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10 August 2013

The Physiology of Physics

Did you hear about the study which basically said that the reason why there are so few women in tech jobs is... (drum roll, please) because there are so few women in tech jobs.  Lack of role models, that is.  It all started with the premise that there were not as many women in tech jobs, because they weren't taking the courses in school that were needed for such careers, like Physics.  Some researchers set out to find out whether that premise was true and if so, why.

Let me tell you, I can tell you that Mr Haines back at West Babylon HS would have been a good reason not to continue taking Physics beyond high school.  To this day, I remember concepts like equal force.  He would lean his hand against the wall and say that the wall was exerting the same amount of pressure on his hand as he was exerting on the wall.  And then, he said as he did a quick release and return, "I can even fake it out.  If the wall did not always exert exactly the same pressure that I'm exerting, it would have fallen on me."

So, yes, he was a good Physics teacher, but he knew he was teaching to Physics-phobic teenagers,  apathetic and pathetic idiots.  He had been a Marine (my late brother-in-law used to say there are no ex-Marines, but then, would go on to say, "...except for... and ...") and he scared me with his barking denigrations and sneering disdain.  He had called a classmate whose last name is Boxmann, "Boxboy."  He slid the chalk down the greenboard at such an angle to emit a long screech to witness girls cover their ears and screech in response. He would look at us slyly sideways with a smile and say that women belong at home, barefoot and doing laundry on a stone by the river.  He scoffed at kids' delight in popping bubble wrap, saying, "Yes, the experiment is a success.  Cause the same event and effect the same result.  Press down on the plastic bubble and hear it go, 'pop!'."

I knew I didn't have the smarts nor the passion for science, and he confirmed that.  And, you would think with such a recommendation that he would be a sexist jerk, but he readily acknowledged proudly that his best student ever had been a girl named Pat (Sorry, Pat, back then, I thought I would remember your name for all time but now can't recall your surname.  If I had waited to write this a few years from now, you would be reduced to a girl whose name started with a "P".)  I had hoped that he was role model enough for her to be inspired to continue taking Physics in college and become a "woman in a tech job."

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