Archive for the 'WWZD' category

ScienceOnline and Followup to #ScioSafe

Let's start by acknowledging that I was not at SciO14, so obviously I was not at the impromptu/spontaneous #ScioSafe session. Had I been at SciO14, I am sure I would have been at #ScioSafe. I hope that I would have done a good job of listening and doing my part to help create an environment where people felt safe to speak up and share.

I have the greatest admiration and respect for EVERYONE who participated in that session. And I have great sympathy for those who might have wanted to be there, but didn't find out in time. It's too bad they couldn't have had access to such a session on the regular conference agenda, as many have noted.  I do think it's entirely possible that what occurred in #ScioSafe could only have taken place outside the official boundaries of SciO14. Okay, in an ideal universe, the board of ScienceOnline spent the past year dealing head-on with their Boron-issues, got a lot of professional advice, and brought in some top-notch facilitators to help the heal the community. They had a plenary session in which they reviewed what happened, explained exactly what steps will be taken to change the culture, and outlined concrete plans for improved communication.

Roseanne Connor once said "I'm still waiting for chocolate air!" in response to sister Jackie's statement that she was waiting for Roseanne to say she was right. Organizations will be direct, effective, and rapid in their response to Boron-like disasters sometime shortly after we have chocolate air. They have to be pushed, nagged, prodded, dragged, "incentivized", and sometimes, reinvented, to make things better. Oh, you think you are hoping to just slide by this year with the "recent events" euphemism and some hand-waving in the direction of "boundaries" and then whoosh! back to "real" scicomm and on to 2015!  Well, maybe. Except, no. ScienceOnline as an organization should be thanking its lucky stars that it has dedicated and passionate members who want to make it into what it should be - a welcoming space for everyone who wants to talk about science online.

It's easy-peasy to be just one more unwelcoming, non-inclusive, harmful kinda conference. Nobody needs to attend a Scio conference. They aren't part of professional organizations, universities don't necessarily support attendance costs, the eclectic mix of professionals, students, and academics thus far drawn to SciO have to be choosey with their conference dollars. Why go someplace where you know there are serious issues that are festering and unlikely to be fixed, especially if it's an informal sort of get-together? Might as well go to the usual unwelcoming places that are official career-builders. So kudos to the people trying to do SciO a favor and make it better.

If you haven't already, read the summary of the #ScioSafe session here at Doc Freeride's blog and give some serious consideration to the seven items listed in the document session attendees produced. As far as I'm concerned it's all pretty much a no-brainer, except for part of #5. I think the SciO org desperately needs to clarify what, if any, relationship they still have with Bora Zivkovic, and what, if any, they currently plan to have with him going forward. Then let the community descend with pitchforks and torches decide how they feel about that. In my dream world, Boron is invited to be the keynote speaker at a conference on using social media for science communication but when he shows up, he is put on a rocket ship and sent to Neptune. I will admit that the rocket ship to Neptune is my preferred, albeit impractical, solution for dealing with all harassers. If SciO does its job right in creating a community that is truly welcoming and inclusive and safe, and that does not support or reward bad behavior, there will be no need to ban the Borons of the world. The community will make their existence so difficult they'll seek easier places to do their dirty work.

That's what I would like to see, beyond creating a community where people feel safe to report bad things that happen to them, knowing the perpetrators will be dealt with: I would like to see a community that makes bad actors less likely. I would like to see a community that plays a role in building better communities. Not just the stick, and punishment after the fact, but something like a carrot. Actions to prevent occurrences are a start, and then it would be wonderful to be part of growing a crop of folks who create inclusive environments wherever they go, because they have the tools to do so.

I think this is part of science communication, and part of what science online can and should try to accomplish. The American Medical Writers Association (AMWA) offers a rotating series of mini-courses that can be taken for accreditation, to develop skills that medical writers need. There are skills that science writers need, and of course there are places you can go to take such courses. But ScienceOnline could offer something no one else does. I would like to see development of a set of courses that are offered on a rotating basis, maybe for some sort of accreditation, if SciO becomes a member organization. Participants would learn how to foster inclusivity through communication. Here are some topic ideas:

1. What is inclusive language - and will it ruin my beautiful prose? (Subtopics to be covered include: his/her is so awkward!; you people can't take a joke; lame is just an expression!; what's wrong with talking about hard & soft skills?; we just want "the best and brightest")

2. What is an inclusive lab group and what communication skills does it need?

3. How do I write about a scientist who is a woman without mentioning her knitting?

4. Is it ever okay to mention the knitting of a scientist who is a woman?

5. There's more to February and March than George Washington Carver and Marie Curie

6. Got privilege? Leverage it as an ally online!

Those are just some off the top of my head ideas, I'm sure you people working out there in real science communication can think of better ones, but you get the idea. Now go forth, my friends, and get to work. ScienceOnline isn't going to invent chocolate air without your help.

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You "Lean In" to Puke. You Organize For Change.

I have no problem with leaning in. Really I don't. If you are going to puke on someone's shoes, you had best lean in a little, lest the spatter hit your own glorious footwear.  And Zuskateers know that it's just sadly necessary to give someone a proper shoe-puking now and again, if only for the sake of our own mental health.

But if it's real, substantive change we're after, then we'd best be talking about organizing and collective action. In all cases, it is most heartily recommended that one know something of one's history. Our foremothers' struggles and triumphs are inspirational, to be sure, but they are also instructional.

Do not waste your time, energy, or cash enriching Sheryl Sandberg with her corporatized vision of a pseudo-feminism for individuals. Do not Lean In. Do read Susan Faludi's excellent critique of that whole hot mess situating it in history dating back to the Lowell "mill girls" in 1834. I must confess I did not know this:

The mill workers went on to agitate against an unjust system in all its forms. When Lowell’s state representative thwarted the women’s statewide battle for the ten-hour day, they mobilized and succeeded in having him voted out of office—nearly eighty years before women had the vote. Mill women in Lowell and, in the decades to come, their counterparts throughout New England threw themselves into the abolitionist movement (drawing connections between the cotton picked by slaves and the fabric they wove in the mills); campaigned for better health care, safer schools, decent housing, and cleaner water and streets; and joined the fight for women’s suffrage.

Now that is far more interesting than that Leaning In bla. If those women, in the 1800s, through collective action, could get a dudebro out of office without even having the vote, imagine what we could accomplish today with the vote. If only we organized. And worked together. And stopped thinking of success as something that individuals obtain, for their own self-interests.

 

Hat tip to @KMBTweets for the link to the Faludi article. Follow @KMBTweets on twitter. You will not be sorry!

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Young and Healthy? Your New Year's Resolution: Buy More Insurance!

Welcome to 2013, Zuskateers, and yes, I want you all to buy more insurance, pronto!

I'm not talking car insurance; if you have a car, you no doubt already have it insured. I'm just going to assume you have it insured properly. I'm not talking health insurance either because whatever your situation, there's probably not a whole lot you or I can do about it, even with that socialist Obamacare that's ruining America even as we speak.

And I'm not even talking about gun insurance, which is a dream that may yet some day come true.

Nay, the insurance I speak of is life and long-term care insurance.

If you are really young and healthy, you probably have neither, and this is not good. Every day that goes by increases the risk that you/your family members will need to use this type of insurance, and decreases the likelihood that you will qualify to purchase it, at least at anything like an affordable rate.

Let me give you an example. Some time in my late thirties, my employer offered employees the option to purchase long-term care insurance for themselves and/or for family members, including parents. The insurance was also portable, meaning I/family members could take it with us if/when I left that employer. I was concerned about planning for my mother's future and so we applied for the long-term care policy for her. Myself? I was hale and hearty, and saw no need to "waste" my salary on long-term care insurance premiums. Within two years I had a stroke and that, Zuskateers, was the end of my lifetime opportunity to buy long-term care insurance.

Mr. Z's company recently offered a policy to employees and spouses. Before filling out the application proper, I had to answer three questions, one of which was "have you ever been denied for long-term care insurance?" and another of which was "have you ever had [cancer, heart attack, stroke, etc.]?" A yes answer to any of the three questions leads to this instruction in large bold print: Do Not Fill Out This Application. That's because a yes leads to  automatic denial.  And you don't want to be denied for long-term care insurance if you hope to someday get long-term care insurance. Not that you will be able to get it, what with the cancer/heart attack/stroke stuff. This is known as irony. Of the two of us, I am more likely to need long-term care, and need it sooner, therefore of course the insurance companies will only sell it to Mr. Z. This is why you must buy the insurance when you still can't foresee any need for it.

So Zuskateers, if you are still pre-cancer/heart attack/stroke/other medical disasters, and you have a chance to get yourself some long-term care insurance, you buy it. You make room in your budget, and you buy it. (After you make sure that it is a good policy that actually provides useful benefits.) Do you have any idea how much assisted living costs? I'm not talking nursing home care, I'm talking assisted living. Or in home care? This stuff is pricey. I assure you, it is not too early to start learning about the various types of senior living options. If it's still awhile till you need this information for yourself, you may need it for a parent or other elderly relative sooner than you think.

Just don't kid yourself that you are going to stay your same hale and hearty present self for the rest of your life. This is known as magical thinking.  Injuries, accidents, illnesses can happen in a flash and change your life forever.  Yes, you can eat well and exercise and take care of yourself the best you possibly can, but Fate can have its way with you, and that you can not control. So: long-term care insurance.

The other piece of the insurance pie is life insurance. You're young, you can't imagine what's the need. What will you do with it? You'll be dead after all, won't you? Okay, first of all: life insurance pays out immediately after a death. Those folks are prompt. So if nothing else, your family members will have ready cash on hand to cover your burial expenses. Second: are you a two-income family? You are, right? I don't think there are many 1-percenters reading this blog. What will your family do if one of those incomes is suddenly lost through death? How will your surviving partner/kids cover the bills, the rent/mortgage, everything? Hint: life insurance will help.  Are you a single parent? How do you expect your children to be cared for if something happens to you? I'm sure you have someone in mind to look out for them if the unthinkable happens, but wouldn't it be much better if these kind souls had an insurance benefit to help provide for them?  Yes, it would.

Again I use myself as an example: I have a life insurance policy that is provided through my disability insurance (that itself came through my last employer). If something happened to me, this would help Mr. Z compensate for the loss of my disability income. This insurance policy, however, is only in effect until age 65. Ideally I would purchase something else to compensate for the fact that this policy will go away someday - except, of course, insurance companies aren't thrilled about insuring people who have had strokes. Safe to say it's best to buy your insurance before you've had any major health issues.

So my young and healthy Zuskateers, your New Year's resolution: get thee to an insurance agent. Get some quotes from several agents. Learn about long term care policies, learn about life insurance, learn about the level of coverage you need now to protect yourself and your loved ones.  I mean it.

The gyms are all going to be way too crowded the first two weeks of January anyway. You might as well take this time to begin your insurance research.

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All Good Things...Eldercare Version

You’ve been traveling on the Enterprise E(ldercare), when one day you burst into your therapist’s office confused, upset, wanting to know what’s going on, what the hell you are supposed to be doing, and why she was on the holodeck with Worf. You feel at a loss, half-recalled pieces of the past and visions of your future mixing with your present. In short, you have become unstuck in time.

You were perfectly fine with your role in Engineering; serving drinks in Ten Forward; trying to corral tweens Jean-Luc, Ro Laren, and Guinan; or just being a red shirt. But now the Enterprise E(ldercare) has been ordered to investigate an anomaly in the Nursing Home System of the Senior Living Zone. Off you go. And there it is, a large anomaly threatening to consume you, your ship, and your elder. You go in for a closer look and…

Suddenly, you are back in your youth. The anomaly is bigger, but you are stronger, more confident, maybe even a bit arrogant. You take the Enterprise D(evilmaycare) out against explicit orders to see what's going on. You drive it around late at night, with too many of your friends in it, hepped up on synthahol. You ignore the jeering fools on the sidelines as best you can. You set off for Far Point University with barely a "make it so". On the way you run right over the trappings of your childhood once carefully hoarded by your elder.

Wait! That was a dream! Wasn't it? But it felt real. Who was that callous ass who paid so little regard to the feelings and concerns of others? And why was that anomaly so damn big?

Whoa! You’ve been put out to pasture; your joints are creaky, your hair is white, and you've got early onset Irumodic Syndrome. But you remember, you remember, you remember...there was an...an anomaly...your family is visiting, you desperately need to communicate to them the importance of going back there, because you were just there, it is real, it is not a dream, it is happening now. And they speak soothingly, and promise to take you there, and...

No, you are back in the present! That's just a vision of the future, some projected bad acid trip. You do remember the past. If only people would listen to you when you tell them it's bigger in the past...

And you're back there, and you are taking Enterprise D(evilmaycare) further and further out ...

Into the future, where your kids and ex-wife remind you that you that Irumodic Syndrome is causing your brain to deteriorate, and this is all in your head.  But they promise to take you for a ride anyway, and that goddamn son of your is driving the Enterprise E(ldercare) and after a spin around the block he insists it’s time to go home and you say "no, no, we have to go to the Devron System!" and you become increasingly agitated and they say we were already there and we're on our way back and here's some haldol and wait those aren't your kids and those aren’t Starfleet uniforms and a voice whispers to you that the only way to understand the anomaly is with a letter-call-visit (LCV) beam...

You are talking to the staff of the nursing home where your elder is now staying. You suggest a more aggressive LCV beam to deal with the health care bureaucracy and to fight depression in your elder, making physical therapy more effective. Your family needs professional support in this, and some sort of data organizer. And you think...

That you should use a LCV beam all the way out here at Far Point University And Beyond. Yes! Make it so!

And waking from the haldol you insist you do remember the Devron System, you must go there, the LCV beam is absolutely critical, and they wheel you to the holodeck and set up the Wii bowling...

And now in the present you realize that the LCV beams from all three time periods are together creating the anomaly, which is indeed a temporal anomaly. But the LCV beams must not be disengaged, they must be made stronger in each time period. (Your therapist tells you to ignore that little voice which says you are going to be responsible for the destruction of humanity, that’s just internalized homophobia.)  Together the LCV beams create a static warpshell and blammo!

You find yourself in the present, wishing that when you’d gone to Far Point University And Beyond you could have somehow brought the Enterprise D(evilmaycare) back to the spacestation a bit more often. The little voice in the future, the one that whispered about the LCV beam, was also going to tell you how to arrange things so that people can do useful work and keep their elders close by, and not have to worry about their own elder care years, but it stopped short. All you can do is share your time-travel story, finally join the poker game – and keep that LCV beam going.

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Easy-Peasy Reproduction of Gender & Race Norms!

Somewhere in the Twitterz a link popped up to this slideshow presentation:

Academia to Entrepreneur: How and Why to Leave Academia

It's a decent enough slide presentation and you'll learn a little about Mendeley along the way. Near the end there's a slide titled "Engineers" with 9 pictures variously titled "What my friends think I do", "What my parents think I do" etc.  You are supposed to enjoy the hilariosity of each group's total misconception of who engineers are and what they really do.

Let's ask who the "I" of the photo captions is.  Is this slide addressed to you at all? Depends upon who you are.  If you are a white male, the answer is yes! In the first photo, we see that what your friends think you are doing is sitting around on a couch gaming - you, a white male, and all your white male buddies. In the "What my parents think I do" photo at least there is one female, with three male figures, all white, looking at construction plans.

The fourth photo is of a young, slightly overweight white boy wearing glasses, non-fashionable clothing, and sitting in front of a computer.  The caption reads "What girls think I do."   Engineers are boys, and they're white boys, too. There is no corresponding picture for "What boys think I do".  There is, however, one for "What kids think I do."  So you can be a kid wondering what the grown-up (white male) engineer does, or you can be a girl wondering what the (white) boy does, but you can't be a boy wondering what the girl (of any color) does because that would be...

Well that would just upset our gender norms. And consequently wouldn't seem funny to most of us.  The "what girls think I do" is funny only if you accept the premise that the speaker is, indeed must be, a white male who can't get a girlfriend. The girls he cannot attract would, of course not be engineers.

In the last photo we see "What I really do":  a grown up white man, sitting in front of a computer.  This is so non-inclusive, and so non-representative of the multitude of things engineers do, that it makes me want to cry.  This one slide, with very few words but very strong images, hammers home the tired old gender and race stereotype of the engineer as a lonely white male in front of a computer.  It's not funny, it's sad and wrong. No one should ever use this visual again, except as an illustration of how easy-peasy it is to do gender and race norming without even trying.  I'm fairly certain that wasn't the intent of the person who put this slideshow together, but it is indeed the unfortunate outcome.

The only non-white person that appears in this slideshow is a floating head shot of Aretha Franklin in a slide making a point about respect. She is used more or less as an icon or signifier of the word respect, and has no relation to what engineers or scientists do. This use, combined with the total exclusion of people of color from the imagery of who engineers are, makes me unhappy.

It takes an effort to be inclusive, but it is an effort every speaker should make. If you aren't sure that your speech or presentation is free of unintentional bias, ask someone you trust to review it for you to be sure - especially when illustrations or pictures are included, but for language too.  Or I may have to come puke on your shoes.  I can understand that people may not see the bias themselves, but by now we all should be aware that it could be there. We all have a responsibility to try, to educate ourselves so we become more aware, and to ask for help before we send our words and chosen images out into the world. Don't be part of the (lazy-ass) easy-peasy bias reproduction machine!

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Are You A Mentor? Or A Dementor?

Contrary to popular belief, dementors are not just imaginary creatures who live in J. K. Rowling’s imagination and the Harry Potterverse.  Anyone can be a dementor, at any time, to anyone.  Most of us, given the choice, would likely rather be a mentor than a dementor, I think.  But can you recognize the signs – in yourself, or in another?  Herein I offer a wee guide.

Continue Reading »

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When to Tell? Who to Tell?

The most awesome Hermitage asked in a recent post

Ignoring the fact that knowing who to even complain to, and to what purpose, is not always clear, how bad does something have to be before you are compelled to take a stand? Should the criteria be severity, or simply how easy something is to prove? Should you always do the right thing, or should your career come first?

I wrote a long comment that sort of turned into a mini-post.  I'll reproduce it here. My answer was written assuming that what was being complained about was harassment or discrimination.  One main point I wanted to get across is this:  DO NOT WAIT until you have been harassed or discriminated against to try to figure out what you should do when you have been harassed or discriminated against.  Read and educate yourself about your school or workplace's relevant policies and procedures, understand how things would officially be handled and what that would imply for you.  Go talk to someone at the office of diversity or the equal opportunity office (where a complaint might be likely to be handled).  If your university has a women's studies department, ask them for resources to help you understand the situation women in science face in academia and how to respond to harassment and discrimination (tell them you don't need to read high theory, you need practical stuff about dealing with douchebags).  An informed woman scientist is one who is less likely to be harassed, and more likely to be able to aid a colleague who is dealing with a problem.

Okay, here's the rest of what I wrote over at Hermitage's place.  I encourage you to go read her post and the comments there, too.  Continue Reading »

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But I Want To Earn Everything All On My Own Merits! #scio11

At SciO11, Sheril Kirshenbaum, Anne Jefferson, Joanne Manaster, and Kathryn Clancy did a great session titled "Perils of blogging as a woman under a real name".  (See summary here.) The discussion ranged over a lot of topics, and near the end, someone in the audience said "I don't want to get a [job/fellowship/grant/whatever] because of affirmative action, I want to get it on my own merits." I said, why do you imagine that the dudes getting those jobs now all got them all on their own merits?

Not that they aren't qualified, but do you imagine they had no help along the way, that there was no one pulling levers for them, no one setting them up, no one greasing the wheels for them, no one opening doors and helping them glide along? Why do we imagine everyone else who gets stuff got there all by their lonesome with no assistance from anyone else? I don't even know what the fuck it means to get somewhere all on your own merits. You can't even learn to wipe your own ass all on your own merits.

UPDATE:  Hermitage's post on this same topic is tremendously awesome and full of much wisdom.  Please read.

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If You Must Buy A Gift This Holiday Season...

Dec 08 2010 Published by under Geekalicious, WWZD

...why not get someone a sassy upcycled "one-of-a-kind fabulous handbag you'll enjoy carrying...[with designs] based on images from women's history, including suffragettes, aviators, artists, and scientists."

Where shall I find such, you ask?  At Pennamite Purses and More.  She is awesome.

No science-themed purses available at the moment, but the hat ladies purse is fab.  I also like the Janet Scudder purse, which I would totally buy if I had not just gotten myself one that is perfect for the taper-centered household.  Will post pic upon arrival.

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But What If The Science Cheerleaders Save Just One Girl?

Alex Dunphy (frustrated):  (mumbles stuff about math equation) Oh, this stuff is so hard!
Cute dude math tutor: Don't worry, you'll get it!  There are lots of women scientists!
Alex Dunphy (alarmed): But aren't they all fat?
--Modern Family, 11/24/2010

Okay, let's play what if. What if the Science Cheerleaders are responsible for making just one girl stick with her science & math classes - isn't it all worthwhile then?

Let's say the Science Cheerleaders do keep one girl in advanced science or math classes, but make three other girls feel like they have to pornulate themselves in order to be 21st Century Fembot Compliant While Doing Science, and make five d00ds feel like it is perfectly okay to hang up soft porn pictures of sexay hawt babes in the lab and harass some colleague because hawt science women WANT to be appreciated for being sexay and smart! - is it still worth it?

At K-State we ran a science camp for middle school girls. One summer there was simultaneously a football camp and a cheerleader camp for kids who were just a little older than our science kids. Our camp was called GROW, for Girls Researching Our World. All these kids mingled in the cafeteria. At the end of lunch one day, one of the football camp boys approached a small group of our science camp girls and asked them if they were there for the cheerleader camp (because why else would they be there?) "NO!" shouted one of them, who was a bit ornery and feisty. "No way! We're here for GROW!"  "Grow? What's that?"  "GROW, as in grow up, get a good job, and make a lot of money!" I doubt that young girl would have been inspired to explore science by a group of science cheerleaders (which is not to say she might not have been excited, in another venue, to meet some professional cheerleaders.)

Girls who had been at our camps could also sign up, throughout the year, to go on excursions to various engineering/science-related facilities, where they would get to see how professional scientists and engineers put their training to use in the workplace right there in companies in their own home state. They met with women scientists and engineers in those companies, who hosted the tours, had lunch with them, and told them stories about their lives. The comments we got back on evaluation forms - we did evaluations for all these events, pre and post evaluations, and long term follow up to see what impact the program was having - showed something really interesting and consistent over the time. The girls LOVED meeting women in the place where they worked. They loved seeing the clothes that the women wore to work - in many cases they were astonished to see how NORMALLY the women scientists and engineers dressed, that they looked just like "normal people", that they got to wear jeans, that they looked so comfortable at work, they they got to use so many cool gadgets and play with computers at work. They LOVED hearing stories about how the women got interested in science. And they LOVED hearing stories about what the women did in their spare time - that they had pets, went to church, played sports, volunteered in their community, what hobbies they had, etc. In short, that they did things not unlike other people the girls knew, and not unlike things they themselves were interested in doing or aspired to doing. What kind of car do you drive? they wanted to know. How much money do you make? How many years did you have to go to school? Did you have to study a lot of math? What do you do for fun?

They got to ask all those questions of women they had come to know in the course of a day through talking with them and seeing them in their workplace - seeing them in charge, seeing them as active scientists and engineers explaining and demonstrating their work to them. The women were real people, and the girls could imagine themselves growing up to become just like them. This was the feedback we got, over and over - "I could be just like them. I could wear jeans and work for x company and have a dog and drive a nice car and have my own home and do science!" And some of these girls went on through the high school girls program and on to college.

Now that is a lot of hard work and it takes years. And you have to evaluate along the way and keep refining your programs and adding stuff and fixing stuff and you have to work with the local school districts and teachers - because you also have to work with the teachers and the guidance counselors on doing a better job for the girls, to keep them in the science and math classes, and to advise them properly in choosing colleges, and because you want to track course taking and compare with control groups who haven't been to your programs. And sometimes you think, hey, x is a great idea! And you do it, and your evaluation shows it was a total flop, the kids hated it, or it didn't even register on their consciousness, or it had the opposite impact of the one you wanted, or it sent a completely different message than what you thought you were sending.

One great activity we did was this: the Career/Life Game. The girls had to roll a dice at the start, and they got a certain amount of money based on the roll - because not everyone starts out the same. They had to make choices on how to spend their money, and time. Work in high school? use the money to buy a car, or go to college? Get married? Have kids? Got to grad school? There were a lot of complex choices they had to make, but it was all in the form of a game - they had to roam from station to station, and they could collect "diplomas" if they made it through various degrees. After it was over we discussed their choices and outcomes with them, and whether they were happy, and what they might have done differently, and how starting out with more or less money affects your life chances, and what you can do about it.

I guess we could have just brought in cheerleaders to jump around and yell "Gooooooo SCIENCE!" But those kids, mostly from low-income families, needed and deserved a helluva lot more than that. IMHO.

We did a program for the girls and their guardians. It was originally going to be girls and their mother but then we realized a lot of these girls might be raised by a grandmother or other family member and we didn't want to limit it or make them feel bad, so we just said guardian. We talked about what guardians could do to keep girls strong and interested in math and science, and gave them materials with resources in the community they could draw on. We talked to the girls about what THEY needed to do to keep themselves on track for careers in science, and why those careers were worthwhile for them. We said stick with math - almost anything you want to do will call on math skills. We would play a game where we'd invite any girl in the audience to name a career and then we'd say why math was important for it. We'd always get supermodel - then we'd explain how if you were a fabulous rich supermodel you didn't want someone else managing your money and cheating you - you needed to be smart and financially savvy and know what was going on, so you'd get rich and stay rich - and that meant math.

There is, indeed, no reason why a woman can't be both cute and smart. But that was hardly the issue facing the young girls I saw in Kansas. It was lack of knowledge, lack of access, teachers and guidance counselors who didn't know what was necessary for sci/eng careers and didn't think it was all that important anyway to steer young girls towards them, parents who were overwhelmed and didn't know about these careers or how to take the first step to get their kids on the college prep pathway let alone to a sci/eng career, young girls who were just dying for adults to invest some time and energy in caring for them and their bright minds and what they were capable of doing.

Science Cheerleaders is, at the very best, an outreach program for already-privileged girls who are already interested in science/engineering but who are afraid it will make them look like fat lesbians.

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WWABD? Help This DonorsChoose Project!

Nov 04 2010 Published by under Donors Choose, Positive Actions, WWZD

On a recent trip to my hometown area, I had a chance to chat with my beloved Aunt Betty.  She ran a small drygoods store in a town by the river for well over 50 years.  She only very recently retired, and handed the reins of the store, which is mostly unchanged by time, to a local potter who now displays her wares and those of other local artists there.  Aunt Betty's store was beloved among generations of children for two things: milkshakes, and "penny candy".

In our chat, Aunt Betty told me that young children would often come in to the store with a handful of coins and ask, "what can I get for this?"  Aunt Betty would tell them, "well, you have a quarter, a dime, and a nickel there.  That makes 40 cents." Then she would tell them what each type of candy cost and let them pick and keep track of how much their choices had added up to.  Sometimes they would pick something that took them over their total. So she would say, if you want that, you have to put something back.  Always she would guide them through the choices - and the math involved.  In this way she helped them learn to add and subtract, and how to count money, make change, and make choices on a tight budget.

So what would Aunt Betty do?  What would you do, if you didn't have the opportunity to help kids the way Aunt Betty did through her store, but you read about a project like Mrs. T's:

My Students: Counting money is not only a skill taught in school, but it is a skill vital to everyday life. Children tend to have a hard time with counting money, particularly calculating change. Please help put money in the hands of my students!

My class is a diverse group of learners! I am a second grade teacher in a public inner city school. Most of my students come from economically disadvantaged families. My classroom is an inclusive classroom serving regular education students, special education students, mentally gifted students as well as many of them being English language learners. Many of my students' parents do not have the money to provide their children with even basic school supplies. Thus, the financial burden of supplying 20-plus students with these materials falls on me. After spending the money on these everyday necessities such as paper, notebook, and pencils, it is not possible to purchase other materials that can assist and enhance learning.

My Project: I am requesting a class set of play, but realistic looking, coins and paper money, as well as coin stampers. This will allow my students to hold money as they learn to count and make change, not only making the lesson more enjoyable but more realistic. The coin stampers will be used independently by the students working in small math centers. I am also asking for a class set of large magnetic coins and paper money so that I am able to use them in the front of the class and be seen by all of my students. This request also includes geometrical shapes that once again can be used to enhance an otherwise paper and pencil lesson into a hands on experience for my students. Finally this proposal calls for various math games to increase active engagement and enthusiasm in the classroom.

With your help, I will be able to provide my students with various hands on experiences throughout our math lessons. These materials will not only serve to create an enthusiasm for learning but will enhance participation and learning on a daily basis. I appreciate the time you have taken to read my proposal. Thank you for your consideration. My students are definitely worth the effort!

My students need 12 Math supplies to enhance math skills, particularly, in the areas of counting money, and geometry.

Only $304 is needed to completely fund this project, but any amount you give will help.  Remember that your dollars will be matched by the good folks at HP!!!!!  Five dollars is ten dollars!  If you have already given I thank you most kindly, and if you have been thinking of giving, maybe today you can ask, WWABD, and go for it!!!

My giving page is here, or use the link in the sidebar widget, and you will find Mrs. T's project on the giving page.  If this project doesn't interest you, there are lots of other good ones on other Scientopia bloggers' pages or other science blogger giving pages.

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What Could You WIN If You Donate To DonorsChoose???

Oct 21 2010 Published by under Donors Choose, Positive Actions, WWZD

Maybe you've read my initial post on the Science Bloggers for Students DonorsChoose 2010 challenge, maybe you've seen the widget in my sidebar that takes you to my giving page.  Maybe you've already donated at my giving page (thank you!) or another blogger's (thank you!), or are thinking about doing so.  You wanna help the kids!

But hey, there's something in it for you, too!

I have been reading (and will soon be reviewing here on the blog) Lise Eliot's very interesting new book, Pink Brain Blue BrainZuskateers who donate toDonorsChoose via my giving page will have the opportunity to receive a free copy of this book! Free!  Book!  FREE!  BOOK!!!

Here's how:

Donate.

Get your receipt from DonorsChoose via email.

Forward a copy of your receipt to me at:  bobtownsuz AT yahoo DOT com.

All donors will be entered into a random drawing to win a free copy of the book.  Up to five books will be given away, so you've got a great chance to win one!!!!

Why You Want This Book:

The book synopsis says, in part, " By appreciating how sex differences emerge - rather than assuming them to be fixed biological facts - we can help all children reach their fullest potential, close the troubling gaps between boys and girls, and ultimately end the gender wars that currently divide us."  Wow, that's a lot of promise for one book!  You gotta read it and see what's in it.

But mainly, until you get my full review, here's the one sentence Zuska take on it:  It's the geektastic version of "what to expect when you are expecting" - now with satisfying smackdowns of science woo-peddlers!!!

So donate.  Remember, skip that half-caf pumpkin latte today, give $5 to DonorsChoose which becomes $10 through the generosity of our friends at HP, and presto!  you're in the running for a FREE! BOOK!   

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What Could Your DonorsChoose Dollars Do?

Oct 20 2010 Published by under Donors Choose, Positive Actions, WWZD

If you were so inclined to lay down a few bucks at my giving page, just what kinds of good might you be doing?

A classroom in New Castle needs calculators.

Remember coloring with crayons when you were six?  How nice if your school could afford them.  $173 to go, and a bunch of six-year-olds in Reading, PA will have crayons and art supplies.  Just $251 to go to help some kids in Pittsburgh learn through the senses!

You know you don't have to fund the whole thing.  Your little bit will be added with someone else's little bit.

PLUS!!!!!!!!!!  GUESS WHAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!

EVERY donation to "Science Bloggers for Students" will be MATCHED by the good friends of DonorsChoose at HP!  Yes!  You give $5, it's like giving $10!!

How it works:  At the end of this blogospheric philanthropic craziness, DonorsChoose will automatically double the amount of dollars donated to the Giving Page of every participant.  Every one of you fabulous souls who donates, whether to my giving page or another in the SBforS showdown, will receive a gift code via email.  You can then redeem that gift code on a project of your choice.  The gift code will be for a portion of the total match.  For example, if the challenge raises $30,000 overall, and there are 1,000 donors, each donor would receive a $30 gift code.  Is that not fantabulous???????

We're already at about $20k from all the participating blogs so you could have some nice fun money to be philanthropically generous with at the end of all this just by giving $5 or so.  Wouldn't that be nice???  I think so!!!

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DonorsChoose 2010: Science Bloggers Raising $$$ for Students!!

Oct 20 2010 Published by under Donors Choose, Positive Actions, WWZD

October means Halloween, but it also means, for many science bloggers, DonorsChoose!

Because a lot has been going on IRL for me, and I am feeling not creative, I am totally going to swipe all of Janet Stemwedel's introductory prose about this worthy philanthropic challenge. If you don't want to read the whole thing, the short message is: kids & teachers in public schools need your help.  Donate.  Or spread the word, if you can't donate.  My giving page here. Other participating bloggers here. Info on prizes for those who donate will be forthcoming.

In the science-y sectors of the blogosphere, folks frequently bemoan the sorry state of the public’s scientific literacy and engagement. People fret about whether our children are learning what they should about science, math, and critical reasoning. Netizens speculate on the destination of the handbasket in which we seem to be riding.

In light of the big problems that seem insurmountable, we should welcome the opportunity to do something small that can have an immediate impact.

This year, from October 10th through November 9th, a number of science bloggers, whether networked, loosely affiliated, or proudly independent, will be teaming up with DonorsChoose in a philanthropic throwdown for public schools.

DonorsChoose is a site where public school teachers from around the U.S. submit requests for specific needs in their classrooms — from books to science kits, overhead projectors to notebook paper, computer software to field trips — that they can’t meet with the funds they get from their schools (or from donations from their students’ families). Then donors choose which projects they’d like to fund and then kick in the money, whether it’s a little or a lot, to help a proposal become a reality.

Over the last few years, bloggers have rallied their readers to contribute what they can to help fund classroom proposals through DonorsChoose, especially proposals for projects around math and science, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars, funding hundreds of classroom projects, and impacting thousands of students.

Which is great. But there are a whole lot of classrooms out there that still need help.

As economic experts scan the horizon for hopeful signs and note the harbingers of economic recovery, we should not forget that school budgets are still hurting (and are worse, in many cases, than they were last school year, since one-time lumps of stimulus money are gone now). Indeed, public school teachers have been scraping for resources since long before Wall Street’s financial crisis started. Theirs is a less dramatic crisis than a bank failure, but it’s here and it’s real and we can’t afford to wait around for lawmakers on the federal or state level to fix it.

The kids in these classrooms haven’t been making foolish investments. They’ve just been coming to school, expecting to be taught what they need to learn, hoping that learning will be fun. They’re our future scientists, doctors, teachers, decision-makers, care-providers, and neighbors. To create the scientifically literate world we want to live in, let’s help give these kids the education they deserve.

One classroom project at a time, we can make things better for these kids. Joining forces with each other people, even small contributions can make a big difference.

The challenge this year runs October 10 through November 9. We’re overlapping with Earth Science Week (October 10-16, 2010) and National Chemistry Week (October 17-23, 2010), a nice chance for earth science and chemistry fans to add a little philanthropy to their celebrations. There are a bunch of Scientopia bloggers mounting challenges this year (check out some of their challenge pages on our leaderboard), as well as bloggers from other networks (which you can see represented on the challenge’s motherboard). And, since today is the official kick-off, there is plenty of time for other bloggers and their readers to enter the fray! [Note to TSZ readers: I am totally getting in the game late.  But you still have time to join in!]

How It Works:
Follow the links above to your chosen blogger’s challenge on the DonorsChoose website.

Pick a project from the slate the blogger has selected. Or more than one project, if you just can’t choose. (Or, if you really can’t choose, just go with the “Give to the most urgent project” option at the top of the page.)

Donate.

(If you’re the loyal reader of multiple participating blogs and you don’t want to play favorites, you can, of course, donate to multiple challenges! But you’re also allowed to play favorites.)
DonorsChoose will send you a confirmation email. Hold onto it; some bloggers (including me) will be offering donors nifty prizes. Details about the prizes and how to get them will be posted here soon!

Sit back and watch the challenges inch towards their goals, and check the leaderboards to see how many students will be impacted by your generosity.

Even if you can’t make a donation, you can still help!
Spread the word about these challenges using web 2.0 social media modalities. Link your favorite blogger’s challenge page on your MySpace page, or put up a link on Facebook, or FriendFeed, or LiveJournal (or Friendster, or Xanga, or …). Tweet about it on Twitter. Sharing your enthusiasm for this cause may inspire some of your contacts who do have a little money to get involved and give.

Here’s the permalink to my giving page.

I’ll be sharing links to other giving pages, plus details about some fabulous “thank you” prizes, soon. Thanks in advance for your generosity.

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Dear St. Kern: A Modest Proposal

Found this blog post about the child labor bill being passed in May of 1918. My grandfather would have been 15.

...no minor between 14 and 16 years shall be permitted to work more than 51 hours a week or more than nine hours a day. Such children shall also be compelled to go to a vocational school at least eight hours each week, the time they spend in such school to be counted in the 51 hours.

The local newspaper at the time explained why everyone hated the new law and how it was just bad, because the poor widows were going to starve since their little boys could not go off to work now as breaker boys now that the mine had eaten their husbands/daddies. And besides that work is not really that hard, and they want to do it, and all the smart kids these days want to be breaker boys!

The occupations are usually not too laborious and are not harmful as is attested by the fact that many of the richest, brainiest and most able men of the coal region today are men who worked in the breakers and mines when they were boys under the age of that provided by the new child labor law.

You might say they had a passion for picking slate, and that it made men out of them, and slate picking doesn't stop at 5 on Fridays.

St. Kern, you don't have the balls to follow your vision where it is truly leading you. If we are going to exploit workers around the clock, let's do it right.

Let us return to the days before May of 1918. Young children can be trained to run gels and staff the centrifuges of our nation's cancer research centers. Piecework and child labor made this nation strong once before. Let them be wielded once more as mighty weapons in the War on Cancer. A beneficial side effect is that many children, like the slate pickers, will likely be exposed to carcinogenic and mutagenic substances, since the little dickens just aren't always so careful and clever as they think they are. So they can work for us while simultaneously serving as de facto research subjects, and think of the cost savings with that kind of vertical integration! The child-worker experiments can replace some of those costly animal research protocols, and we won't need to spend so much on feeding and housing critters that can't load and unload a centrifuge or wash up some glassware for us.

If we build little cancer company towns, employ grad students/postdocs and their children, and pay them all in cancer scrip that can only be spent at the St. Kern Cancer Company Trading Post, which is located right next to the Cancer Research Factory, they really never need leave the worksite nor want for anything that the Cancer Factory cannot provide.

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