During today’s class I kept remembering two items that have crossed my Facebook page several times over the last few weeks. But first, of course, a story. Like Dr. Templeton, I remember vividly the first time I interacted with a computer. I was about ten years old and at a summer camp for smart kids at Texas Tech University. We each signed up for two different two-week classes, and I ended up in Zoology and Computers. Our computer class consisted of typing code into a screen, which was then recorded onto a cassette deck. Over the course of two weeks we (very slowly) made a small square go back and forth across the screen. On the last day, the teacher gave us the “secret code” that would enable our square to change colors. Wow.
Shortly after that camp, though, my interests and time took a sharp turn towards music, and any thought of using the computer for anything other than playing Zork left my brain for many, many years. But now I’m in this class, and the following video crossed my Facebook page several times last week. I have to admit, I’m starting to wish I’d continued learning about other ways to manipulate that small square (in between music practice sessions, of course).
The class topic today that piqued my interest, rather obviously, was Miriam Posner’s blogpost on the Coding Gender Divide. I began to wonder–if I’d been a boy, would someone have encouraged me to pursue that small square further? I was smart and hardworking, and I even spent a number of years on the school’s Math Team. And what sort of experience might my daughter have? Will any of her teachers encourage her to pursue writing code? (And do you need to learn to write code if you’re going to be an astronaut, which is her current plan. Oh, and a dancer on the weekend. That plays the piano.)
I thought it was pretty interesting how we all picked up on how the comments left on Miriam Posner’s article were decidedly more disparaging than those left on the other articles we read. A couple of those comments made me remember another item that’s visited my Facebook page a few times over the past week. Rebecca Solnit’s article “Men Explain Things To Me” was the origin of the term “mansplaining,” a term which has gained much ground as of late and which could be applied to a few of those comments. (Incidentally, there is a fabulous Tumblr on the very specific world of Academic Mansplaining, as well as a most wonderful series of gifs showing how Hillary Clinton deals with this sort of thing.)