Big Prizes for Good Little Girls!

The other day, someone got me mad on Facebook. I know. How shocked are you?

Except that the person didn’t intend to make me mad, and what made me mad was a slow burn before I realized what was upsetting me, and also what the person thought he was doing was sharing a nice and encouraging meme on “yay, women.”

This was one of those “Ten women influential in technology” things. There were apparently the usual collation issues. Some people were given extra attention who didn’t deserve it, and others were shafted who were much more important. That sort of thing.

But I didn’t know enough of the history of tech for it to really upset me. (Except for not having Ada Lovelace in. If I had a daughter and Dan had won the arm wrestling match for the naming, she’d probably be Ada Lovelace.)

So, why was I all bent out of shape.

Let’s start by establishing that I want what every sane person wants – thereby excluding sex-supremacists of both types and gender/orientation supremacists of all stripes – I want a society in which individuals can do what they want to do for a living and attain the maximum results possible, regardless of what’s between their legs and whom they choose to sleep with. (The minimum standard on that being of consenting age and ability. After that I really couldn’t care less.)

I realize too that my dream will never be possible. Maybe what would make me really happy would be becoming starship captain, and that’s simply not an option in the present year of our Lord. And maybe some little girl in Portugal right now would like to write for a living, which is not possible, in Portugal giving the structures in place. Even if everyone in Portugal bought your book you’d still starve. And there is not much penetration to other Portuguese-speaking countries. Maybe indie will change that. So she’ll end up as a teacher or a diplomat or a translator. Could have happened to me.

What I mean is that you’re circumscribed by circumstances other than what’s between your legs and what you find a really cuddly bundle. That’s fine. That’s all right. It’s what it is. Life is only fair if you’re a child or a prisoner, and your life is controlled by others and their idea of fairness.

But I don’t want people to be held back by anything that doesn’t relate to execution of the job. Got it?

I don’t think we should lower physical standards, for professions with a physical side, just to have women in. In the same way, I don’t think we should lower multitasking or pain endurance standards for professions requiring such, for men to be able to do them. (I don’t know about the later, though it might be important in the future, but son is now in a job where he’s having to run three times as hard as the women who multitask as easily as they breathe. And for a man he IS a multitasker.)

Of course no one tries to push men into women’s jobs. That’s because the woman jobs have low status traditionally. Now the question is why.

Most of the “feminists” (truly advocates of turning females into ersatz discount store males) we’re afflicted with think it’s “because penis.” They think the penis has special powers that confer status. (Oh, heck “By the power of the penis I thee command” now wants to appear in a story. Save me.) Hence their grand plan is to have women imitate people who have penises. Hence the push to have women not look after kids, not have kids, and push into al male professions. This just might be crazier than a rabid dog wearing a pink tutu, but it seems to be their program.

Because I think that female professions have lower prestige because females traditionally didn’t give them even a fraction of their attention – which in pre-contraceptive days was taken up with minding the kids for most of a woman’s adult life – and thus the professions weren’t in general developed to a high degree of specialization, I don’t care.

I figure we haven’t adapted to contraceptives and their effect yet (such things process very slowly in society) and my great grandkids MIGHT see men trying to break into female professions. (Don’t tell me there were contraceptives just as good before the fifties. The first one of you to blurt about herbs gets the back of my hand. Yes, there were ABORTIFACIENTS, perilous to both mother and her intended aborted fetus. Yes, I know the fantasy novels all taught you otherwise. Do nah care. Contraceptives before the mid twentieth century were of the “Swallow three tadpoles every morning; if that doesn’t turn you off sex, nothing will.”)

Anyway, so people being able to perform the tasks, they should be able to enter any profession they want. There are some women capable of carrying a grown man over their shoulders. They have the advantage of – be it in combat or firefighting situation – most men wouldn’t look at them with lustful eyes unless they’d been lost at sea for years. (Seriously, guys. Hormones have consequences.)

I’m cool with that.

So what problem do I have with “giving women a self esteem boost.”

I’ve had this problem since the eighties when some education major, desperate for a project, decided girls lifted their hands less and therefore had to be given more attention in school.

A lot of you who are my age or maybe ten years younger will say something about how all the boys are good at math, but the girls get told they can’t be good, and blah.

Maybe. I have no idea what in heck you were told in elementary. I know what I was told and that was that girls had no business in school past nineth grade. Their job was at home learning to be good housewives. And it wasn’t just some anonymous teacher telling me this. Oh, no. Mom told me this. In fact, she wanted to pull me out after fourth grade, and probably would have if dad hadn’t put his foot down. See, I didn’t have a face to catch a man, so I was supposed to learn housekeeping and needle arts. (Turned out I captured him with storytelling and science fiction and mastery of English. Who knew?)

So… did that discourage me? Of course not. I simply couldn’t see myself marrying anyone and I certainly couldn’t see anyone I might marry in Portugal putting up with me for more than a few days. Maybe less. And besides, I fell asleep over sewing (true fact, stuck a needle in my eye that way. Fortunately the white part. The drops for it still hurt like heck.) I was not very good at cleaning (until the advent of ebooks, which keep me from rushing through to find something more interesting) and I WANTED to write for a living. (Well, I wanted to be a mechanical engineer, but mom had already pronounced on that to the extent that she’d trust me with a room full of female-deprived males when h*ll froze over. I still have no idea what her idea of engineers was.)

So I kept on. I kept on even though through seventh grade (after that, I was in an almost all-girl school through 11th) every teacher treated girls like they were mildly mentally retarded. Until they saw the first tests. And then they treated me like a competitor for top honors. Which I was.

This is not bragging, just part of my illustration that “if you really want to do something, you’ll do it.” I don’t need a hand up or a hand out, and these memes on “the best women” just make me feel like I’ve been patted on the head and told “you’re pretty good for a girl.” I don’t take well to that.

And that’s the main problem. Making these lists of “top women” sends the subconscious message that women can only compete against other women.

And having half of these be non-entities (have to be because pre-contraceptives few women made it to the top in any scientific field. Few men too, but relatively fewer women, so it was hard to find truly exceptional ones. Intelligence distribution must hurt here too. Look, most women cluster in the center. Men have relatively fewer representatives of average intelligence (though of course still most.) They have a lot more geniuses. They also have a lot more morons. Which means by average distro only, you’re going to find a lot more male geniuses. They pay for it in morons.) helps no one’s cause.

If I were a young woman about to go into science, those memes would disquiet me as outright discrimination wouldn’t. Discrimination would just make me want to fight. Those memes though would say “this is the best you can aspire to. Being the best of not very good people.”

I’m of the “go all in or go home” type, and that would discourage me more than (overt, this is covert) sexism.

For those of you who are saying “but women need help. There are fewer women in STEM.”

Yes, there are, and what I think needs to happen is that people need to stop “helping” them.

Let’s establish first that studies have proven the best way to teach adollescents is in gender-segregated schools. Now, I’m the first to say that has social issues. I attended one of those schools and after three years men were mysterious beings I wrote sonnets to. But that can be solved as my elementary school (1 through 4) was: two schools side by side, sharing a play ground and recess, as well as excursions and social activities.

OTOH on academics, there is no doubt that gender segregation through high school gives the best results. And at this time with most teachers being women and of the “feminist” (read female supremacist) type, I don’t think we can say men would be better taught. (Well, actually we could. Most of those teachers are as rational about everything else as they are about sex. But so are male teachers. Teacher education delenda est.)

But they don’t do that. Because discrimination or something. Instead, they try to make the learning style better for women, and to encourage women and to… And to completely drive men insane. Which is why women are now a majority in colleges.

You say “But Sarah, women are still a minority in STEM.” NOT precisely. Older son majored in biochem and there the majority is very much female.

Younger son OTOH is in Engineering (Dual – or perhaps triple, since Aerospace engineering is his minor – degree, with minors in math and physics.) He says THAT is a “sausage fest.”

It’s not how it started, though. It started out three quarters female. It also started out with amphitheater classes in the hundreds.

Now for Electrical, at least, he says his class is 45 people and maybe a dozen are female. The others, male and female alike, ran screaming from the “designed to fail” freshman classes in calc and physics and thermo. Mostly they ran to business and journalism.

Relatively, of course, disproportionate numbers of girls ran. Why did they run.

Please, please, please, don’t tell me “lack of encouragement.” You’d be out of the water. The top students who get prizes, everywhere before college are women. Even when they’re DEMONSTRABLY inferior. (Uh? What? Well, wayyyyyy back in this blog you’ll find comments from when my blog was invaded by my son’s eleventh grade class for English. One of those commenters was the valedictorian. She had As in English in 11th grade. My son wrote better than that in 3rd grade. He was also a published (professionally published) author by then. He had a C+ I think, which was the first time he had less than an A for English, but required so that the top students could be female. This teacher achieved it by downgrading him on using words she didn’t like. Like “show” “I don’t like show because it reminds me of flashers” was actually written on the side of his essay. No, seriously. I suppose nowadays she’d have demanded trigger warnings.)

More than that, on the encouragement phase, when I volunteered in the kids’ classes, if the teachers had said once more “girls can do anything” or “girls are GREAT at math” they wouldn’t have time for anything else.

Younger son was in robotics. Most of his friends are still the kids he met then. (I enthusiastically recommend First Robotics to any parent of any kid who won’t hate it.)

That said, his classroom for the robot assembly was strewn with magazines: Women in Engineering, Women in Stem, Women in Physics, Women of Wrench (okay, that’s made up.)

I often arrived early to pick him up and found NOTHING on “Men in Engineering” or even just neutral “Engineering Careers.”

So, given all this encouragement, why did they run?

Well, if you want to do something badly give it to a quasi governmental institution. The school has to show they’re encouraging girls. There are goals. What that means is that these girls got the same as that meme. They’d get A for being “Good for a girl.” (I’d have hated it like poison and probably spent the entire school year trying to make the teachers look like fools. Okay, fine. I did that anyway. I have a leetle problem with authority. But I’d have done it MORE.)

Then they went into college. And in college in the first year, results count. They don’t want to invest time and instruction in you (and run up your bills) if you’re never going to cut it. So they squeeze and run of everyone who is not absolutely determined.

Most of these women had been acclimated to a regime of praise for very little. They wanted to be engineers sure, but they didn’t want to work THAT hard. The boys, otoh, who’d been kicked in the teeth since middle school, stuck it out. (In greater proportion than girls. A majority of boys and girls were run out, mind.)

Some of these girls might have done fine if they’d been made to perform like everyone else from elementary on. Some were just there because GRRRL power and should never have been there if idiots hadn’t convinced them there’s a virtue in invading traditionally male areas. The REALLY good ones stuck it out, anyway, but I suspect another half of them could have made it, if they hadn’t been mollycoddled, lied to about their abilities, learned that they could get As with no effort because vagina, and been told they were always better than men at everything because Vagina!

Now, I’m a hard woman and without mercy and I say “if the best ones are in there, good.” But in a society that needs every even decent tech brain we’re ruining women for science with all this cotton wool. (And again, if you’re my age or older, or up to ten years younger, foggeht about it. You don’t know about the “affirmative girl power” going on since the eighties at least in our schools.)

Were girls discouraged before? Probably. They were in Portugal. But the solution is not to ENCOURAGE them. It’s just to stop discouraging them. To let it be known that we don’t care what’s between your legs. We care how much you want to make machines that fly to Mars.

Another further intervention might be needed, but that’s more difficult. A lot of younger women report a culture of the “crab bucket” among young females. I dimly remember this, but not very clearly because I was competitive as heck and most of my friends were (and are) male. But I seem to remember if you were “too good” you were a show off, and that the goal was to fit in with the general mediocrity. There are evolutionary reasons for this culture among females. Group cohesion is more important than excellence, because gathering was done in groups and child watching was done in groups.

So it will be hard as heck to break up and the only way I can think to do it is to stop schooling kids in groups, and stop socializing them by age group. We’re going that way, but not soon.

Or not soon enough.

Until then stop with the “self esteem” building exercises and memes for girls. They already have enough unearned self esteem. Which, as studies show, is paralyzing. If you don’t know why people are telling you you’re so great, you’ll be afraid of failing without knowing why you failed. This has been proven.

Stop treating our girls like morons and special snowflakes. Teach them to earn their accolades.

Will this make their numbers in STEM the same as men? Who knows? More importantly, who cares? Humans are so different from each other, on every facet from sex to upbringing, instincts, inclinations, that equality of results on any axis you choose is not proof of anything except that someone is tampering with the selection mechanism. Let girls be girls. Let boys be boys.

And let us have good, competitive and competent scientists.

We’re going to need them.

And anyone patting me on the head for being a “pretty good writer for a woman” will withdraw a bloody stump.





307 thoughts on “Big Prizes for Good Little Girls!

  1. I suspect that you and I would have gotten on very well in high school, if we had known each other then. I graduated in 1972 from a pretty big suburban high school before all the unearned self-esteem-for-girls kicked in. But I was in the honors and AE track, with the same core group of brains and nerds; about thirty of us who wound up in pretty much the same advanced classes throughout the day. We even had our own lunch table in the cafeteria – but all but three or four of this group were boys. The three of us were were all brainy, driven, competitive – not social butterflies to any degree. I don’t remember any special encouragement or discouragement from teachers, particularly – just the way that it worked out. There was a certain amount of unspoken social pressure from other girls – that we weren’t quite normal, not caring much for dating, or getting boyfriends. Little did we care – the guys in the group were our friends.

    My daughter went to an all-girls Catholic high school which was very good for her – she was not the driven brainiac like I was – but she and the other girls at school were encouraged by the lack of distraction that boys would have been – and the fact that the school was a very small one – 50 in her graduating class. The teachers were very focused on excellence of achievement, and did not encourage unearned self-esteem (Most of the other girls did have boyfriends; quite a few married almost as soon as they graduated, being from traditional Hispanic families.) My daughter says that of her class, maybe three or four were the driven brainiac competitive types. Anecdote is not data, of course – but that does track with females clustering more in the center, with fewer at the extremes in comparison to males.

    1. I read a feminist once who observed that it is universally true that boys and girls segregate their play; about the age of two, girls pull away from the boys’ rougher play, and the boys respond by pulling away altogether, and they stay separated until puberty.

      Then she started to talk about how to undermine that without even touching on whether there might be some drawbacks to it.

      1. Every self-described feminist I have ever heard of who was concerned with the consequences of dogma has been read out of meeting. Which says a great deal about feminism, none of it good.

      2. Interestingly, when this “pulling away” happens, it’s enforced by the children. IE a group of girls will often “push away” a boy their age (as well as boys doing the same to girls). So if the kids, including the girls, are doing something like this, what are they going to think about some adult trying to force them to do differently?

        Of course, somebody like that would likely be more interested in forcing the boys to let girls into their group while not caring (or approving of) of the girls forcing the boys out of their group.

        Oh, before some former tom girl protests, I am aware of boys accepting tom girls into their groups but of course a tom girl would enjoy the same things that the boys are enjoying. [Smile]

        Minor note, there was a TV show where the boys were asked why they allow a certain girl into their game. The answer was “it’s her ball”. [Very Very Big Grin]

        1. Interestingly, I always played with little boys and they didn’t have issues with that. Grandma used to descend on me, and pull me away by the back of the shirt saying “girls play with girls. Boys play with boys.”

          1. My best friends and playmates from age four until school were two brothers who lived close to us. That was probably helped by the fact that there were not that many children in our age group in that area, and all the others lived pretty long distance away.

            After I and the older brother started school – the same one, in the same class – they stopped playing with me. From what I remember the reason was that the other boys had teased them about it. I don’t remember the other girls doing that to me, but then I tended to be a bit oblivious to the finer nuances of social interactions at that age (still have that tendency, I don’t necessarily get hints unless I’m really paying attention).

            I was pretty pissed at them because of that.

            1. I told my wife recently – After many years of studious examination, I can now usually recognize big, obvious hints. But it’s better to just come out and tell me.

              1. Yep, I usually tell something like that to people I spend more time with too (after years of experience…). That hinting is not a good idea because the odds I won’t notice are high, so if you DO want me to get it you probably should come out and just say it. Otherwise, what the hell, have your fun, but remember that sometimes I do notice.

              2. “After many years of studious examination, I can now usually recognize big, obvious hints. But it’s better to just come out and tell me.”

                There is such a thing? What does it look like? Does it come with an instruction manual, like those Ikea things? I was not told…

                1. For those of us who are stunted in the hint-detection department, they look like a slight clue that someone might want (or perhaps need) something, and that we might be the best person to provide it.

                  Like, “Hey, it’s cold. I could really use that blanket over there.” Note that if the hint stops at, “Hey, it’s cold”, it may not be recognized. 🙂

                  1. Is that a clue by four? A girlfriend once accused me of needing to be hit by one to realize she was interested in me. I can be a bit oblivious at times.

                1. I’m actually pretty good at reading my Lady. But “pretty good” is a poor substitute for actual communication. As we have discovered over the course of our marriage. Several times.

            2. But then, from what was discussed here earlier about the differences between male and female friendships, I seem to have the male approach – real friendships should not be disposable, if you become real friends you should from then on defend each other and stay in the friendship, no matter what kind of pressures you and your friends face from the outside. (Doesn’t mean anything like constant keeping in touch or always going together everywhere, means that if you call ten years after you last met she’d still be willing to help, unless there had been some sort of breach of trust earlier).

              Oh well. I have found most of my friendships more or less disappointing because of that. Most people I know seem to treat the idea of friendships as “people whose company I enjoy, and the only big demand is not to act actively badly towards each other”. And for help etc you go only to family or your significant other… or to government if it is anything really serious, or financial, or something like that.

              In fact, sometimes the moral stance seems to be that anything else is actively _wrong_, because when people do bigger things to each other they can easily end up creating close knit clans of some sort, and that is bad to the society as a whole because it leads to an unfair society, one where justice or advancement etc will depend on who you know. So you should neither ask nor give any serious help as an individual, from and to other individuals, not necessarily even family, because of where it might lead.

              1. Boy, does that sound familiar. Before the third grade I was actually popular, if you can believe it. I’d discovered this fun technique of pathological lying. All the animals (my peers) seemed to thrive on gossip. But I didn’t know anyone, I knew it was wrong to lie about people, so I made up people and told funny and embarrassing stories about them. I had hordes of “friends” but I noted that they were about as loyal and loveable as scorpions. The whole thing disgusted me, and anyway I was still lying, right?

                So I stopped and all the false friends went away. I became an outcast. But at least the friends I did have (there were a few) were the kind who’d stick by me if things got weird, and even tolerated me getting weird from time to time– even me being weird permanently. These people tended to be really messed up, but they were people I could trust, AND I could be a person I could live with being.

                1. Please note: my childhood definition of animal was different. It was “Creature who acts irrationally, that I do not understand, but must treat with respect.” Not, “Subhuman non-entity to be crushed,” as some assume.

            3. wow does this discussion brings back memories of my elementary school days in the fifties. By second grade the boys all knew girls had cooties which ment you couldn’t touch them without being called a cootie yourself. the big jungle gym on the playground was the sexual battleground. if the boys held the jungle gym then a group of girls would form and attack yelling and screaming and pushing and shoving just like the monkeys on the opening scene from 2001 a Space Odyssey until the boys were driven out, at that point the boys would regroup and attack pushing the girls out. It was all great fun, no one was hurt but it was just the way we segregated into play.

  2. Engineering is funny that way. It doesn’t matter what you have between your legs, if you don’t design the bridge correctly, it will fall. Engineering professors are kind of notorious for not giving partial credit. When my SiL was taking Statics the summer the KC Hyatt Regency had the catwalk collapse, the prof came in the next Monday and asked who wanted partial credit for which deaths.
    All that said, I’m going to do my best to let my daughter know that self esteem comes from accomplishment, not praise.

    1. I know that in the real world, the final result is what matters, but in school, it’s helpful to get recognition that you used the right process, even if you get something wrong in the calculation. Besides, when you’re designing something for real, you have a lot more damned time than you get on a 1 hour test, so the arguments against partial credit in school don’t hold much water to me.

      1. I believe that is why they gave us so much homework. So you’d get the process right. Of course it could have just been that they didn’t like giving partial credit because they were a bunch of evil bastards that liked inflicting pain on undergrads.

        1. I know of a Mech E who took P. Chem. He had enough thermo from his regular curriculum that he could fool himself into thinking he already knew the material. That course didn’t grade the homework. (You went in, and spent time grading your own homework in class, and their was ample chance to ask the professor questions.) So he didn’t do it, to a large extent. He didn’t learn the material as well as he should have, as well as he would have liked, didn’t do so well on the tests, and did not get a good grade.

          The tests may have been open book. This is common enough in engineering, the material is there, the test is partly how facile you’ve gotten with it. If not open book, often enough one prepares a formula sheet.

          Anyway, that student of engineering wholly supports that professor making those choices, and only blames himself.

      2. I’d be comfortable with zero credit/partial recognition. You don’t get points, because results matter, but it’s education so we’re going to recognize where you’re on the right path. Learning, itself, is a process. Instructors should understand how to acknowledge successful steps in the process so that students don’t feel they’re floundering with no touchpoint.

        But, then, I have horror stories from primary school. Possible bias, here.

        1. Oh. Yeah, they were really good about that. If they could figure out where you stepped off the path they would circle it and explain it. And we always went over tests when we got them back so that people would have an understanding of what was SUPPOSED to have been the process. But zero points. I had a friend who actually got a Zero on a statics examine. He showed up five minutes late from over sleeping/bad weather/traffic and went down the wrong solution path on all four problems. Oddly enough, I think he pulled a passing grade out at the end of the semester.

              1. Well, there are “educational professionals”, and then there are teachers

                I don’t think they overlap as much as the former would like.

      3. Yeah, more time and often enough either more prior art, or more experience.

        Still, engineering schooling and the on the job training don’t fundamentally change a person. The character and willingness to grow in terms of correcting errors are developed much earlier in life.

        You cannot inspect that into them during an graduate or undergraduate education. You can inspect your process to see who you are recruiting, and what kind of environment you provide for sorting.

        It isn’t wrong to tell them they have made mistakes. Mistakes are an essential part of an engineering education, as is dealing with them. Mistakes during engineering school have significantly lower potential for injury and fatality. Hence you want to get the most out of them there.

        It is right and proper to remind them that an incompetent English major may not kill people, and an incompetent lawyer may not kill people directly, but an incompetent engineer will directly kill people, sometimes in large numbers. This is a fundamental part of the lore, without which no engineer can be competent. A competent engineer may work in so narrow a scope that they can establish who they’ve killed, or that they’ve killed no one. For a wide scope, covering a lot of activity with a lot of risk, for a body of work that is too large for one man to exhaustively audit, it may be impossible to know for certain.

        Engineering professors decide as individuals whether to do, whether to give partial credit or not. I would not second guess the tough ones. I would complain if I had grounds to think they were too easy. If there were for engineering the like of what William Desmond et al. have been for law, I would suggest expulsion.

        Engineers have a somewhat positive reputation. This is partly because engineers police engineers, and apply engineering to the practice of engineering. What metrics can you use for whether the state of the practice of engineering is sound? When do you know that you need to put extra effort into fixing things? Fatalities are one measure, even if you’d rather catch things before then. There is a moral component to engineering. You need someone who can take measured risks, but you also don’t want the sort who would bring a GTA mindset to things.

        Someone who needs partial credit in every single class, who loses their shit if they get marked wrong for one error, may well not have the temperament and character for engineering. For that reason, it may be best practice to have at least one bottle neck course taught without partial credit by a guy willing to fail entire classes, because he feels the incompetence of students he passes like he feels his own.

        1. Sure the numbers matter. FREX this:

          8. Engineering is done with numbers
          Dr. David Aikin’s Laws are true: “Engineering is done with numbers. Analysis without numbers is only an opinion. Not having all the information you need is never a satisfactory excuse for not starting the analysis. Space is a completely unforgiving environment. If you screw up the engineering, somebody will die (and there’s no partial credit because most of the analysis was right).” Remember the motto of the Mission Evaluation Room: “In God We Trust, All Others Bring Data.” Don’t be persuaded with arm-waving or specious arguments lacking foundation in first principles.

          After Ten Years: Enduring Lessons [Columbia tragedy] Wayne Hale is retired from NASA after 32 years. In his career he was the Space Shuttle Program Manager or Deputy for 5 years, a Space Shuttle Flight Director for 40 missions, Free on the web and I’d think anybody at all let alone anybody reading this would find it fascinating.

          But notice that he places Speak Up at #3 and

          5. Dissention has tremendous value.
          “If we are all in agreement on the decision – then I propose we postpone further discussion of this matter until our next meeting to give ourselves time to develop disagreement and perhaps gain some understanding of what the decision is all about.” – Charles E. Wilson (GM CEO circa 1950). If you don’t have dissention, then you haven’t examined the problem closely enough. If there is not a natural troublemaker in your group, appoint a devil’s advocate. Make sure the ‘devil’ is smart and articulate – just like the namesake. Draw people out; make them participate; don’t let them get away with silence.

          Actuaries are good with numbers too but are rumored to lack personality.. Somebody once said to me it’s not a good idea to send a junior to a meeting hoping he’ll learn when your org. needs a representative who is not afraid to speak up and won’t be ignored.

          If the Comet had stuck to the not only designed by the numbers but also properly tested window we’d have a different world. It’s when the numbers say the untested but cheaper so there is an incentive is just as good as the tested that we go astray.

          In the case of the shuttle leading edge:

          The recognized expert on the RCC [reinforced carbon carbon] was Dr. Don Curry of Johnson Space Center. He knew everything there was to know about the wing leading edge materials, structure, testing, and capabilities.
          …….In the hall outside the meeting, I encountered Don Curry. I asked him if there was any concern with the RCC. His reply ‘Oh, the RCC is tough stuff. You know during qualification testing we even shot ice at it. The RCC is OK.’ That was good enough for me. The expert had spoken. It never occurred to me to ask anyone else; nor did the question come up formally during the MMT review. ……..And of course, the accident investigation – all those pieces picked up in East Texas – showed that the tiles were intact; the RCC had taken the strike – and had broken.

          Hale op.cit.

            1. You didn’t “suggested numbers aren’t important.”; my fault if I can be read that way and apologies for any such impression. More intending to say it’s easier to teach numbers than responsibility and lab testing matters as much as paper testing.

              1. Thanks. I thought what you had to say was very good, I was just confused over the one bit. I’d say much the same, and probably did.

                The numbers matter, because some mathematical models are useful, and, used carefully, they are a wonderful tool for safely doing things our forefathers did not know how to do safely. I guess measurement is also pretty critical.

                Engineering school can teach math. Maybe not so well as if the student is well prepared by prior study, but it can be taught.

                Somebody thinking that the paper model is all, because of ‘map is the territory’ magical thinking is more difficult to handle.

                Humility, knowing that you don’t know, care in thinking, if you can teach these sorts of thing in an engineering school, it is harder to do so in a standardized way. When a student doesn’t have them, learning them is more up to individual qualities in the teacher and in the student.

      4. There is some point to these self-esteem ideas, they have just gone way too far.

        More insecure or perfectionist type of individuals do need to be told when they got something right when they are still in the process of learning, or they will most likely give up after one of their first bigger failures. Point out that they got parts right, and that that is encouraging, now just work hard and you have a good chance of learning the rest too. At least when it is somebody who seems to have a good chance of getting there, no point to push somebody who most likely never will no matter how hard she will work at it.

        If you want them to keep on going. Learning to fail, and that you should assume that you will most often fail a lot before you start to get it right, is important.

        Just don’t tell them that mere trying or participating is worth praise, much less that getting some parts right is good enough when other parts and the end result are wrong. Especially when they might not have even tried all that hard yet. Okay, well, even just trying very hard perhaps merits a little bit in the way of a pat on the back, sometimes, with some people, as long as it is made clear that only going on after that long enough that you get it right is what is expected, and then, and then only will there be a chance to get some of the real rewards.

        1. I wasn’t talking about self-esteem. I was talking about a method of giving feedback as to what was right and what was wrong. At the same time, not completely crushing the overall grade for the class. I’ve taken some classes where, if you completely blow one test, you better hope it’s before the drop date, or else you’ve completely wasted you tuition for it.

          1. That too, a student needs to know where he needs to focus. But I do think the self-esteem question has some, if limited, validity (and depending on the student, some need that kind of feedback, some don’t) also and it’s even fairly likely that was the point way back when it first came up. Then the idea went overboard and badly.

      5. Good point. There’s a vast difference between a closed-book classroom test and the real world. Some professors lose track of that fact.

    2. The thing is, engineering isn’t really all that different from other areas of human endeavor, unless you let the pillocks persuade you that it is.

      The problems we are having with the Liberal Establishment lean heavily on our not saying, when some program of theirs did not work as advertised, “Well, THAT didn’t work; let’s try something else”. We have, for DECADES, allowed them to talk us (more often browbeat us) into leaving their failed initiatives in place and papering over the cracks with layer upon layer of what time would prove to be later failures.

      I think the last time we actually managed to ashcan one of their meddling ideas was Prohibition.

      Oh, didn’t you know the Progressives were for Prohibition? Funny how they’ve buries that one, and left the lingering odor to their then allies the Revivalist Christians.

  3. What I think this demonstrates is that

    A) “If you see someone coming down the street with the obvious intention of doing you good, you should run for your life” attributed to Twain


    B) if you want to ruin an institution (such as public edication) leave it in the hands of one clique for more than a generation.

  4. Had one girl in my engineering class. Small vocational school, 4 of us graduated out of about 10 we started with, and there was only ever the one girl. She missed about 3 weeks of classes at one point, but still had an A average. We knew the reason (it was on open secret)–the school would get more money for every girl who graduated. And they tried everything to get her to attend more. But finally, when she stopped coming altogether, it took them two quarters to officially drop her from the rolls. I’m pretty sure she maintained a 3.0 GPA the entire time.

  5. I have a hard line to walk as a father of three girls as far as this type of thing goes. I don’t tell my girls that they’re better than boys. I don’t force them to do boy things. My oldest plays basketball and softball because SHE wants to and I encourage her, but it’s not like I forced her into it. The same girl also takes dance and belongs to Brownies. She’s also wicked smart.

    I will say this though: Anyone who looks down on my girls for their gender is in for it when Daddy finds out. Seriously. Anyone who makes a comment to one of my girls about “Girls can’t do…” has a tendency to find themselves doing a Hatfield impression. (Check my last name if you missed that.)

    By the same token, I REFUSE to accept the word “Can’t” from my girls. They have been told (repeatedly to the point that their eyes glaze over when they hear it) that there are some things that they’re not ALLOWED to do, but there is NOTHING that they are not capable of. And therein lies the rub.

    I’m never sure when I’m encouraging my girls to do their best and do what they want and when I’m doing the false self-esteem thing. Especially with the very young girls (my eight-year-old won’t do this anymore) when I train them to tell me that they are “strong, proud, smart and tough.” Why because I want them to believe that? With those values you can achieve anything you want to. (Yes, I’ve been told that compassion is missing from the list. I disagree. To me, compassion is having the mental strength and toughness to put your own BS aside for long enough to deal with someone else’s.)

    So I dunno. Maybe I’m taking things too far. I do know this though: My girls will always know that their father is their to support them and believes in them. They may get a little upset sometimes when I make them prove to themselves that they are what they say they are (see the then five-year-old who had to walk back to the car when her legs got tired then told how proud her daddy was when she did it, or the screaming three-year-old who told me she couldn’t dress herself…and then did and got the world’s biggest hug afterward) but someday – I hope- they’ll thank me. I just hope I’m not overdoing it.

    1. My parents encouraged me to do whatever I could, kicking me in the rump on occasion when I tried to slack my way out of stuff without finishing. They also let me figure out that some things I couldn’t ever do – sing opera [thank you Jr. High choir teacher for ruining my voice, you (*&^%$%^&], play basketball (thank you, genetics) – but also to find out what I did better in. I enjoy applied engineering and applied math (my model bridges don’t fall down) but I’m much better at other things. And my folks didn’t push me into fields once they could see my personality and wiring didn’t fit. So I think you’re doing the right thing, based on how my parents handled me.

      1. The only real gender biased thing I remember any of my teachers doing back when I was in school had to do with athletics. We had some weights in our gym, and I enjoyed working with them. But both of the phys ed teachers in the school, the boys’ and the girls’ (they mostly stayed with the right sex students, but sometimes would take each others classes if the primary teacher needed to be somewhere else) told me that it was not a good activity for a girl. Perhaps because that was the 70’s and they assumed that weight lifting would turn females into those hormone freaks from East European countries who competed in the Olympics back then. 🙂

        But it was pretty much the only sport I enjoyed. I hated group sports, and most of the other things we had, because I had co-ordination problems which made me clumsy (still do, in school I was one of those kids who was likely to pass the ball to the other team’s player, on those most rare occasions when I managed to get it in the first place…). With the weights the clumsiness didn’t matter.

        But not a girl thing…

    2. There are certain “boy” things I make my daughter do. She will continue to take a martial art until she’s no longer living under my roof. She will learn to shoot, and more than just target shooting.

      OTOH, there are small handful of “girl” things I will strongly resist her doing (although my wife has input), including Dance.

      She is *far* more obsessed with gender than either of her parents though, and that’s been a bit of a trial.

        1. Ballet is *horrible* for your body, and is full of unpleasant people. My oldest did it for ~11 years. It reinforces behavior pattern I want her to get rid of.

        1. Exactly. I don’t have the money to put my girls into martial arts training but I do have the knowledge left over from the classes I took myself. My eight-year-old already has a straighter – and quicker- punch than any boy I’ve ever seen at her age. I didn’t teach her to make her be more boylike though. I did it because failing to teach a child to defend themselves is teaching them to be a victim. That’s not what I want for my daughters.

      1. Kids can surprise you.

        Our #2 daughter is much more stereotypically “girly” than my mother or grandmother, her maternal grandmother, her mother, or her older sister. Likes nice clothes, usually wears makeup, very interested the social activity of people and their motivations. Had absolutely no interest in self-defense classes (does enjoy shooting, though). Better than average at mathematics, but very little interest in a math or science based career.

        Our #1 daughter was very much a stereotypical tomboy. (In many ways, very like her mother, grandmothers, etc) No interest in clothes, cosmetics, or the social whirl. Did martial arts, very good in the math-heavy classes. Had a small social group of Odds all the way through school (including graduate school). Slightly surprised us when she wore a dress (though a cocktail dress, not a wedding gown) at her wedding. On the other hand, she chose pharmacy – becoming more and more a female specialty (her graduating class was over 2/3 female) over medicine specifically because she felt that the school and work schedule was more compatible with raising a family (“When was the last time you heard of a pharmacist getting an emergency call in the middle of the night?”).

        They had very similar upbringings. Both of us told them, from the time that they were quite small, that they were encouraged to do anything that they were interested in as long as it was legal and safe (yeah, I’m a hypocrite there – I remember some amateur fireworks experiments *I* did as a kid that my folks never heard about). They were told that there might be some things they’d find more difficult because of their size (not much demand for a shorter-than-average basketball player who’s effectively blind without her glasses) but they were still encouraged to try if they were interested.

        But we still got young women with very different personalities and interests. As a parent – or a society – we can make it more or less easy for someone to achieve their goals. But I very much doubt we can really influence which goals they *want* to achieve. And pretending that we can and should do so Because Justice is an act of unjustifiable hubris on the part of the self-anointed would-be elite.

        1. Yep. Older son is more like us, younger son is VERY far end of stereotypical boy/engineer.
          BTW I was tomboy until I hit seventeen when Mr. Hormone came calling. I can turn the girly on and off, since then 😉
          I think Heinlein called this “taming up”

          1. I probably would have been, and in some ways was a tomboy, the problem was that clumsiness which made most sports and some of the other physical stuff the boys enjoyed something I didn’t like, and why I avoided the boys about as much as I did avoid most of the girls in school. Before school I played more with boys than with girls.

            1. I was clumsy too. BUT that kept me out of the girls’ play which involved what can only be described as complicated gymnastics. (The elastic jumping game.) More and more the boys I hung out with were the book-nerds… 😉

              1. My class didn’t have any other real book-nerds except me, unfortunately. Small schools, and first four years I had the same classmates, then about half of us transferred to another school (schooling here, back then, had two different tracks, one for higher education and other for menial types of careers, and the first split was after the first four years. Right after I was out it was changed to what we have now where all students stay together for 9 years) and got several new ones, but the new class wasn’t all that much bigger and there too I seemed to be the only one. There were a few others who also read for entertainment, but fantasy and sf, or adventure and mystery novels, especially the older ones, weren’t their thing, and they didn’t read anywhere close as much as I did of even what they did read.

      2. My father made it a point to enroll us in karate classes. We didn’t get to stay long because I was taking my studies really seriously (I ended up skipping fourth year high school altogether, but that was essentially making up for the year I lost in France); and there were some relatives who grumbled at him for not making me take up ballet, so “she’ll become graceful.”

        My father never worried about my grace or poise or bearing, beyond the occasional admonition to ‘stand straighter’, because when I was old enough I started getting sent as his and my mom’s stand in for events that he couldn’t attend, and my mom’s health couldn’t tolerate.

        The interesting thing is, the social expectations were there too – ‘oh, she must be brilliant, if the Ambassador’s sending his daughter…!’ – and more than anything, I was terrified of embarrassing my dad – and, more importantly, myself! – in the face of such high expectations – the highest of which were my own. O_O So I knuckled down and worked at being deserving of such lofty praise, because if I was going to be praised, I’d better have earned it. It never felt right to me to be praised for something I didn’t work for or knew nothing about. It still doesn’t.

        I think that it’s only in recent years I’ve learned to ‘relax’ a little on that score. (ergo, ‘learned to be lazy on unimportant things’) I learned to accept my own limitations – after satisfying myself that I’d done my best and learned what I’m personally not suited for / there are just some things I physically wouldn’t be able to do ever, like oh, enlist in either the armed forces or police. Because some shortcomings can’t be overcome. *holds hand, palm down, over top of head, grinning*

          1. However, navies worth their salt should have minimum strength requirements. And the number of 5 foot nothing people who can lift X pounds is going to be less than the number of 6’2″ people who can lift X pounds, no matter what value you assign to X. It’s a simple function of total muscle mass that can fit on your body frame.

            So being short enough can be a disqualifier for anyone but really, really muscular people.

            1. You don’t need much upper body strength to swing a paintbrush in the bilge, and there are plenty of others to do the “heavy” lifting.

              1. This is true, but when the ship gets hit in a battle, anybody might find themselves in the best position to do damage control — and they’re going to need plenty of raw muscle power to move equipment to where it needs to be, or debris out of the way.

                And if the guy swinging a paintbrush in the bilge, who just happens to be the only guy who can reach the fire in the engine room to put it out, doesn’t have the raw body strength to move the large chunk of hull that’s blocking the passageway… a lot of people might die because the navy skimped on their strength test.

                It’s like insurance, or carrying a gun. Most of the time you won’t need it. But when you do need it, there’s no viable substitute.

                1. Fires in the engineroom usually aren’t that big a deal, the flooding or steam line rupture usually puts them out. A might hard on the snipes though.

                  Seriously, damage control doesn’t require all that much in strength. Almost all DC gear weighs in at under 10#, and you’re not going to move chunks of hull. Brute force might be useful in forcing doors and hatches (those are heavy, but they’re usually three man jobs) but small is useful in getting through shuttles and getting a soft patch on the seawater pipe flooding the engineroom. The absolutely most important attribute is endurance, physical and psychological.

                  1. I’ve done firefighting work – both civil style and engineroom/submarine. Even in practice, WITHOUT a lot of heat from flames, etc., by the time you don a respirator, a firefighting outfit, and are dragging hoses around full of water (at 8Lbs a gallon), you have a lot of heat buildup, a lot of movement restriction, a lot of breathing restriction, and you’re squatting constantly.

                    And flooding is no joke either. Even minor ones involve ice cold water, significant pressure if not cut off by isolation valves quickly, etc., lugging DC kits weighing 40-50 LBS with patch kits, crowbars, mallets, metal banding, wedges, etc.

                    Hell, a small DC pump is over 100Lbs.

                    Just trying to run a fire drill when dehydrated/sick (“boat crud”) in a real engineroom so you’re not dealing with flames and heat, can be trying enough to get people to collapse – people who’re actually in good shape.

                    Men can lift more than women, and shift more than women, and you can talk to Tom Kratman about how much lighter the gear we deal with is NOT getting on the Army side.or how heavy a waterproof bulkhead hatch is. Never mind trying to open one with just a few inches of pressure differential…..

                    Roughly 1200 square inches, times 0.1 Lbs differential (EASY to get with the vent dampers shut – I’ve seen several pounds) is 120 Lbs of force to budge the hatch.

                    Ever seen four grown men trying to pop a hatch?

                    1. Repair 4 fireteam, CVN-74 ’07 deployment. Fought plenty of “fires” in the MMR and RAR. Most of the weight rests on the deck, you just have to hold the nozzle and the couple of feet of hose running from to the deck, and the angle makes some of that self supporting. The most strenuous part is the fact that the hose is pressurized to 150# – it’s like dealing with 100′ of morning wood – and the reaction force from the nozzle – I’ve seen wee slips of girls handle both easily. There’s a reason NSTM 555 requires two men on a 1-1/2″ collapsible hose.

                    2. Jeff,

                      CVN-71 93′ & 95′ deployments. Started out in the DC shops then switched over HT shops. R-Division at See Fire Fire Party.

                      There seems to be a disconnect in this statement:

                      “I’ve seen wee slips of girls handle both easily. There’s a reason NSTM 555 requires two men on a 1-1/2″ collapsible hose.”

                      [Emphasis added by me.]

                      I don’t know how much training changed in ten years but we trained 5 man fire teams.

                      Team Lead plus the nozzle[man] his immediate support (to lean into him and act as a brace) and two guys just to drag the hose around? And that was just the lead eliminate. Plus the 5 or 6 guys behind them for the Communication train up to the IC and to watch for binding around corners. And to deal with the 80 ft of hose and water hanging on the outside of the 7 decks ladders leading down into the Nuke Plants. Plus another 100 ft just to get around equipment to get to where ever the fire is.

                      Easy to control… You mean the 8lb. solid brass nozzle that will beat you to death if you loose control with it on full open and the hose starts whipping around.

                      I’m sorry controlling a fire hose at the nozzle is at lest a two [person] job, and that is because Newton is a bitch.


                    3. Five man teams are still the standard, but the minimum per the NSTM is 2, except “for short periods of time”. The NSTM is a general document. A big guy could handle a nozzle solo for a longer period of time than a little guy. But that’s mostly because of the difficulty in managing the hose, because the NSTM only requires one person to manage the 1″ non-collapsible hose reels, and I don’t think there’s that much difference between the reaction force of a 1″ nozzle and a 1-1/2″ nozzle.

                      BTW, it seems the Navy has moved away from the brass pistol style nozzle to a more modern round twist type. It looks to be substantially lighter. Still wouldn’t like to run into it on the end of a wild hose.

                    1. I’d be interested in seeing the methodology of that test (I’m also curious as to what the hell a SSTO pump is). Carrying a stretcher and a P250 are team events, if one person can’t carry their load the entire team fails. Was there a mechanism to identify the point of failure and retry women with other teammates? Because if there isn’t the women’s failure rate would be artificially high.

                      I also find the across the board near-perfect score for men to be highly suspicious. Either they designed the test parameters to suit men (torqueing an engine bolt could run anywhere from 15 inch-pounds to 500 foot-pounds) or they chose the men to suit the test. I’m thinking the reason nobody talks about it is that it’s a bad test, designed to get the desired results.

                      Look, I’m not saying that women are just as strong as men, or that half of the military should be female. My entire point is that in the Navy there are a broad range of tasks that require a broad range of physical attributes. I’m a good choice to manhandle the 500# condenser head cover into place (if I ever find the asshole who decided a 3’x5’x3″ brass plate needs to be on a reverse angle, I won’t be reonsible for my actions), I’m an extremely poor choice to send into the batcave to clean out the oily mung.

              2. And if you can guarantee that tomorrow they won’t have to lift something much heavier while at sea….

      3. It seems to me that despite (because of?) the cringing embarrassment it would do all teenagers a world of good to have a few lessons in classic ballroom dance.

        1. I know a few goths who learned ballroom dance for shock value – because in a world of bump and grind, it’s absolutely radical to find a 4/4 beat and waltz to the music, or a close enough to 3/4 and foxtrot to electronica. When it comes to grace, style, and sheer sensuality, tango leaves twerking ten miles back and wondering what happened.

        2. Have a Home Ec class.

          Call it “Life Skills Toolbox” or something.

          Teach people how to make a white sauce, boil an egg, set a table, do laundry, not kill themselves by food related ignorance, sew on a button, do a whip-stitch, set up a sewing machine and dance a box-step, basic stuff.

          1. One semester home ec, the other semester basic car & house maintenance. (Including when to call in experts, and not to make things worse by trying to fix it yourself.)

            1. I thought “and how to change a tire” after I’d finished that, but no edit. 😀

              Actually, it’d be a good thing to set around the driver’s ed class. As folks become legal for the class, they take the car one; as they’re not, they do “Survival House Keeping” with cooking, laundry and food storage, “Basic Social Niceties,” with stuff like letter writing, setting a fancy table, what silverware to use, at least a box-step, “Survival Repairs” with how to tighten that funky S-pipe under a sink, how to remove it to get stuff that fell down the sink, what chemicals not to mix, how to change house fuses, how to check if an outlet is live without being electrocuted, etc, and of course “Driver’s Ed,” with learning to drive, how to change a tire, how to change a fuse or light bulb, and what the basic parts of an engine are.

                1. And the parents will scream “No! That’s the school’s job”!

                  Or at least too many parents would do so. [Sad Smile]

                  There’s lots of stuff that we could reasonably say is the parents’ job to teach that too many parents aren’t doing.

                2. Some, yeah, but some parents were never taught. I knew how to change a tire, for example, but not how to make a white sauce. (my family doesn’t eat gravy, so….)

                  There’s a reason I’m home schooling.

                  1. Get a Joy of Cooking published in the sixties or seventies. It teaches you to do anything and everything EXCEPT cook small mouth bass. (Ask me how I found out.)
                    I couldn’t cook at all when I got married. I’m now looking for old editions for prospective DILs. Seriously, seriously, not the new ones. The new ones are all rearranged to meet the new nutrition guidelines. No salt, high carbs, etc.

                    1. (Ask me how I found out.)

                      OK how did you find that out? And what exactly is the problem with a small mouth bass that makes it different from other fish?

            1. I had to teach a guy how to launder his utility uniform when I got to A-school in the Navy.

              He’d never run a clothes washer before and didn’t even know to check the tag.

            2. I took home ec. Learned to sew a bit. Already knew how to cook.

              Doesn’t mean I like doing it.

              1. Well, if I’m incapacitated, Dan can take over, but until recently my free time was the least valuable in the house, if that makes sense. So I got to do the household donkey work, because he had three jobs, and well, I had one and a half (the half being writing.) That is flipping rather fast, or maybe flipped. I half suspect the horrible productivity these last two years, besides my betting ill a lot, is a bit of countre-marche and trying to rung around. Households are small societies, but the turnaround can be heck when habits are established. And it looks like it’s possible we’ll spawn another household or maybe two this coming year. (As in the kids moving out, not getting married.) That means we’ll have to move and move and move. Change of habits and patterns is unsettling. Something that seems to be happening, though, is Dan taking half the household work. Which, when it’s just the two of us should be enough to leave BOTH of us free to work.

          2. Please include how to fix a flat, how to change your oil, How to read and understand basic legal documents: lease, credit card agreement and employment contract. How to find a doctor, dentist, lawyer, plumber

            1. Changing the oil might be a bit much for a survival level class, although knowing the theory would be part of “parts of the engine” so you can at least identify “the oil change place screwed up.”

              Basic legal documents would be “Social Niceties,” and when you find out how to find a doctor, dentist, lawyer, etc without each time being different, please tell!

              1. I recall a Car Talk quiz: Woman can’t find the oil cap on her car’s engine; says there isn’t one. Only fill cap she finds is marked 710…

            2. We found that we were outdated. We would do all our car maintenance, including tires, when we were young, and we had it down to a routine. We never consciously stopped doing it, but kids, and overtime, and the world got busy… Ohio, rental car. Blows a tire. And we realize you can’t put the jack under the frame on fiberglass, and we had NO clue what to do. Fortunately a good Samaritan stopped and helped, or we’d have missed the plane back. These things change VERY fast.

            3. Gosh — you guys want the school to teach. They’re way too busy enlightening for mundane stuff like teaching.


          3. I know a home-schooling mother who had Home Ec in third grade.

            It’s my fault, really. Someone had posted about supplies to keep on hand in case you have the flu, including food. I posted that you should also ensure that any child old enough to prep the food knows how to do it, and told my Spanish Influenza story: my grandmother was the only ambulatory member of the family when it hit, and while she (fortunately) knew how to cook oatmeal, she (unfortunately) did not know how to cook anything else, and the family was very tired of it by the time they recovered. So this mother had started to teach her how to do some basic food prep. and discovered that when she asked her what subject she wanted to learn that year, it was How to Cook.

    3. My dad spent most of my life trying to push me into engineering, as did most of my teachers when they saw my test scores. I could not give two craps about being an engineer. Ever. It got to the point where I didn’t speak to my parents for awhile. The screaming fights over where I was going to go to college were loud enough to worry the neighbors in a very spread out suburb.

      We still don’t talk much.

      I’m still not an engineer.

      There’s a time to push and a time to let it go. At some point, you have to let girls be who they are.

    4. You are doing it wrong right here: “I will say this though: Anyone who looks down on my girls for their gender is in for it when Daddy finds out. Seriously. Anyone who makes a comment to one of my girls about “Girls can’t do…” has a tendency to find themselves doing a Hatfield impression.”

      Oooh, a tough-guy white knight. How very different indeed. You’ll see how silly that is when you think about whether y would you do that for your son. Are you going to beat up anyone who tells him he can’t be the lead ballerina for the Bolshoi or the President of NOW? Your white-knighting for your daughters in this regard is a lie and they will discover it to be a lie soon enough. Girls simply can’t do many things as well as boys, just as boys can’t do many things as well as girls.

      My son played soccer with an amazing girl for several years. She was my favorite player on his lower level teams, a speedy, scoring winger. She’s now on a regional team and is expected to play for the national team in the future. But at the club level, she finally had to switch to a girl’s team because she is no longer fast enough or strong enough to play with the boys despite being a future international. It’s not a question of effort or determination, it is simple physics and biology.

      Don’t lie to your daughters or your sons. The sexes have different strengths and weaknesses. Pretending otherwise will lead to crushing disappointments later.

      1. I’d bet money that a few of the very top members of the women’s national team could qualify on the men’s team, but why would they? Why would they trade being at the top of their field to being a third stringer?

        Individuals are individuals. The top man beats out the top woman in soccer, but the top woman still beats out 90+% of men. Everyone has weaknesses – for example, one of yours is reading comprehension. The young McCoy lass is going to find things that she can’t do, not because she’s a girl, but because of who she is.

        1. I have more to say, but just as a quick note, that seemed wrong. I can’t remember the details, but aside from cases of guys (or trans women who were guys) utterly outclassing the competition when on girls teams for one reason or another, there’s also, if I recall, a case of a WNBA or similar caliber women team being demolished by a typical boys HS team.

          So I decided to look up the actual facts.

          Cutoff time for 50m freestyle for the mens nationals for the 2016 olympics per is 23.29. Anything more and you’re too slow.

          Gold medal winner for the women 50m swim in 2012 was 24.05–_Women's_50_metre_freestyle

          IOW – the gold medal winner in the 2012 women 50m freestyle wouldn’t even meet the MINIMUM cutoff for the mens 50m.

          1. Yes, the best time for running for a woman in the Olympics is the same as for a high school male athlete. I had the links somewhere. I couldn’t believe it when I was told, so I looked.

        2. Near duplicate of comment in moderation (links)

          Cutoff time for 50m freestyle for the mens nationals for the 2016 olympic team is 23.29. Anything more and you’re too slow.

          Gold medal winner for the women 50m swim in 2012 was 24.05

          IOW – the gold medal winner in the 2012 women 50m freestyle wouldn’t even meet the MINIMUM cutoff for the mens 50m.

        3. On a completely different note – VD may occasionally be mistaken or misread something, but I’d be very careful that he’s not, for example, looking at underlying implied assumptions or something that you don’t see before you start talking about difficulties in reading comprehension.

        4. There’s a bunch of data out there on this, much of it derived from West Point. The problem is that people refuse to either read it, or to try to grasp the implications of it all. They believe what they want to believe, and ignore any evidence or experience you offer as being “anecdotal”.

          I’m pretty sure that you could, if you wanted to, create a class of female myrmidons that could stand on an equal footing with a good percentage of the males. The problem is that doing so would require a program that would make the Eastern European gymnastics programs look positively benign, and I don’t know what the end state would be for those women who were the victims of it. The amount of stress you’d have to put on them would probably result in significant delay to puberty and follow-on reproductive issues.

          A lot of the problem is that without significant exercise and stress input, the female body does not tend to lay down sufficient bone mass or density, and a lot of the muscle attachment points are just not as strong as they are on males of equivalent background. There are also some issues of leverage, particularly around the hips and lower back–The necessity for splitting the pelvic girdle at birth leads to a bunch of structural compromises that leave the average woman with far less potential, in terms of what their bodies can do. The wider hip placement makes running and walking less efficient, and prone to injury.

          From observation, I suspect that when a woman is injured in the lower extremities (twisted/sprained ankle or knee) the synergistic effects on her gait and body further up the frame lead to more problems with the whole system. You take out the average male with an ankle injury, and a lot of the time, he’ll be able to gut his way through it without doing more damage to himself. With the women, if you tolerate her staying the course after a semi-major injury (shy of breaking a bone, say), you’ll almost always wind up with a bunch more issues at other major joints.

          In example–Badly sprained ankle leads to a gait change to favor that ankle. On a male, that does not seem to have the same effect, and I speculate that that stems from his narrower hips and more straight-on gait. With a woman’s wider hips, the gait changes to favor that injured ankle throw the “system” of her gait off to the point where actual damage is done to knee and hip joints. Again, I speculate that this is due to the wider hips creating more side-to-side movement. What this means is that an injury that a male can often shake off and compensate for happens to a woman, you can’t allow her to emulate her male colleagues and “gut through it”. She’ll likely break something else, or damage it, leading to more time healing.

          All of that is based on observation, and learning things the hard way. As a military leader, the problem I ran into running the girls and guys together was that there are huge differences along these lines–You treat the girls like the guys, and fail to pull them from a physical event like a road march for a minor injury, and odds are pretty good that you’ll be dealing with something else a lot worse by the end of it all.

          Flatly put, when you’re talking about stuff like endurance/movement events, women are simply not as robust as men are. So long as they are uninjured, they’re usually able to keep up with some credibility. Have what we might term a significant injury, and they go down a lot faster and a lot harder if you let them try to keep moving on an injury. They also stay down longer, from what my experience has been–Males typically heal up from something musculoskeletal a hell of a lot quicker, and tend to stay healed. The women I had working for me oftentimes would keep re-injuring the same ankle time and time again.

          In a military context, this experience tends to rather horrify one at the implications, when you think it through. I strongly suspect that had there been a significant number of women present during the Chosin Reservoir campaign…? Well, a whole lot of people wouldn’t have come back out of the mountains, because when the women went down, odds are low that they would have been simply abandoned to their fates.

          What I find really irksome about all this isn’t so much that people want to ignore fact and experience dealing with things like college athletics, but that they’re letting their purblind fantasies drive our military manning. Sure, in a perfect peacetime training environment, you can get away with having women out doing things like combat medic’s jobs in combat arms units. You can control the conditions, and make things look like they’ll work out. Put them in real-world situation like the Chosin Reservoir retreat…?

          The people advocating for such are insane.

  6. And having half of these be non-entities (have to be because pre-contraceptives few women made it to the top in any scientific field. Few men too, but relatively fewer women, so it was hard to find truly exceptional ones.

    Well, there is a way to recognize great women, etc….but it requires identifying what famous guys were actually half of a team.

    Does Not Fit Narrative.

    1. Well, there is a way to recognize great women, etc….but it requires identifying what famous guys were actually half of a team.

      Does Not Fit Narrative.

      Yes indeed. An excellent wife can enhance her husband’s work in all kinds of ways even if she doesn’t have Clue One about the specifics of his field, just by making sure that he can focus on his work instead of a myriad of distractions around the home. (While a terrible wife can destroy her husband’s ability to do his work.) A lot of scientific advancements, etc., wouldn’t have been made if the scientist who made them hadn’t had an excellent wife helping out behind the scenes.

      But the feminists don’t want to portray any traditional roles. including homemaker, in a positive light, so those women who made great behind-the-scenes contributions to history continue to be unsung and unheralded. (With rare exceptions like Abigail Adams — though she doesn’t quite fit the picture I’m painting, because she did have a clue about her husband’s field.)

      1. I wasn’t even meaning that, but more the Abigail Adams sort– like how “David Eddings” was actually written by both husband and wife, and I know that a couple of the lady scientists I learned about worked with their husbands… I’d try to explain it as two geeks who fall in love over their passion, basically.

        IIRC, the first lady-Chair in that French scientist group was set to become that, she connected with her husband when one of them was trying to organize more lab space and a friend suggested the other might know a good place. (He died, she got put in the position, folks flipped out, Einstein wrote her a letter saying to ignore the haters. Or something like that.)

        1. Thing is, the Abigail Adams types do fit the narrative well enough that the feminists (most of them) are okay with it. I know a couple of very feminist women who love talking about John and Abigail as an ideal marriage, for example. The ones who truly don’t fit the narrative are the ones who acted as a classic helpmeet: she made sure that her husband had what he needed to get his work done, and he loved her for it. (And for other reasons too, of course.) Those are the stories that the feminists will do their best to suppress. I mean, just look how they react to any modern woman who says that she wants to be a homemaker.

          So when you talked about stories that Do Not Fit The Narrative, I figured you meant the homemakers whose behind-the-scenes contributions to history were significant but unrecognized.

          1. *shrug* The only time I see the “wife and husband team” thing mentioned, they’re claiming that he was worthless and stole her work. Maybe different tactics in different areas?

            I don’t think ANYTHING will change their mind about if being a wife that wifes. 😀 I’m OK with that.

            1. Yeah. Goodreads lists Leonara Lang and only her as the author on The Red Fairy Book. Her husband is listed as the editor, but why her and not the other translators? Yes, she took over more and more until he started the preface with this should be Mrs. Lang’s fairy book, but not that early.

      2. That’s the problem with half-assed housework being done by two people constantly switching contexts from “work” to “home” it’s not just the sum of it’s parts, but less, because there’s less “flow” in the context that I get into the “flow” programming, or illustrating.

        It’s true of the “work” side of the equation as well.

        Specialization helps.

        And lord how many feminists these days, proud of their “strong, independent” selves, could not be the equal of the prairie or city woman of a hundred years ago in grit, and willingness to work, able to make a meal that started as live chickens and the garden out back, run a house (a small business), and more than often enough, be the second in charge of their husbands businesses, keep books, esp after the kids were older. Many of them would never sully their hands or be able to put up with what was simply daily life of the very ladies they look down on.

        There is nothing wrong with being the one who makes sure the home is straight and pleasant, the food cooked, and the kids clothed. It is, as feminists often point out, a JOB, and somebody has to do it. Don’t matter how many time saving devices make keeping clean easier, it will always be time-intensive and not scale well. Yes, you offload it to someone else. But why? Why would you let others raise your kids for you? Why is being a nanny respectable-isn but raising your own kids isn’t?

        1. whatevs. I’ve been mostly mother, truth be told, with a side of housekeeper and writer. I’m now somewhat terrified as the kids prepare to leave. It’s like losing my identity.
          OTOH I’d love the Aladin cleaning machines. Look, house cleaning is NO fun.

          1. Mine are trickling away. Son graduating from school this year and moving to CA for work (he’s accepted an offer). Second already at the local college, and the third about to finish high school after rate next year.

            I hear ya on the cleaning machines. Housekeeping and parenting are WORK. It’s one reason I stick to the cooking (with a side of dishes) as well as the lions share of lawn and repair work.

        2. That has been the most irritating part of feminism during my lifetime. They still had some points which seemed to make sense back when I was young, but even then they weren’t trying to promote the value of those things which had been traditionally female, they were trying to push women to get into what had been traditionally male.

          And that does not make sense. If you are trying to tell that women are as important as men why not try to raise the value of what they have always been doing instead of just trying to make them take over the traditionally male parts of society? Right now we still seem to value the traditionally masculine parts of society as the only important parts, while the traditionally feminine has become something even less valued than it used to be, and the worst offenders there are way too often those who call themselves feminists.

          1. Should have said “observed value”. Raising kids is important, and has always been, but its observed value hasn’t, and doesn’t, always meet its actual one.

            1. On the… third or sixth or something… re-write of that guest post for Sarah, and one of the themes is the funky way of identifying “value” these days. It seems to be “taxable income.”

              1. Heh. Pretty much. If you can’t get money for it it’s… perhaps more like a hobby. Or entertainment. Or something. So quit playing and go forth and make something you get paid for and finally become a contributing member of society!

                Funny how looking after, and raising, kids seems to become way more important when they are not your own.

                1. The irony is that the feminists will insist that it is a hobby whenever it’s convenient. It’s the women’s sole choice, it’s never wrong for her to chose it, she doesn’t have to prioritize it over anything else. . . .

                  It’s a Sacred Calling, of course, as soon as that’s useful, of course.

        3. Oh, gads yes on the housework. Working at cross-purposes, things not getting done, and both end up feeling abused because the other isn’t recognizing what they do…. Issue I see with a lot of working wives, with and without kids. Guys and gals just don’t SEE housework the same.

          My husband helps at home, but 90% of the time I don’t WANT help. Either do it, or leave it to me, so I know what’s going on– you’re messing up the dance. (This impulse makes it hard to involve the kids. I’m working on it, but that makes me even grumpier when the husband asks for the sixth time if there’s anything he can do…. thank goodness he’s patient.)

          Slowly learning to do things like pile stuff to go to the trash or ask when things are high up.

    2. Yeah. Here’s my perspective on the value of a wife, as a life-long bachelor: Beyond jewels, beyond gold.

      And, I’m not talking about the sex and companionship, either. You really don’t get a lot of the benefit you’re accruing or providing by having/being a wife until you’ve got to do all that “minor housekeeping BS” for yourself. Holy crap, do most people significantly undervalue all of that…

      I think I told the story on here a long time ago about my friend whose wife had to take off home to care for her injured parents, leaving him 3,000 miles away with the kids and house? If not… Wow. Prior to her departure for about five months, ol’ Fred used to talk much trash about how easy his stay-at-home wife had it, and how little value it had. Then, she left, leaving him to deal with his job, a couple of teenagers, and another kid who was like 8-9 years old. Five months later, he’s almost had a nervous breakdown, the neighbors are wanting to turn him in for child neglect, and there’s a much, much different attitude on his part.

      Even in this modern era, there’s a hell of a lot of work that goes into maintaining a household, especially one with kids. Oh, dear lord… Especially one with kids.

      From a long-time bachelor, take it from me: A stay-at-home wife/husband that’s doing their damn job right can be a blessing beyond rational value. You don’t know what you’ve got until you don’t have someone taking care of all the little nit-noid things that make up handling life-support issues. Just stuff like taking care of getting car tabs, and other things. It’s amazing how little appreciation is granted for these things…

  7. Yes, there are, and what I think needs to happen is that people need to stop “helping” them

    Yes, please?

    Wanna help my self esteem, make it so that when I get an atta-boy I can trust it's actually valid, not because I'm a girl.

    The first big reward I got in the Navy was to be moved to the NCO barracks for working hard and staying out of trouble.

    Long story short, it was actually because the CMC wanted to sex-segregate the common areas, and I was the one she could most easily justify "rewarding." Other females who'd gotten pregnant suddenly got live-on-town chits.

  8. The older I get the more I am inclined to think that the sentiment “You can do anything you want to” is cruel. It can be, in a broad sense, true; you CAN play basketball if you are a awkward clot. But it is often false in the specific; no,if you are 4’6″ and clumsy, you probably CAN’T start for the Chicago Bulls.

    I wanted to be a comic book artist. The talent Just. Isn’t. There. Eight years of dedicated scribbling (grades 5-12 inclusive) got me to the point where I could, sometimes, capture a single panel with some real visceral power. But I couldn’t do two in a row. And I’m not ever going to. Some people whose art is, by every day standards, awful can still transmit a real PUNCH. I can’t. The “You can do anything if you want to enough” would have wasted YEARS of my time. And you only get so much.

    But I’m not sure what else to tell children. The history of allowing teachers to quietly tell children “You real aren’t good enough to do that” isn’t any good either. For one thing, too many people who take up teaching children do so because they like exercising power over people who can’t fight back.


    1. Also, you can’t do in reality everything you could do in theory. The OWS whiner who complained that aren’t you supposed to follow your dreams had missed out that she had a choice between the major she wanted, and the big bucks she also wanted, and she had to pick the right one to get its rewards.


        I hope that shows up. “My mom told me I could be anything I wanted. So I became an antisocial recluse with an Internet dependence and intolerance for natural light.”

        Lots of fun “they told me I could be anything” memes out there:-).

    2. I remember reading a book once where the father assured the little girls they could be whatever they wanted, and then did not laugh at the three-year-old when she declared she would be a ladybug.

      When the kid gets older, more is expected.

    3. That’s one that I think has ruined more than people realize. I can’t point to any information, but how many people out there have wasted years of their lives believing they could do something, only to finally give up and become depressed, possibly suicidally so, because no one taught them that sometimes people’s dreams are not within their skillsets?

      I know I’ve read a number of accounts of people wasting 10 years or more chasing a dream that never materialized, when they could have gone on to do something else and been successful.

      1. There’s also the simple fact that, regardless of talent and skill, some things will not happen your way.

        See: musicians, photographers, painters, writers, actors…

        See, also: engineers, scientists, doctors…

        I think a better formula might be “You can strive for anything you want, but keep your eyes open.”

        1. Yes.

          My primary skillset is something I have enormous passion for, that I was interested in before I knew for certain that I could do any part of it well, and have spent time worrying that since I didn’t know, I might not be good enough that I should be doing it.

          I’ve had skill sets that I’ve dropped or back burnered development of, because I could tell that I could never be good enough to get results that would satisfy me, or that I could not develop it to a point that would be worth doing for hire.

          Creative writing is a secondary or tertiary skill for me. Maybe lower, and maybe I have issues that would limit how good I could get. I put time and effort into that I would get better returns from in the primary skillset. Sometimes that’s been a pretty poor choice. I don’t think I can quit entirely, and I’m at a stage where I simply need to work at it.

        2. And if your passion is something like art, get some practical, paying career and study art on the side first, and switch only if you start getting indications that you could make a living wage with the latter.

          1. I used to know a Master of Fine Art from the University of Washington with an emphasis on metal sculpture who found it prepared her well for a fine career doing metal work on dump trucks. Dental/medical lab techs often do (smaller scale) sculpture and jewelry as well. It’s harder in an era of credentialism though.

            1. Many of the now acknowledged masters did.

              At least don’t expect to become the next Picasso, even the real geniuses have no guarantees of success during their lifetimes. Unfair, but so is lots of life.

              Have to admit that the fact that the creators of lots of art rich people now trade between themselves for millions never saw even a small fraction of that money while they would have needed it sucks worse than many of other injustices…

              1. They just weren’t as smart as they thought. de Vinci new enough to at least get paid to do what you love.


      1. Indeed. I still enjoy designing and building boats and assorted stuff after 50 years, I also enjoyed the hell out of teaching hang gliding when I was active in the sport. Doing what you love and getting paid for it beats the hell out of work!

    4. You should be able to try to do anything you want to. However you have to learn that try does not always mean succeed.

  9. I’m leery of sex-segregated schooling. It may solve one problem only to create a bigger one, and seriously–can you not see all the progressives making the worlds biggest cluster of it? You just KNOW it will be a repeat of separate but unequal, and my guess is the boys would emerge not even knowing how to read. Besides, if home/remote schooling takes off it will be a moot point.

    The idiots who douse kids in “self-esteem” are sabotaging them badly. Of course they believe their teachers, and then when reality hits them it hits hard. It even happened to me — I thought that since I had taken a full year of Calculus in high school, I could skip to Calc 2 as a college freshman. Boy, was that a big mistake! But I had enough calc to take physics just fine, and I took Calc 1 (again) at the faster, harder pace and it all worked out in the end.

    I would like to see more emphasis on “the brain is a muscle” teaching vs. “self-esteem that isn’t based on anything”. Once kids understand that if you practice you get better, it isn’t as intimidating. They understand it for sports, and even that some people just have to work harder to get good at throwing a ball or whatever, but can still be good enough to be on the team.

    1. One big issue is that TRULY gifted kids don’t get the “work” thing till late in their schooling career. Everything has always been easy… My kids suck at sports because by the time they got “you have to practice” they missed some essential stuff other kids train at early ages.

      1. This has plagued me all my life. When I was a kid studying wasn’t necessary, since I got the material easily. As I got older, I learned a bad habit of putting things off because I could get away with doing them at the last minute and still passing.

        1. Yeah, and it’s hard to challenge gifted kids enough, because with a lot of subjects you’ve got to grasp the basics before you can progress. No sense in throwing quadratic equations at a kid who hasn’t memorized multiplication yet, but multiplication is booooooooring!
          Some of us never get the work for schoolwork thing. I never did. Why would I? If I read my textbook, took notes, and reread the notes before the exam, I’d get an A. Academic work never was. The hardest part of essays was getting the formatting on the references right.
          I learned to work for music, because no matter how talented you are, music still requires practice. Talent’s just a multiplier, and if work is zero that’s what you get.
          So my suggestion is that if you’ve got a gifted kid, think outside the box when it comes to teaching them to put in effort. There’ll be something other than academics you can use to teach them to work.

          1. I had to work at music, too. While I can now sing (badly) and keep a beat, I got not much else from a dozen years of work. I had a grandfather who had world class talent, uncles, aunts, and cousins by the score with enough talent to float a symphony on their unconscious skill, but me, I got where I can pick out the blue notes and the oboe who plays consistently a half-tone sharp through stubbornness.

            Now classes, those I rarely studied for. Study was for stuff I *wanted* to learn, like history books and fantasy stories. *grin*

        2. This.


          Turned me into a stress junkie and made me into the Sysadmin I am today.

          1. *looks at deliverable for work*

            *looks at clock*

            Yup, still a problem (although not nearly as bad as when I was younger).

        3. As I got older, I learned a bad habit of putting things off because I could get away with doing them at the last minute and still passing.

          That sounds awfully familiar.

          There’s the converse as well which is that you (OK I) figure out the problem solve it to 90% or so and then give up because the rest is tedious implementation details a.k.a. fiddly bits

          1. This ^^^

            Brooks, Mythical Man-Month “Designing grand software concepts is fun; finding bugs is just work.”

            Fortunately I read this at 19 and grokked it; my biggest frustration with younger IT types is that getting them to systematically work on defects is difficult. Especially when it involves staying late.

            1. Back in the 80’s, at the company I worked for, we had a programmer quit during his first week of work because he didn’t want to maintain older programs. He just wanted to do “new development”. [Frown]

              1. Oh, I have a better one than that: Company (fairly well known) hired a guy to be an Admin on a Unix system who quit after a week because “his religious beliefs didn’t allow him to work with an operating system using daemons.”

                We told HR they needed to at least try to verify resumes.

                  1. Trust me, this blew everyone’s mind, including some serious evangelicals (Montgomery AL, 1991).

            2. Brooks, Mythical Man-Month “Designing grand software concepts is fun; finding bugs is just work.”

              Strangely enough, I actually enjoy the debugging process. Yes it’s frustrating with the whole “My code doesn’t work. I have no idea why.” thing going on. But, well, it’s like a detective story. I’ve got the clues of behavior to stalk the villain of bad code.


              1. Until you run into one of those REALLY weird problems where something is failing and you KNOW it should work so you take out the code, re-write it EXACTLY like you wrote it the last time and this time it works. At which point you shake your head and move on. (Yes, this happened to me just this week.) But yeah, debugging code is like trying to solve a puzzle.

                1. Which is why the most potent debugging tool ever discovered is a second set of eyeballs looking at the code you literally aren’t seeing any more.

                  1. Hell, half the time you stumble upon the solution just while trying to EXPLAIN the problem to the other person to get them to come over to look.

                    1. And sometimes you get a fellow programmer who doesn’t understand that when you stop half-way and say, “Nevermind,” the correct response is “Glad I could help,” not an insistence on hearing the rest of the problem.

                      I’ve heard that some programmers use “rubber ducky debugging” to try to simulate the effect with a rubber ducky.

                    2. After sitting there for two hours trying to figure it out.

                      This is why getting up and walking about the workplace sometimes also fixes it.

              2. Yep, there is a certain degree of satisfaction in figuring out why something doesn’t work.

                Of course, some of the real “fun” in fixing the problem was in making sure you didn’t “break something” while trying to “fix something else”. [Very Big Grin]

                1. <blockquoteOf course, some of the real “fun” in fixing the problem was in making sure you didn’t “break something” while trying to “fix something else”.

                  Ninety-nine bugs in the code on the screen.
                  Ninety-nine bugs in the code.
                  Take one down, patch it around.
                  137 bugs in the code on the screen.


                  1. Chuckle Chuckle

                    At one place I worked there were older programs that should have been rewritten from scratch.

                    At least one of these programs used the infamous COBOL “ALTER X TO Y”.

      2. *raised hand* It was humbling being a navy Nuke. mostly because it was the first time I was really challenged, and had people that could do much better than me at things and I actually had to practice to match them. Even with that, some just had more talent for tinkering with stuff.

        1. NFAS was interesting. You had all of these 18 year-olds who were used to being near the top intellectually and suddenly you throw them together. Not everyone gets to be on top, and some people don’t handle that well.

          1. My 8th and 9th grade, I found myself in a solid “gifted” class. Real, not what passes for it these days. It was a shock to have real competition and people who got my references.

          2. I did really well there – in part because I still logged 12-16 hours despite being on “voluntary” (did take the period often at the end of the day to run to the gym while it was empty, and study later on logged time as a partial cheat)

            My humbling came when starting to do actual maintenance on pumps/valves. Abstract systems stuff and interactions I was GOOD at – and also good at explaining.

        1. Seriously. I’m already worried about my second grader. Due to circumstances beyond my control, she’s in a public school in the U.S. right now (vs. the small, basically private international school in Liberia). The larger setting means she isn’t being individually challenged the way she was in the smaller school. She can, unfortunately, coast, and I’m worried it’s already taught her that math isn’t fun because it isn’t hard any more.

            1. Thanks for the offer. It’s something we consider on a regular basis, although not in the cards right now. My wife is finishing her dissertation, juggling two-year-old twins, and single parenting due to the evacuation status. When we’re all in the same place, we try to supplement the official school work/augment the instruction.

              Still, I know where to go if I need tips on resources! I actually saved the post from last week from Foxfier.

            2. Or your wife, rather? (Went and read a bit on your blog. That sucks, but at least they’re pretty safe. We have family on husband’s side in Liberia.)
              She can find the laws here: for what she’s required to do in order to home school. I hope she’s in one of the easy states. I’d recommend one of the out of the box programs for your situation except that your daughter is gifted, so it’s going to take a bit more work to find the right fits for her.

              1. Actually, Liberia as a whole is pretty safe (except for a few Counties where there are persistent new cases. Montserrado, including Monrovia, is one of those “problem” counties. I hope your in-laws are in a relatively good spot!) and we’re hoping that the evacuation gets lifted soon.

                They’re in Colorado, which seems to be easier. Being foreign service, we can basically pick which state standards to follow, if I remember right. I think our plan of augmenting whatever instruction she (and the others as they enter school. Our second child is in kindergarten now) gets is the best way to go, at least for now. They’re all a bit too social to be entirely happy not getting to interact with peers.

                1. One foster-sis is a nurse–she’s the most at-risk. Step-son lives (his college is closed) in Monrovia–but it’s a middle class neighborhood. Husband grew up on Ricks Institute, in-laws, fortunately, live in Cameroon, their homeland (they were missionary teachers). (And now you can probably spend fifteen minutes and figure out exactly who and where I am.)
                  Like I said, I’m happy to help if your wife needs it. Including with scheduling–takes a lot less time to home school a gifted kid than the school system spends on classes.
                  Don’t buy the socialism canard. Home school kids can do more socializing than public school kids, and generally do it cross age groups. If there’s not a group or a co-op in her area, I’d be amazed. Even in a town of 1500 in rural Wyoming we had a group. You do what’s best for your kids, just remember when we proved the “Home schoolers won’t get an education” idea wrong with test results, the anti-home education folks started in with “Home schoolers won’t get socialized.”

                  1. In the US the socialization isn’t an issue at all. When we lived in Virginia there were very active homeschooling groups all around (associated with our church and the next parish over). Colorado, too, would be easy to find. It’s the overseas that’s a little more challenging, since homeschooling is not widely done and the school has before and after programs so both parents can work full days, limiting interactions with other Americans. Interactions with local children are possible, but take a lot of managing expectations, especially in Liberia. Turkmenistan would have been tricky, but our oldest was pre-school then. She did hang out with her nanny’s son (who was several years older) quite a bit. So yes, possible, but there’s an extra layer of challenge over here.

                    I hope your foster sis is staying safe. The minute she thinks she has symptoms, she should get to the MMU (run by our US Public Health Service, and dedicated for healthcare workers). Also, we’re hearing that schools might open in January. If the step-son is going to Mother Pattern, well, they’re determined to open in January regardless. Other universities are a little more up in the air.

                    1. Step-son goes to and works at, um, United Methodist University, I think he said. Sp far my husband’s foster sibs have all been fine, we just worry about the one more. Stupid situation, survived the civil war and now worrying about a virus. (All of his bio siblings and two of the fosters have immigrated to the USA.)
                      Oh yes, well, you said you were satisfied with the international school, so I thought education was just an issue ’til she gets back.

            1. See above. We do this, as much as we can. The thing is, she doesn’t need the prizes–she does (or at least did) the extra challenges on her own. Sort of takes after her dad [sheepish-proud grin].

              1. Seems to me that there are, or should be, books that mathematicians write for other mathematicians; not scholarly precisely, more playful. Damn, but I miss my Father, he would know what they were.

                  1. I’m thinking more on an ‘adult’ level; that particular talent hits early. She might really enjoy adult math play. If somethung occurs to me I’ll mention it.

                    Or she may just be brighter than her teachers. Sadly that is entirely too possible.

                    1. As often as that comes up, you’d think it addresses a common problem….

                      *goes off whistling*

                    2. I really liked that little book when I was younger. An early introduction to some important mathematical and problem solving concepts.

                  2. You should talk to Catherine Asaro about the various math olympiad things. Google probably helps too but Catherine (who puts the math into polymath) has done a bunchaton of work on encouraging math in kids.

                1. “The Chicken from Minsk: And 99 Other Infuriatingly Challenging Brain Teasers from the Great Russian Tradition of Math and Science” might qualify?

                  1. MIT has an online course for high school home teachers around

                    Course Description
                    What do one mathematician, one artist, and one musician all have in common? Are you interested in Zen Buddhism, math, fractals, logic, paradoxes, infinities, art, language, computer science, physics, music, intelligence, consciousness and unified theories? Get ready to chase me down a rabbit hole into Douglas Hofstadter’s Pulitzer Prize winning book Gödel, Escher, Bach.

                    1. Response based on reading comments in my inbox – reviewing upthread this may be a little much for a younger student but MIT also has

                      MIT+K12 Videos started in 2011 when Dean Ian Waitz, Becky Fearing, Chad Galts, and the many awesome folks in the School of Engineering asked,

                      What can MIT do to address the underperformance of K-12 students in the U.S. in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) subjects and underrepresentation of minorities and women in STEM field?

                      There may be some interest in Raymond Smullyan who like Martin Gardner has something for all ages.

      3. The flip side of that is that if an institution or teacher DOES know to give the quick extra work, all to often they don’t realize that at some point you need to STOP. Or what you are teaching is that if you admit to being capable, there is never an end to work. There should be some middle ground; possibly negotiated with the kid; you get to THIS point, and you are done with math for the year.

        Because while the capable DO get work piled on them in the real world, they also get to say; “When am I done?” or at least “I want a raise and overtime”

      4. “Well, if you want to do something badly give it to a quasi governmental institution.”

        Yep, that does tend not to help. But the kind of sorting pattern you’re describing seems to show up even in informal activities that are far below the government’s radar, so it may not be dominantly due to perverse consequences of government policy interventions. How many people play Go? It was mostly unknown in the US until after 1970 when feminism was in full swing, so it would be hard for women to be kept out by rampant open sexist policies. It’s not the kind of activity that the men can keep women out of by sneaky subtle sexism: even if men tried, it’s easy to start a new Go club, or play Go online with a Sekrit Identity. And indeed women do start their own clubs to play games — but generally not to play sharp uncompromising games like Go (or Chess or even Squad Leader), instead to play more relaxed games like Mahjongg, like the group of Mahjongg-playing women that have met off and on in the same public spaces as the Dallas Go Club over the years. There are some very good women Go players, incl. a woman who used to represent Poland in international competitions before moving to the DFW area. But they are outnumbered by men in Go with the same sort of lopsided ratio that appears in many of the tech fields you wrote about in the OP.

        “One big issue is that TRULY gifted kids don’t get the ‘work’ thing till late in their schooling career.” It’s a problem, but I don’t think it’s near-universal like you make it sound. (If you had said “…TRULY gifted kids often don’t get…” I’d have let it go.) I went to Caltech in the mid-80s, so I got to know some reasonably gifted kids, and my impression was that most students, TRULY gifted or no, had found ways to stretch themselves before college. I worked part time as a computer programmer while I was in high school (and played Go, and worked through some math books, and a lot of Asimov-level popsci books, etc.). My freshman roommate had stretched himself before college by going to college before college:-| taking (and TAing) freshman and sophomore math classes in his hometown university before he got out of high school. That kind of background seemed pretty common: it didn’t seem to make us very remarkable among freshmen. And typically new freshmen seemed to have at least a general idea how competitive the big leagues are, having competed in math contests or having read history or for various other reasons. (I never heard of anyone expecting that his high standing in high school math meant that he’d be able to represent Caltech on the Putnam exam. I think that that is really not a common mistake.) My impression was that not knowing how to work seriously or how to study seriously was not a huge problem: a significant problem, yes, but not more important than other significant problems like not wanting very much to be in tech (and revealing that when out from parental direct authority) or just the usual sorts of chaotic impulsive early-adulthood perversity or silliness.

        1. I wonder if part of your experience was generational; that is, you were in university before the Bachelor’s replaced the HS diploma as the required qualification for basically any job. In essence, undergrad has become what HS used to be (so I’m told) for figuring out if you were going on to advanced education or into vocational training.

        2. I went to Caltech in the mid-80s, so I got to know some reasonably gifted kids, and my impression was that most students, TRULY gifted or no, had found ways to stretch themselves before college.

          I suspect that your experience had a considerable bit of self-selection (is that the right term? Meaning it’s because the setting would appeal to those who fit the description) going on. By and large, most people are lazy. If left to their own devices, few people will really go and do extra work just for kicks. Or if they do, it’s likely to have little to do with learning schoolwork beyond their grade level. SOME do, and CalTech is probably where a lot of those types wind up.

          1. There’s also the element that purely voluntary stretching is concentrated on areas that the person likes to do. Fine if you can make a living at it, but sometimes you need to work hard at what you don’t like.

      5. “One big issue is that TRULY gifted kids don’t get the “work” thing till late in their schooling career.”

        That killed me in college. I breezed through almost all my classes in high school, including the honors classes, and never needed to learn good study habits.

      6. I still, don’t understand this, not experientially. Things still either come immediately (a friend asked not too long ago, “when was the last time you had to do a thing more than four times to acquire competence?” I had to admit I couldn’t remember such a thing) or they don’t get the effort spent to acquire competence. It’s worse now that I have offspring. I don’t have the time to do much (though I’m told this changes as the Creatures become more autonomous) that isn’t Feed The Child, Change The Child, Entertain The Child. I think a consequence of this is an atrophy of imagination.

      7. Oh, yes. College hit me HARD, especially math. I’d been able to breeze through school…but a top-flight Aerospace Engineering program is merciless. The intellectual equivalent of Hell Week in SEAL training.

      8. They can take up running. Or join the cult of crossfit. Neither requires anything to begin with and you can see improvements quite quickly and only later do you start competing against other people, Mostly you are trying to beat your own PR for something. Competition occurs only when you discover that you accidentally came 3rd in the race or something

  10. I thought prior to The Pill aspirin was used effective as birth control. Something aboutthe girl having to hold the pill between her knees…

  11. Self-esteem boosting measures in fact decrease performance because you feel great without having done anything.

  12. “That said, his classroom for the robot assembly was strewn with magazines: Women in Engineering, Women in Stem, Women in Physics, Women of Wrench…”

    WiE, WiS, WiP, and WoW? Kinky.

    In college, we had two computer science degree paths – Computer Science and Computer Information Systems. Most of the guys went Comp Sci, all the gurls went CIS. CIS didn’t even require Calc I. Just completing the Comp Sci requirements left me 12 hours short of a BS in Mathematics.

    1. Jeesh.

      Then, at my school, there was Computer Science, and Computer & Systems Engineering, and I went for CSE. Mind you, left it knowing if I could kick it I didn’t want to know about it, but I took it.

  13. … Women of Wrench …

    Wenches with wrenches? (Runs, even though there’s no point: The Carp Knows Where You Live.)

        1. Nah, just ye basic aviation repair starter kit, with a few “gotta have for the house” additions. Something about moving every other year and movers charging by the pound . . .

          1. You’re still in one toolbox, do you have your own forklift? I split metric and S.A.E. into separate boxes years ago.

      1. But we need benches for these Wenches with Wrenches, and we’d provide them if we were Mensches…

  14. In a previous office, we sponsored a number of nuclear scientists from different countries to attend a premier nuclear science convention. We organized a number of side events for said group, including a dinner for the women in the group to network with the Women in Nuclear (US) members who were around. Not being a woman (or a nuclear scientist), I was not invited to said dinner, so relaying second hand. It seems to have been a good event, except for one of the participants, from a Muslim country (who is very highly respected), spoke up about how such an event was demeaning. Exactly like our good hostess, she didn’t want to be recognized as a good Female nuclear engineer, she wanted to be recognized as a good Nuclear Engineer.

    Others at the event, especially the Americans, were gobsmacked by her remark.

    1. I get the feeling that, assuming they are allowed to develop instead of slide backwards into the 11th Century, the societies of the Islamic world that allow sufficiently motivated women to succeed are going to provide any number of shocks for the Feministas.

  15. Herbs, ergot, herbs . . . Actually, this is a point that comes up in the next Colplatschki book.

    I came through public school before the self-esteem Grrrrl power stuff really got going. I remember reading about Marie Curie, and Pierre, and Konrad Roentgen, and all kinds of science stuff, and hearing about Ada Lovelace and Grace Hooper and Neils Bohr and other scientists. It wasn’t “the first woman in science,” just that women did science and if I wanted to, I could. My senior AP physics class was about 60/40 male/female. By that point, I knew I was so far behind the math curve that majoring in science wasn’t my thing, but I enjoyed labs and reading science and engineering stuff. Still do. I’m glad no one tried to ram an engineering/physics/chemistry/computer tech career down my throat, because I’d probably have had a breakdown trying to force my mind to do stuff I’m just not wired for.

    1. My Father knew he was some kind of scholar. When he was in high school he thought that he wanted to be the scientist kind, and Physics was the hot science of the day. He got to college (Princeton, on a full ride; he liked to say he was an early Affirmative Action student – from the days when that meant the Ivy League was recruiting from the West of the Mississippi) and discovered to his dismay that he simply did not have the right KIND of imagination. He could do the work, by grinding away at the math. He never got the kind to insight to it that the good students had.


      It was the middle of WWII. Shifting majors was not encouraged, and would probably have gotten him drafted right away. He and a deal with the War Department; he was stuck. BS from Princeton. Army service at Oak Ridge (overseeing the refining of uranium). Masters in Physics (also part of the deal) and work for GE at Schenectady NY. He was about to enter the PhD program at Harvard, because what the hell else could he do, when he lucked into one of the earliest History of Science programs in the country, and he never looked back.

      There are some things for which you simply Do. Not. Have. The . Talent. Some of them will merely make you miserable if you try. Others will destroy you.

      You have to find out what your talents are.

  16. I saw that article. Here’s what punched me in the nose:

    “According to Spärck Jones, “computing is too important to be left to men.”

    Vicious bigoted harpy.

    Replace the word men with “Jews,” “blacks,” or any other group and digest. Disgusting is not a sufficiently stomach-churning word to describe it.

    1. I’m thinking right now about all those computing women in the past, giants in the field, and saying since when has it been? I hate ignorance driven by agenda.

    2. Engineering is too important to be left to English majors.


      Sorry, I’m sick, and so my sick sense of humor is maybe sicker than normal.

  17. There are days I’m really not sure where the line lies.

    On one hand – see the Tacoma Narrows bridge – I feel if someone CAN discouraged from being an engineer/inventor/programmer/etc., they SHOULD be. As you pointed out – those of us who became or always were geeks or engineers at heart persevered despite being socially ostracised, bullied, or worse….

    If we screw up, we’ll be trying it again anyway. (My wife jokes that the easiest way to distract me – even from dinner – is to start a sentence with “I’m having this weird issue with my computer”)

    On the other hand, I agree that anyone who wants to be a broggspanner operator – at least anyone who has the combination of physical ability, the talent, and drive to put in the effort needed to master it – should be able to. Male or female, white or black or polka dotted purple.

    Point out the opportunities available, point out that a single failure is not the end of the world, sure. The ones you really want are the ones who do it anyway. (the outfit I work with actually listed a job opening with no degrees or certs, but bullet points like “assembled a computer to see if you could”)

    On the gripping hand, opportunity cost. Becoming proficient at anything – including running a household (in many ways a small business) – takes time. Time spent off having careers is time not spent making sure the kids are raised right. It also seems to matter more that there is a constant presence, than both parents do a half-assed job.

    So yeah – I know ladies who actually are good and competent programmers/architects/etc. They also tend to act like the guy programmers/etc. – at least when it comes to that stuff.

    Nevertheless, the differences in how guys generally think, and ladies generally do, plus hormones, plus biology, means that there are certainly going to be jobs that have more or less men or women in them, based on interest alone. Two year olds separating out was mentioned above. There are also measured differences between what boys and girls pay attention to within hours of birth. Even other primates, given sticks to play with, tend to play with them differently if male or female.

    None of this is better or worse.

    At what point does the combination of anti-mommyhood (face it, feminists don’t just want options, they deride family and housewives), abortion, DINK couples, and other behaviors that put off or put aside having kids reduce the replacement generations that we simply cannot sustain the culture that values these things because we are not replacing it?

    Keep in mind, that list is composed of behaviors that I, and many others here think people should be free to decide. OK – except maybe the anti-mommyhood, but it’s often disguised as “free to choose a career” which many people DO agree with.

    1. I’m having kids first and planning on career later. My mother did career-kid-career, but she didn’t meet the man she wanted to marry as young as I did. (I have six kids: I’m still two years younger than Mom was when she had me.)
      You have to be careful if you take that route not to pick a sixty-five-and-out career. It probably won’t work if your career requires being young. Looking younger than your years helps. Being wired towards self-employment probably doesn’t hurt.
      Picking a career that you can do some of while you raise kids is good, if you’re wired for it. Keeps your hand in, brings in some extra cash. It’s not as hard of work to be a housewife now as it was before appliances, though some of that we make up for by having huge houses full of stuff that needs cleaning, so it’s possible to find half an hour or three a day to work on something else.

    2. I am reminded of a wonderful line from Falling Free by Lois McMaster Bujold. The main character, after giving a rather rousing condemnation of falsified inspection reports said “You may fool men, but you’ll never fool the metal.”

      That is a lesson I have taken with me to this day.

      1. Scott Adams once explained that engineers lack social skills because no one wants bridges that look like they won’t fall down.

      2. Some guys I know who workout exclusively with freeweights rather than nautilus machines, etc. will state, aside from practical reasons, “the iron never lies”

      3. My memory is especially spotty at the moment. You’ve just reminded me that I meant to write in an earlier post ‘Engineering Professors are easier to convince than physical phenomena. Engineering professors being as easy as that really suggestible guy, or even a lot of other sorts of professors, would not prepare one for physical phenomena.

    3. Caveat: If someone is polka dotted purple, they should not be operating broggspanners, they should be in the hospital or seeking vengeance against their prankster friends.

  18. One of the challenges I face with Athena is getting her to understand that many things are supposed to be hard. You’re learning guitar and your fingers hurt? They’re supposed to. Keep at it and build the callouses that will make it stop hurting. This math stuff is confusing? It’s normal for it to be at first. Keep at it and do the exercises and it will become clear (she is plenty smart enough for it and, in fact, is quite good at math for her age group).

    And interesting thing is that she often balks at a new computer game. “It’s too hard.” But as she keeps at it she gets better, a lot better. (It’s really amazing, though, to see her combine her art with her gaming–like building sculptures in Minecraft.)

    I think it was Richard Feynmann (one of my personal heroes) who answered a question about math and science being so hard compared to English by saying that by the time you get to college you’d been doing English for seventeen years or so whereas you’re often only getting introduced to higher math and science for the first time. Of course it’s harder. It’s new to you in a way that English isn’t. It’s hard for everybody.

    In my own case, I grew up basically being the smartest kid in school. (Resulting in “coasting” a lot, never bothering with homework, doing stuff completely different from what the school was covering so my grades were only “above average”. And I suppose all that said less about me than about the schools.) College, when I finally got there (a rather long story that), was rather a shock. I had peers. And then there are things like Libertycon, where I can’t throw a rock without it bouncing off of three people smarter than I am before it hits the ground.

    1. My son had a real light-bulb moment when I was gaming and he asked me about something I was trying to do the harder way (stealth vs. full frontal violence) … and I told him that I wanted to do it the hard way BECAUSE it was harder and I would be happier afterward, knowing I could do the harder thing …

      1. Peter Floriani’s exceedingly nerdy, exceedingly Catholic YA series of novels about a modern order of knighthood has several catchphrases, but one of them is “Someone has to do the hard things.”

      1. I would never throw rocks at LibertyCon; it’s all too likely to end up as a practical demonstration of one of Niven’s Laws. Something about throwing at armed men….

      2. I don’t imagine the rock-throwing made you particularly popular at LC….

        Let’s just say that it’s not a good idea to annoy three people who are smarter than you are. They get together and….

        Just don’t do it, is all I’m sayin’. 😉

  19. The others, male and female alike, ran screaming from the “designed to fail” freshman classes in calc and physics and thermo. Mostly they ran to business and journalism.

    Agreed folks need to be taught to buckle down – sooner is better.

    I found being tasked to sort freshmen unpleasant – didn’t stay with that job.

    I don’t know the figures for journalism but business schools (like law schools) are great cash cows for universities typically budgeting well under 50% of the money the school brings in. I suspect the same is true of journalism. This provides great incentives for the schools to do the wrong thing.

    I sat in on a freshman orientation session where the adviser specifically suggested journalism as a major with no math requirement but did not add that in today’s world also a major with tremendous demands in terms of developing experience and portfolio if a journalism major in a drastically shrinking job market was going to lead anyplace but law school – rinse and repeat.

    Given my turn at solving the problems I would eliminate undergraduate courses in business and journalism making the entry level a cheap master’s program. Some of the existing courses would go away and others would go to an undergraduate school of arts and sciences.

    On the one hand rationalizing that at least they had their chance helped.

    On the other hand passing only those I could certify as well qualified to go ahead in a field requiring logic and abstract thinking (10%) and flunking the rest (90%) so that their cumulative GPA would never again after their freshman year be high enough for competitive programs seemed unfair.

    There should I think have been some diversion program allowing a light load intensive tutoring get up to speed program for well motivated students. I’d allow most to repeat high school classes no extra charge rather than charge failed high school students for remedial courses in a college setting. Maybe the high schools that didn’t do the job the first time wouldn’t do any better a second time.

    The best student I had in terms of progress during the year was a near gangbanger type who had been illiterate through grade school and had the good recall often seen in preliterate societies combined with the drive that led him to learn to read as a teenager. Despite learning more than any other student I had (which made him one in a thousand) he was still maybe 2 years hard work away from being qualified to do freshman work in a math intensive field.

    Paging Colonel Kratman for suggestions on training the relatively unprepared in (or out of) college?

    There are fields where previous experience obviously helps. It’s commonly asserted that at one time everybody actively functioning as a scout sniper in Vietnam had a hunting background and that this has persisted in American forces (programs developed especially locally to meet a perceived need often started by selecting hunters and pushing them through) Other cultures, especially the English without a hunting subculture have trained scout snipers very successfully. Any specific thoughts (beyond the Baen 4 parter Training for War (April 2014) (ISBN 978-1625793027 Baen Free Nonfiction and maybe The Amazon Legion), on selection and training for bringing the inexperienced and unprepared up to the levels of greatness some can obviously achieve?

  20. They need to stop setting girls up to fail; with this bit of double think, “Girls are powerful and capable of doing and being anything, but need special protections to be able to compete.”

    What????? How does that work again.

  21. You know a huge chunk of this also applies to the whole “why are there no ‘minorities’ in Silicon Valley” thing. And the same “encouragement is required” themes come out. And they end up making it worse because, as you note, encouragement typically means setting the bar lower.

    Teachers can grade their different students to a different curve in high school, but life doesn’t work that way so at some point you have to start ranking by some absolute measurement and that’s when the overly encouraged groups will drop out.

    There’s also, for a lot of engineeringish careers, a lot of benefit from being a hobbyist first. And that typically means being from a reasonably well off family who then motivates you to do the homework, build the robot etc. Those who have actually built things and troubleshot the problems with them from age 10 will have a huge advantage over those who didn’t do anything until college because there’s a decade or so more experience in the ones who did it earlier.

    1. It also helps to have a parent or grandparent who can pass on some of the aptitude in other ways.

    2. If you’re a minority and you have a good job in Silicon Valley, you magically don’t count as a minority. Black nerds with good jobs are invisible nerds. Some people don’t want to publicize an escape from the plantation, I guess.

      1. Silicon Valley minorities count as minorities, but only for the purposes of declaring “There are only x% of group y at company z, but they comprise w% of the population. (Racism|Sexism|…)!”

      2. The good thing about the Valley is that despite a bunch of liberal handwaving it still is a meritocracy where you have to produce. So the minority folks who’ve made it are as mean as anyone else on the special flowers. I’ll never forget the African American co-worker who told me after an interview that “That Bro’s got a great future ahead of him in marketing”. Given that we were interviewing for a tech support position that was not a positive

    3. That’s the whole theme of outliers and the 10,000 hour rule. By the time a hobbyist who is interested in just about any mechanically or electronic hobby enters college he’s right up there in the 10,000 hour mark with the useful skills that engineering programs skip. Academics tend to focus on theory and principles without and emphasis on hands on skills and if you don’t have those already, well you’re screwed when you hit the real world.

  22. One day, someone put a wooden bench swing up in a tree.

    An engineer walked by, noticed the paint over broken wood, and missed noticing some important features that better distributed the weight.

    He was walking by again, and some hipsters asked what he thought.

    He said he didn’t know that it was structurally sound.

    Hipsters replied that it looked like great fun, and drove off.

    He later inspected the swing more thoroughly, and found it less concerning, but still not something he’d sign off on without knowing more.

    Which way do you prefer your engineers to be biased?

    Is it better to have as engineers people interested enough in technical analysis that they will do it for fun?

  23. When it comes to encouraging people to follow their interest or dreams, this what I tell people, “Just be the best you can be at it. You might not ever be the best at it, but you can always do your best at it.”

  24. Dunno. Yes. But, one thing to add. I went to a college that…wasn’t particularly progressive educationally. One representative comment was that the recruitment quality was going down…the metric was the percentage of unsuccessful suicides.

    At that college, the difference between the physics major and the astronomy major is that the astronomy major is appreciably harder. (And the difference between a bachelors there and a PhD at MIT is that the classwork for the bachelors is much harder.)

    And yes, the incoming classes are designed to filter roughly 80% of the incoming students. But, the physics major was about 5% female and astronomy was about 30%.

    I am sure that it wasn’t down to mentoring. Typical mentoring for the 80% was…well…face it…you just aren’t good enough…switch majors. Seriously, a couple of professors gave that lecture when students asked about their midterm grades….even put up a histogram.

    It wasn’t aptitude either…the women in astronomy got through harder coursework than the physicists.

    As far as I could ever tell…it came down to two things…both sexes had a greater affinity for the subject matter in astronomy. But women were not afraid to follow their dreams…cause…face it…there aren’t a lot of jobs in astronomy. The men were. The women had backup plans that didn’t involve full time employment in their major…so…yah… And, some fraction, like my wife, just thought the male astronomers smelled better and were less socially challenged. There was…a lot of truth to that stereotype.

    My rather rambling point being that there are some fairly intractable social issues that probably change male/female ratios in some professions by somewhat less than an order of magnitude. So, I mostly don’t worry about fields where the ratio is better than 6:1.

    For the others, I’d tend to focus on whether or not the jobs qualify as posh gigs…cause I have met many women with common sense. I suspect that there’s a stereotype of computer people as working horrendous hours with smelly people that really isn’t true. The reality involves reasonably talkative people managing smelly people with a lot of nearly part time work.

    Realistically, physics isn’t that well paid and the hours and working conditions tend to be lonely for dedicated introverts…so why bother recruiting women?

    That said, there is stuff like law and medicine which will be or are probably female-dominated. And there, breaking into the field was hard, once upon a time and mentoring, et cetera probably helped. But, for a lot of professions, assuming you are not socially challenged, they are just lousy deals – and I don’t believe that the male/female ratio will approach unity unless improbable societal changes occur.

    On the more hopeful side for women, a way of looking at this might be that the women I studied with were less constrained than the men.


    1. That said, there is stuff like law and medicine which will be or are probably female-dominated.

      I haven’t checked recently so E&OE, YMMV and other disclaimers, but in the UK where they split law between solicitors who do the “back office” part of the job and barristers who do the “stand up in court and ague the case” bit, my understanding is that the latter is still strongly male dominated while the former has become predominantly female. Neither is exclusive – my cousin is a male solicitor for ex and the wife of our former prime minister Cherie Blair is a respected barrister – but it remains a clear trend

  25. The big headache is that in Engineering, you’re dealing with fatal consequences. Collapsing buildings. Crashing airplanes. Extremely public and painful disasters. It’s why many branches hold to the Blood Warranty – an engineer bets his life on his work. If you design a bridge, you stand under it when the first test loads go over it. Design a ship, and you ride it down the ways when it’s launched. We won’t go near flight testing (my career, FWIW) – the sky will try terribly hard to kill you.

    It’s not a place for playing SJW games. Lives are at stake here.

    1. There are lives at stake in a lot of fields currently dominated by SJW wishful thinking. Progressivism takes an awful plot away from people in terms of taxes (and what is money but an abstract way of accounting for little bits of life) and mostly pounds it down assorted rat holes. The thing is we aren’t holding the twits responsible for their outcomes.

      Part of the problem is that the lives these idiots cost us drain away incrementally. Another is that the crack-up is often so long delayed that you have to take people by the metaphorical hand and lead them step-by-step through the failures.

      Progressive/Environmentalist posturing about DDT causes several MILLION deaths a year from Malaria. That makes Rachel Carson a mass murderer on the scale of Mao, but people don’t see it.

      So; two aphorisms,

      1) Wishful thinking isn’t.

      2) The ends may not justify the means, but the results may … and if the results are awful they certainly should DISCREDIT the means.

        1. Ends do not justify means, ever. Ends are INTENTIONS, and “Meaning well” has been the go to excuse for the Progressive Establishment for most of their failures are disasters.

          RESULTS can, if good enough, justify means. If you can, later, point to a concrete number of people saved because you shot each and every disease carrier you just may avoid being hanged for murder. The Progressives HATE this idea, because by and large their results are dung.

          1. I might dispute your definition of ends as intentions. Doesn’t really matter though, whatever you call them it’s just arguing about labeling.

            The thing is ends/results, whatever you call them, are actually inseparable from the means. If the means you choose lead to a bad end then they are bad means. And in how many of the cases people try to use “the ends justify the means” to justify something are the ends/results actually good? Create a “perfect” Soviet state? Doesn’t look like a good end to me. Ensure “Aryan” superiority? Not a good end. Suppress dissent to allow the flourishing of progressivism? Not a good end at all.

            Neither the ends justify the means, nor the means justify the ends. They are inseparable and indivisible. As the Bible said, “By their fruits shall ye know them.”

            1. Yes and No.

              Yes, how you do something can taint the end result.

              No because the end result may be something that most people would see as a good.

              Fictional example, David Weber has created the Mesan Alignment which has a seeming good goal. It intends to create better humans via genetic engineering. Who can be against using genetic engineering to remove genetic disorders, using genetic engineering to increase the over-all general intelligence of the human race, etc?

              What makes the Mesan Alignment evil is that they decided that they must force their ideas onto the rest of the galaxy, that they must take over the governments of the rest of the galaxy, etc.

              The early Alignment made a mistake early on. In a galaxy where genetic engineering had been used as weapons of war and most human worlds turned strongly against genetic engineering in general, they didn’t try to convince the rest of the galaxy that the ban was a “bad idea” including showing the rest of the galaxy the good that genetic engineering could do.

              They decided that since the rest of the galaxy “didn’t listen to them”, they would “force their ideas” on the rest of the galaxy.

              David Weber has shown other problems with the Alignment’s means but the main error is that their “means” includes conquering the rest of the human galaxy.

              1. What makes the Mesan Alignment evil is that they decided that they must force their ideas onto the rest of the galaxy, that they must take over the governments of the rest of the galaxy, etc.

                Ah, but this, too, is part of the end. Just as you cannot separate means and ends, you also don’t get to cherry-pick parts of the ends and disavow others. You’ve got to own it all.

            2. The problem is that the whole of the Liberal Left Establishment Cabal justifies its stupid, freedom killing program with it’s (allegedly) fine intentions. And if you question the wonderfulness of those intentions, you end up arguing about intangibles. They LOVE arguing about intangibles. They are (from a certain perspective, anyway) rather good at it. Let them onto intangible ground (so to say) and you are likely to lose.

              But they HATE to be pinned down on results, because the results of their never-ending meddling are so routinely awful. So I have come to the position that it doesn’t matter DAMN what their INTENTIONS are. Their intentions may be fine, morally superior, and so forth. But until their results start coming within shouting distance of their stated intentions, we have absolutely no reason to allow them any more power, leeway, or attention.

              1. It’s been my observation that whoever focuses on his intentions when the subject is results — is probably lying about his intentions, too.

    2. Shop I worked for, the mechanic responsible for the work on a plane always went up in the first flight after major work.

      I miss those guys.Some were loud, some were laconic, most were brash or goofy by turns, but they were all damned good guys. They never hurt for work, either.

      They loved getting female apprentices, but we kept leaving when we got married. (Okay, one got transferred to another base in the Lower 48, but the boyfriend who became her husband went with. J got distracted by too much else going on in her life, and then moved to the Lower 48 to marry a guy. I went to the Lower 48, married my husband, and then came back to finish rebuilding my plane and fly it down.) Still, the shop had one male apprentice who was finishing his tests for full license and still working there, and three female apprentices who left to get married in five years. G-d bless the shop owner for still taking on female apprentices, given what a lousy track record for completion we have. 🙂

  26. >> “Oh, heck “By the power of the penis I thee command” now wants to appear in a story. Save me.”

    May I suggest “The power of wang compels you?” I think it flows better.

    Anyway, there’s something I wanted to ask you but I don’t see a public e-mail address. Do you have one?

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