Tuesday, June 18, 2013

To Infinity and Beyond!

--On this day in 1983, Sally Ride became the first American woman to travel to space.  How well I remember that day.  It seemed like we were on a threshold, like women could do anything.

--In some ways, you could argue that women have continued to shatter barriers.  We've had women secretaries of state, after all.  It's conceivable that a woman could become president in my lifetime.

--But we still have so far to go.  If you want to read more stories that document this depressing reality, go here to see why women leave Philosophy soon after the Intro courses that they take and here to read about women in academic careers of all sorts and the limits that they face.

--Still, on this day 30 years after Sally Ride took her historic flight, let's stop to reflect how far we have come.  When I packed my bags and went to undergraduate school two months later, the Norton anthologies had very few women writers.  I wonder if the newer editions have achieved parity yet?

--When I went to undergraduate school, female students were still subject to sexual harassment by professors, and they often had very little recourse.   Now a sexual predator can lose his/her job.

--Of course, we still have lots of work to do to keep students safe from sexual predators who are fellow students.  Lots of educating to do about alcohol and safety.

--But overall, female students should be finding fewer doors closed to them.  If a student wants to be an astrophysicist, her gender shouldn't hold her back.

--It's important to note that other elements may hold her back, specifically this country's abysmal record of doing adequate educating of students of all genders in science and math subjects before they get to college.

--Could we develop programs for 19 year olds who suddenly decide they'd like to be an astrophysicists?  Could we bring them up to speed with an intensive program?

--How about people at midlife and beyond?

--Keep Alzheimer's at bay!  Become an astrophysicist!

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