Thursday, April 30, 2009

Good Surprises

There has been a lot of good news in the news in the past month (well, if you ignore the swine flu, the economic crisis, the torture memos...). Mostly, I mean there have been a lot of surprising domestic political advances, mostly on gay rights, that make me happy enough that I can momentarily ignore that the swine flu was recently found in Maryland:

And in more local news, I received a U. Maryland dissertation fellowship for one semester of the coming year. That news came by snail mail in which I usually only receive bills...

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Continued Title IX Confusion

Last week there was an article about applying Title IX to the sciences in the Washington Post. I'm only just now writing about it since while I found it to be a frustrating read, I couldn't figure out why. Yes, it's an article that I disagree with. But that in itself is not frustrating to me. I appreciate well-reasoned arguments, even if I'm on the other side. Therein lies the problem - despite its condescending and arrogant tone, the article is illogical and incorrect at times. The author seeks to make her point through alarmism and absurdism instead of through reason. Perhaps she would have benefited from more participation in the sciences.

The author opens with these lines: "What's good for women's basketball will be good for nuclear physics. To most Americans, that statement will sound odd." Quantum physics would seem odd too. Happily, oddness is not usually used as a tool for evaluation.

She describes Title IX as "the law that requires universities to give equal funding to men's and women's athletics." In fact, simply looking at the first paragraph of the Wikipedia article on Title IX would disabuse her of the notion that the law was meant to apply directly to or only to athletics:

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, now known as the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act in honor of its principal author, but more commonly known simply as Title IX, is a United States law enacted on June 23, 1972 that states: "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance." Although the most prominent "public face" of Title IX is its impact on high school and collegiate athletics, the original statute made no reference to athletics.


I'm unclear why she brings this issue up now (the Obama quotes she references are from October). Since we discussed it last time, I've been thinking about how Title IX could be applied without resorting to quotas (which I disagree with). It seems to me that it's all about equal spending of money (isn't it always). In fact, many departments already make up for the small number of women in their departments by spending extra money on women in general (e.g. sponsorship of Grace Hopper). Certainly, this could be taken into account.

But perhaps some of my disagreement with this article does stem from my disagreement with her argument. The final paragraph makes an argument I have made many times... for the other side:

American scientific excellence, though, is an invaluable and irreplaceable resource. The fields that will be most affected -- math, engineering, physics and computer science -- are vital to the economy and national defense. Is it wise, to say nothing of urgent, for the president and Congress to impose an untested, undebated gender parity policy at this time?

Yes.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Day of Silence

About today:

The National Day of Silence brings attention to anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment in schools. Each year the event has grown, now with hundreds of thousands of students coming together to encourage schools and classmates to address the problem of anti-LGBT behavior.

Yet another reason to support action on this problem - 11 year old Carl Walker-Hoover killed himself on April 6th after anti-gay bullying in his school. Gay or not, anti-gay words are used to bully students in schools where they should be safe to learn. Teachers have the responsibility to do something about this. Please allow participating students to remain silent and consider speaking up yourself.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

CS is King

More bad news for business departments... more good news for us.

There are already signs of a renewed interest among students in science and technology. For the first time in six years, enrollment in computer science programs in the United States increased last year, according to a university survey last month. At Stanford University, the number of students taking the introductory computer science course increased 20 percent this year, said Eric Roberts, a professor of computer science.

(From: NYTimes article)

Monday, April 13, 2009

Ghana - A Summary In Photos


Sunset over the Sahara on the plane to Accra.


A new mall in Accra, complete with a ShopRite and fancy cars. Neither were there the last time I visited six years ago.


The central library at the University of Ghana, Legon.


You can buy anything on the street.


An ad from the most recent presidential election.


The coast at Anomabo.


Cape Coast town.


A slave dungeon at Cape Coast Castle.


The new presidential palace. It's shaped like a stool - the traditional seat of power.


A tree that looks like a giant rohdedendron at Ashesi University College.