Thursday, November 12, 2009

Slaton and Bix

From the readings "Equipped for life" [1] and
"Technical education at land-grants institutions during WWII" [2] :

a) "Isolation made the experience [of women in engineering] hard" [2, p. 120]
... And the quotation from a woman graduated at Cornell, in the 1930s:
"She must be ready to do alone the work the men do in groups (...) [men working] with her are far more interested in flirting than in checking computations. She must be prepared for a pretty lonely academic career..." [2, pp. 120-121]
This still happens today. Perhaps not that much [?], but in my personal experience, that quote was like a portrait of my own experience in computer science and engineering.
And what is more ... in my country, the interaction, behavior, and jokes of some male faculty members, in and outside of the classroom, make the case even worse! Certainly, there were also many of them who had empathy, professionalism, respect, and understanding.
That's why when I came to Purdue it was so impressive for me to see the respect between male faculty members and women students. I feel treated as a human, not as a thing.

b) "Wouldn't be nice if a woman could understand such matters?" [1, p. 743]
The above quote comes from a dialogue between two women and the need of changing a burned out fuse.

That reminded me that, when I was in second year of college, I had this hunger for knowing more about some technical courses (Java, Flash, computer graphics, etc). At that moment, Z branch of the university was not giving them. I asked myself a similar question, but regarding to get the knowledge of how to repair and assemble a computer.
I mentioned to a male classmate my interest in taking a computer assembling/repairing class. He chuckled and said "... but you cannot ... you are a ___". And when he tried to say the word at the blank space, he shut up. I didn't care, I transferred to the other college branch and took all the technical classes I wanted there (including the computer repairing class).

The good thing thing of that Home Economics program was that women having this hunger to obtain more technical knowledge could have the way, at that moment, to do so through that fostering environment. The hidden 'bubbles' are the consumerist intention of the program and the undervaluing of their work (not being called 'engineering'), as discussed in class.
From the reading of Amy E. Slaton, "Reinforced Concrete and the Modernization of American Building, 1900-1930":

a) It was funny, for me, Potter's "inventory for personal characteristics" (p. 58).
Let's see, according to the inventory I have (1) ''black hair color'', (2) "average" height, (3) ''nasal'' voice tone, (4) ''foreign not-categorized'' accent, (5) "lukewarm'' religion, and (6) a ''good'' aesthetic taste (whatever that means). With all these traits, I don't have the characteristics to be an engineer in Potter's mind.

b) I would like to point out this opinion of "Charles Ellis, a professor of civil engineering" that "declared memorization of formulas to be without merit as a teaching tool" (pp. 46-47). He (a) encouraged student initiative, and (b) preferred practical laboratory work above mere lectures. The reading mentioned his preference to teach "the behavior of structures through graphical analysis -- a means of describing the mechanics of materials with geometric notation (rather than algebraic terms) that had existed since the mid-nineteenth century" (p. 47).
His essential argument, according to the author, was that "effective engineering is not like scientific work in every respect, nor should it be. Where there is work (i.e., physical, technical, productive work) to be done, one needs not classical bodies of knowledge but 'the mental powers to cope with life's problems' (...)" (p. 47).
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