would glad open source my solution. But they haven't. I wish that was different.
posted by Samizdata at 6:32 PM on September 10, 2013


I took a HS CS class that had about a 5:1 male:female ratio. There was a dude in it who was really unwanted-touch-y-creepy who I had to give crazy eyes and literally bite, HARD, on the arm, to get him to leave me the fuck alone.

I'm constantly amazed at how bad schools are for students, particularly students in marginalized groups. There's very little attempt to get accountability for students who do the kind of things that, as an adult, would count as creating a hostile work environment or harassment. And kids just have to deal with that, marginalized kids more than others, and then in college they sort of half-deal with it in a world where like 1/3 of staff will actually take a teacher's complaints about "teach naked" on an anonymous complaint form seriously, and then in the workplace they're supposedly in a different set of rules.

Like the author of the original article says, it's no fucking wonder we're seeing so many harassment issues and issues with inclusivity in employment. We don't even start punishing kids for that shit until they're adults, and we half-ass that.
posted by NoraReed at 7:59 PM on September 10, 2013 [8 favorites]


Speaking as a kid who was bullied in just about every class in just about every year of school: yes, the teachers always know, they always know, and if you are a teacher and you say to me that you don't know about bullying in your class then I am going to call you out right now as a fucking liar and a shitty teacher to boot, with a poor memory of your own experiences as a school kid and absolutely zero ability to "read" a person, situation, or environment.

Yeah. Don't tell me this guy didn't know she was being harassed--unless he was hiding in the Cone of Silence all the time, he had to have heard what they were saying to her and seen whatever they did to her. Teachers almost always don't give a shit and you can't get them to do anything, even if you go to the principal (which is what I did one year). So I am all for this letter chewing that guy out.

Even if this girl hadn't been harassed out the wazoo in high school, sadly she was almost entirely guaranteed to get this level of harassment in college or if she made it that far, at a future job. Because god forbid you be a damn woman, and everyone hates you just for existing.

"If you have never been dismissed entirely because of who you are, it is poisonous. No, poisonous is too mild a word, it's chemical weapons, nerve gas and sarin and mustard gas straight to your fucking soul."

Seconded. I wouldn't consciously choose to be female for anything. It really goddamn sucks to be hated and despised on some overall cosmic level by a good chunk of half of the population, all of which are stronger and bigger and have more advantages and power over you. How dare you try to enter their sphere. How dare you. Gotta put the bitch down for that one so she'll never try to be better than us again.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:11 PM on September 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Don't tell me this guy didn't know she was being harassed

What we and the mother and the daughter identify as harassment, the teacher may have seen as boyz being de boyz. He may have heard all the words, but they didn't tick the box labeled harassment in his consciousness.

This, OF COURSE, is no excuse but happens all the time because those who are not on the receiving end often identify more with the harassers than the harassed. "That's not harassment, it's only a joke!" "This isn't harassment, I just wanted to feel the lapel of your coat." "He wasn't harassing you, he was just trying to get your attention." Ad fuckin' infinitum.
posted by Kerasia at 11:48 PM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


nangar: "Kids taking their first programming class in high school aren't part of "programming culture" yet."

They're part of gaming culture; society labels gamers 'good with computers' and funnels them into programming. And then computer science intro classes cater to them in various ways; my final class project in programming, while ultimately an exercise in arrays and swing GUIs, was a connect 4 game.
posted by pwnguin at 12:04 AM on September 11, 2013


I know this is really, really late, but:
> delightful creatures of the feminine persuasion

Can we please not call women and girls this? It makes all the hair I have, and I mean all of it, stand on end.
'Women' and 'girls' are fine words if you're talking about people who are women and girls.

Has anyone ever been called a delightful creature of the masculine persuasion? Do men even get called 'creature' other than being called a 'vile creature'?

Holy eff. I'm tempted to use the word 'othering', which would certainly be a first.
posted by Too-Ticky at 12:31 AM on September 11, 2013 [13 favorites]


It looked like very sardonic hyperbole to me, 'Tick. I mean, nobody's ever called me a delightful creature in anything but the most sarcastic terms, so I might not recognize it when it was honestly meant, but since no one but an actual moustache-twirling villain could possibly use that whole phrase sincerely, Mezentian deserves the benefit of the doubt until we see him actually tying Nell to the tracks.
posted by gingerest at 2:06 AM on September 11, 2013


Well, I may have misunderstood it. That's a thing that happens sometimes.
Sarcasm and hyperbole are harder to understand in a foreign language, and I'm not great at understanding them anyway. So who is this Nell you're talking about?

(Yes, I'm kidding about that last bit.)
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:11 AM on September 11, 2013


So who is this Nell you're talking about?

A cartoon character.

EDIT: Sorry, not good at fully reading sometimes.
posted by clorox at 2:43 AM on September 11, 2013


'Tick! You're Dutch! I assumed you were Finnish. Because Moomins!
I could be wrong. Maybe M will return all sad because he meant it as a compliment. But I suspect not.
posted by gingerest at 3:39 AM on September 11, 2013


It seems like girls have to be the star students of the class to justify their very existence, and meanwhile plenty of boys in those classes are allowed to be middling students, because it will never be raised up as evidence that they just don't belong there.

Don't worry- it trains the girls for the rest of their lives, which are exactly the same.
posted by winna at 5:12 AM on September 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Kids taking their first programming class in high school aren't part of "programming culture" yet.

But the habits they develop in their first programming classes get carried with them into programming culture. And the habits broken in their first programming classes don't.

And the kids put off by their first programming classes never get into programming culture at all, of course.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:13 AM on September 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


In the UK we talk to the child's teacher at the time if they are being bullied. Is this different from other cultures?

Oh, bless you. The amount of times a teacher said to me 'just ignore them' or 'why don't you try harder' is depressing. The number of times an authority figure thought bullying was my fault for being a bit weird or clumsy was worse still. What was more depressing was a teacher who demanded to know why I was crying in front of the class, and when I said 'I've got no friends' reeled off a list of reasons why that might possibly be so. In front of the class. I was eight. Or the teacher who thought I was too clever by half, and decided the way to deal with it was to get someone in the class to read out a story I wrote, the same story daily for three weeks in a row, or responded to my asking a question with 'Well, I suppose you'll tell me that's wrong, now, won't you?'

And from what friends have told me, I was lucky not to be queer, or trans. I went to school during Section 28 - a bi friend of mine who was teased for being 'lezzer', escalating to physical bullying, was told straight out by a teacher that 'they won't let me do anything'.
posted by mippy at 7:27 AM on September 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


"Has anyone ever been called a delightful creature of the masculine persuasion?"

Not on google, but ""creature of the masculine persuasion" apparently refers to boys in 1907 who squeal over "fried holes."
posted by klangklangston at 8:11 AM on September 11, 2013


Also, check this: when I was in high school in the 90s, IT was kind of classed as an arts subject.

Of course, this may have changed since, but in year 9, secondary school children choose their 'options', which means they drop some subjects and continue studying others to GCSE level alongside the mandatory ones (English, Maths, Science, RE, Spanish/French).

So we chose between:
- history or geography
- design tech or home ec (I took DT - home ec as taught in my school was mostly about teachers shouting at you for not wiping forks properly)
- one of: music, art, child development (a lot of girls in my year went on to child-related careers), IT or PE. (PE was still compulsory for an hour a week, though, the bastards.)
posted by mippy at 8:14 AM on September 11, 2013


Dear god mippy. Did you go to school at East Pandemonium?
posted by JHarris at 6:56 PM on September 11, 2013


mippy's stories are heartbreaking, but i just want to note that they aren't an indication of enrollment at "east pandemonium". i have my own list of stories of how teachers watched on or actively engaged in bullying and harassment. sometimes i think there's a tendency to (not purposefully) minimize the problem by thinking that stories like mippy's or the one in the original post are outliers.
posted by nadawi at 6:21 AM on September 12, 2013


What's funny to me is that I had a weird trajectory in my education in that because of an illness I went from being in the accelerated math in science in junior high right down to the nadir of remedial math and science in high school and then back up in college to higher level math and science.

Both the remedial classes and the higher level math and science classes were male-dominated. But what was interesting is that the teachers in the remedial classes were so much better at stamping out asshole behavior, but often took it in the other direction. I remember a boy in remedial math being suspended for drawing a can of beer on a math test. People joked about far worse things in the AP and accelerated classes and there was no criticism from the teacher at all.

My impression was that in school that kind of behavior is unacceptable when you are a slacker and acceptable when you were a high-achieving nerd. From my years of working in IT, it definitely carries over to the workplace. I've worked with a lot of men who acted like they were entitled to act like assholes just because they were smart. And in the other direction, men I've worked with who come from less-entitled backgrounds, well it often seems like they think they can't do anything right.
posted by melissam at 7:02 AM on September 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Late to the party but:
Ever taken a Home Ec class? Metal or auto shop? It's pretty common.
Yes, all. Things were remarkably balanced.
posted by Mezentian at 8:04 AM on September 12, 2013


Mezentian - but you accept after all the stories in this thread that it isn't weird necessarily to have a classroom with this sort of gender disparity, yeah? i mean, yay for your school maintaining a gender balance - but some classes at some schools have this problem.
posted by nadawi at 8:17 AM on September 12, 2013


X: How common is Foo?
Y: X, Foo is common in contexts Biz, Bat and Bar? Have you been in contexts Biz, Bat and Bar?
L: I experienced Foo in context Bat.
M: My experience was sorta like Foo.
N: I experienced Foo and, boy, those Starbellies were fark!
...
X: Yes, Y. But I did not experience Foo.
Z: X, do you accept that L, M, and N are not weird?
I: What kind of question is that?
posted by 0 at 10:09 AM on September 12, 2013


a far better question than some weird reconstruction of a sort similarly structured exchange. Mezentian indicated that detail didn't "ring true" for him and i'm wondering if that's still his impression.
posted by nadawi at 10:12 AM on September 12, 2013


An update from the mother (has also been added to the original post):
As I said, my daughter is in India for a year, so she didn’t see this article until Wednesday, September 11. I wasn’t sure how she’d feel about me sharing her story and all the attention it received. Luckily, my daughter thanked me for writing about her experience. I asked her whether she had any corrections for the article. “Um, maybe tell them that I did actually talk to the teacher and I tried to tell the guys to quit being jerks,” she said. “He told the principal, and it was really embarrassing, which is probably why I didn’t tell you. And I gave up after that,” she explained. My daughter said that, after bringing the problem to the teacher’s attention several times, she finally asked him whether she could talk to the entire class about sexual harassment, he told her he’d think about it, and that’s when he reported the situation to the principal. “And a couple days later I was in the principal’s office being explained to that it wasn’t my place to do that, and I just mumbled answers to get out of there as soon as possible because I was really, really embarrassed and fighting back tears.” Before my daughter signed off our online chat, she asked me why I wrote about her story now. I told her about Alexandra, the nine-year-old girl who presented her app at the TechCrunch Disrupt hackathon, and the titstare app developers who shared the same stage. “Well, I’m sorry that crap happened … to both of us,” she said. I am, too.
Makes the teacher and the school administration look even worse.
posted by Lexica at 2:27 PM on September 12, 2013 [11 favorites]


Interesting, thanks Lexica. The update also links to another USENIX post where she discusses some of the feedback she's received. No mention of anything threatening, thank goodness.
posted by 0 at 2:38 PM on September 12, 2013


Mezentian - but you accept after all the stories in this thread that it isn't weird necessarily to have a classroom with this sort of gender disparity, yeah?

Yes. Yes, I do.

i mean, yay for your school maintaining a gender balance - but some classes at some schools have this problem.

My experience was 20-odd years ago. Things were different then. And my metric for "balanced" was ~5 of 25 people (of either/or gender). Which is more than 1.
posted by Mezentian at 6:09 AM on September 13, 2013


“And a couple days later I was in the principal’s office being explained to that it wasn’t my place to do that, and I just mumbled answers to get out of there as soon as possible because I was really, really embarrassed and fighting back tears.”
Good thing this was posted well after the objections that she should have gone to the teacher or school first. Would have been a lot of effort to move all those goalposts.
posted by postcommunism at 6:30 AM on September 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


good point. I'd be very curious to hear what modernnomad, Dysk, and freecellwizard have to say now that it's come to light that someone actually did tell the teacher what was going on the way they said she should. How does this impact your take on the situation, you guys?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:45 AM on September 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Point of order: Dysk argued that we didn't know whether or not the mother or the daughter had gone to the teacher, which we didn't until now, not that she should've gone to the teacher first before making this public.
posted by MartinWisse at 4:31 AM on September 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Point of opinion: I'm not certain why whether or not the mother or daughter had gone to the teacher should even be something we think about.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:11 AM on September 14, 2013


Going to the teacher helps to solve a particular localized problem. Writing about the experience as part of a larger phenomenon helps to solve a systemic problem. Both kinds of solutions are required to make progress.
posted by Miko at 6:21 AM on September 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


[EmpressCallipygos, let's not do the "roll-call of folks and demanding that they respond to X" thing. Just talk about what you think, and let others do the same.]
posted by taz at 6:24 AM on September 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, as MartinWisse pointed out, I was questioning the assumption that the author hadn't contacted the teacher, reminding people that we didn't actually know that she hadn't. I'm glad to hear that she did, as I thought my original comment should've implied. I do kinda agree with Miko that it doesn't actually matter with regard to the point and purpose of the open letter, though.
posted by Dysk at 9:40 AM on September 14, 2013


good point. I'd be very curious to hear what modernnomad, Dysk, and freecellwizard have to say now that it's come to light that someone actually did tell the teacher what was going on the way they said she should. How does this impact your take on the situation, you guys?

Sorry I missed this earlier. You can roll call me, that's ok. The fact that the teacher was told means I have no problem with the teacher being shamed for allowing such a travesty to occur in his class. As I said in my only comment in this thread, this is a terrible thing that happened to the girl in question.

I get the sense that you want to have pigeonholed me into some weird box where because I suggested I wanted to first know whether or not the bullying actually occurred in class or with the teacher's knowledge, this desire made me somehow "less committed" to redressing gender imbalances in society. I would encourage you to re-think such assumptions in the future. My desire to know more about the incident than the contents only of a single letter from a parent was in no way an attempt to diminish the impact this kind of bullying has on young women in STEM areas nor an attempt to deny that it occurs; I'm rather disappointed it was taken as such.

I hope the teacher in question seriously re-evaluates his pedagogical practices and commitment to educating all of his students, and I hope this girl's next experience with a teacher is with one who allows her to shine and thrive and be the best programmer she can be.
posted by modernnomad at 10:58 PM on September 18, 2013


Modernnomad: first, the even-handed tone of your response to my admitted snark is putting me to shame a bit, so kudos.

My desire to know more about the incident than the contents only of a single letter from a parent was in no way an attempt to diminish the impact this kind of bullying has on young women in STEM areas nor an attempt to deny that it occurs; I'm rather disappointed it was taken as such.

Yeah, this is indeed the way it was taken. And you need to know why - your "desire to know more" (not in quotes because I doubt your sincerity, in quotes because it's a direct quote from you) is all too often meant by others to be used as an attempt to deny this occurs, especially in threads about gender issues; "Oh, if this really was as bad as they claim it was, they would have told the teacher/principal/someone in authority". In PZ Myers' blog, in the post where he printed a friends' statement that she had realized she'd been raped by someone at a con, a huge percentage of the comments are from men trying to use the data point that she hadn't gone to the police as a basis to deny her claim (conveniently overlooking the fact that she said she'd gone to the con organizers and met the same lack of concern, and even discouragement).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:21 AM on September 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


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