A couple days ago the local paper ran an editorial embracing a new program at the suburban Fairport school district allowing girls to opt to take tech classes in an all girl environment. The premise is that girls have a different learning style. But the motivation is that girls are underrepresented in tech classes.
I don’t disagree that in broad brush girls may have different learning styles. Yet I think we could also find other demographic slices or groups of individuals that would benefit from different learning styles on different topics. The schools would certainly be unable to accommodate offering all subjects in all learning styles. Classes are taught somewhere down the middle, and students at the edges have to cope. The reason for this exception is only that there are not enough girls opting for tech.
But are we fixing a problem that actually exists? Are girls turned off of or away from tech by “boy oriented” learning styles or are there other reasons girls don’t flock to tech careers? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying girls shouldn’t be in tech careers, and I know many who are quite skilled in the art. But I know many more who would rather slit their wrists than spend their days tweaking machines. It just may be the nature of the work rather than the style of learning the subject matter that causes girls to gravitate to other careers.
I’m reminded of a time when my son was just under two. We were headed to a friends’ home whose daughter was just his age. She was all excited that she would get to play with my son. He was all excited because he would get to plays with her toys. I don’t think it was that the evening didn’t cater to their individual learning styles. Rather, their brains were wired differently. Their desires, their motivations were different.
I desperately want people of any gender to gravitate to tech careers. I do think that many potentially talented people turn away from the field for a variety of reasons that might be correctable. But I think the notion that somehow the field (or any field) should be populated with proportionate numbers of boys and girls, whites and blacks, Protestants and Catholics, or any other groups is misguided.