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WA Pushes Back On Microsoft and Code.org's Call For Girls-First CS Education 288

theodp writes On Tuesday, the State of Washington heard public testimony on House Bill 1813 (video), which takes aim at boy's historical over-representation in K-12 computer classes. To allow them to catch flights, representatives of Microsoft and Microsoft-bankrolled Code.org were permitted to give their testimony before anyone else ("way too many young people, particularly our girls...simply don't have access to the courses at all," lamented Jane Broom, who manages Microsoft's philanthropic portfolio), so it's unclear whether they were headed to the airport when a representative of the WA State Superintendent of Public Instruction voiced the sole dissent against the Bill. "The Superintendent strongly believes in the need to improve our ability to teach STEM, to advance computer science, to make technology more available to all students," explained Chris Vance. "Our problem, and our concern, is with the use of the competitive grant program...just providing these opportunities to a small number of students...that's the whole basic problem...disparity of opportunity...if this is a real priority...fund it fully" (HB 1813, like the White House K-12 CS plan, counts on philanthropy to make up for tax shortfalls). Hey, parents of boys are likely to be happy to see another instance of educators striving to be more inclusive than tech when it comes to encouraging CS participation!
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WA Pushes Back On Microsoft and Code.org's Call For Girls-First CS Education

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 12, 2015 @11:37AM (#49038667)

    but you can't make her interested in code.

    • by Timothy Hartman ( 2905293 ) on Thursday February 12, 2015 @11:48AM (#49038771)
      Leave Sarah Jessica Parker out of this!
    • by theodp ( 442580 ) on Thursday February 12, 2015 @12:36PM (#49039295)

      New UW Study [frontiersin.org]: "College undergraduates who were not computer science majors (in order to focus on recruitment) entered a classroom in t(he computer science department at Stanford University, which was decorated in one of two ways (Cheryan et al., 2009). For half the participants, the room had objects that other undergraduates associated highly with computer science majorsâ"Star Trek posters, science fiction books, and stacked soda cans. For the other half of participants, the room contained objects that other undergraduates did not associate with computer science majorsâ"nature posters, neutral books, and water bottles. Women in the room that did not contain the stereotypical objects expressed significantly more interest in majoring in computer science than those in the room that did fit the stereotypes. For men, the environment did not affect their interest in computer science (Cheryan et al., 2009)."

      • by nikhilhs ( 1292298 ) on Thursday February 12, 2015 @12:41PM (#49039365)

        Wow, I didn't know it was so easy to manipulate female students. No wonder society is so quick to remove all agency and responsibility from them.

        • Well, you didn't get your acceptance letter from Carnage Mellon University engineering program tossed in the trash without being told until later, didya? Happened to my wife.

          I would bet that you've never ever been discouraged from tech one bit. But now you are an expert of how to behave when discouraged? Yeahno.

          • by crbowman ( 7970 )

            Actually I was. I had no role models and no encouragement. I was ignored. I was ostracized by my peers. In high school I was told I didn't have the math skills to continue in the honors math track. Not once, but twice. I insisted I was going to stay in that track. I had to take summer school to so. I was also moved from honors biology to regular because "I wasn't honors material". I ended up get a 93% after I was moved. There were universities to which I wasn't accepted. I was touched inappropria

      • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Thursday February 12, 2015 @07:34PM (#49043573)

        Women in the room that did not contain the stereotypical objects expressed significantly more interest i

        Given my own experience with being a CS major, I can't think that anyone superficially motivated by posters (one way or the other) would have maintained interest long enough to graduate with a CS degree...

        I don't understand why this study was done though. In real life none of my CS classes were in places with Star Trek posters or the like - they were in classrooms that when our class was not held, were used by other classes - so they were basically boring plain classrooms. So in theory that should mean more women in my CS graduating class, right? Yet there were only two.

        All of my work was done on computers in labs similarly unadorned, just computers that you customized how you liked for your login.

    • by BobSutan ( 467781 ) on Thursday February 12, 2015 @04:46PM (#49042089)

      In all seriousness this is a very valid point. Women and girls just aren't interested in STEM. And research now shows it's less to do with nurture than previously thought. Christina Hoff Sommers cited two studies in a recent video that more or less confirmed the final premise of this documentary:

      http://rixstep.com/2/20111127,... [rixstep.com]

      The idea is that the more free and safe a society becomes, the more likely men and women are pursue their biological predispositions. This manifests as men having careers in hands-on jobs & STEM fields and women in jobs with high social quotients.

    • Dear Boys: F.U. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The message to boys: "Bring your daughter to college. Bring your daughter to work. Get more girls in STEM.... Boy, you useless P.O.S., if you can't throw a ball or knock somebody down on a ballfield, go smoke some dope and forget about being useful to society."

      "Oh, and BTW we are only drafting BOYS not GIRLS the next time there's a big war."

  • Enough (Score:5, Insightful)

    by spire3661 ( 1038968 ) on Thursday February 12, 2015 @11:38AM (#49038675) Journal
    Stop trying to spend money to get girls to code. The ones that want to will. Spend that money on BOTH genders to promote CS.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

      The dissenter here seems to be missing the point. Yes, there is a need for more funding of all CS education. It would be lovely if money grew on trees and the budget was infinite, but it isn't. On the other hand, that's quite separate from the issues facing girls and the desire of Microsoft and others to spend some cash trying to address it specifically.

      Does he expect anyone looking to address this issue to fund the entire CS programme for the whole state? It's like giving a kidney to your sister than getti

      • Re:Enough (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Totenglocke ( 1291680 ) on Thursday February 12, 2015 @11:48AM (#49038773)
        Just like Microsoft and Co, you're missing the "issue". Girls aren't taking programming classes because they don't WANT to. Discriminating against boys won't magically make girls want to learn how to write code.
        • Re:Enough (Score:5, Informative)

          by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Thursday February 12, 2015 @11:56AM (#49038857) Journal

          Just like Microsoft and Co, you're missing the "issue". Girls aren't taking programming classes because they don't WANT to.

          There is far too much speculation and not enough actual research in this area. "Girls don't program because they were discriminated against starting in the 80s!" Really? "Girls just don't want to code!" Is that a guess? "All we need to do is spend more money and girls will become programmers!" How about you spend some of that money on researching why girls don't want to become programmers?

          Seems like the research should be done before budgeting millions of dollars for a program you don't know will work.

          • Re:Enough (Score:4, Insightful)

            by HBI ( 604924 ) on Thursday February 12, 2015 @12:09PM (#49039013) Journal

            My wife has a 140+ IQ, is a math whiz and can code. She just hates the whole mindset and would prefer to work in other areas. Coding actually makes her angry, even though her results are pretty good.

            I ask her about this (and my daughters) - all fully immersed in geekery as a result of me, and they don't want to do it. No one discouraged them - my daughters always had rocket ship IT and were encouraged in using it to the fullest. They just don't like the idea and would rather do biology or psych or chemistry.

            This whole push is a gender politics thing with pretty much zero merit. No one can demonstrate how flushing money down this hole will result in more girls liking coding.

            • by k6mfw ( 1182893 )

              She just hates the whole mindset and would prefer to work in other areas.
              [snip]
              They just don't like the idea and would rather do biology or psych or chemistry.

              Seems like biology, psych, chemistry is where the action is. Programming is simply a tool used in these professions. Coding just to do coding can get old really fast, especially for someone 140+ IQ.

          • "There is far too much speculation and not enough actual research in this area."

            That's not true. There's a good amount of research on the topic, it's just you'll never hear about it since the mainstream media largely leans to the left. Christina Hoff Sommers cited two studies in a recent Factual Feminist video that more or less confirmed the final premise of this documentary, which is chock full of research relating to this subject:

            http://rixstep.com/2/20111127,... [rixstep.com]

            The idea is that the more free and safe a

      • by digsbo ( 1292334 )
        So you're acknowledging that the intended funding is exclusionary, because there's not enough to include boys, too. Nice. And you make an analogy that girls are like a diseased patient. Nicer.
      • On the other hand, that's quite separate from the issues facing girls

        What issues are facing girls? Do you know? I've heard hypothesis ranging from "girls are not genetically disposed to programming" to "society is keeping them out."

        Even simple surveys are rare on this issue. Instead we have people advocating spending millions of dollars on a program that could make things worse (for example, coercing people to do things tends to not make them want to do it). Let's see some research before we start acting like we know what's wrong.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          Girls don't want to get into technology. Feminists can't accept that. So we spend millions to distort the market, millions that should be spent on far more vital problems.

          A real scientist revises his theory when the data proves him wrong.
          • Girls don't want to get into technology.....A real scientist revises his theory when the data proves him wrong.

            A real scientist presents data. Where's yours? Maybe they do want to, but are being discouraged. You don't know because you're coming to conclusions before collecting data. Stop it.

            • by Bengie ( 1121981 )
              Like great artists, great programmers program because they have to. Everyone else can shove off and stop messing with what I love. If you really want to program, nothing will stop you, who cares about the rest.
            • Actually, wouldn't you need to demonstrate that the observed outcome (less women in technology) is due to some form of bias or discrimination also a conclusion made with out evidence?

              For example, We can observe that on average males are taller than females. One could hypothesis that this is due to some social factor (i.e., lack of encouragement to grow at a young age) or any number of other causes, but to claim that any cause is correct and then require someone to prove you wrong if they want to claim it
              • Actually, wouldn't you need to demonstrate that the observed outcome (less women in technology) is due to some form of bias or discrimination also a conclusion made with out evidence?

                Yes.

                It would probably be better of the poster to whom you responded to have phrased their statement as "Girls aren't getting into technology . . ." which is simply just stating the observed outcome we can measure.

                Yes.

            • by OhPlz ( 168413 )

              Most of the people on this site are likely working in the tech industry or studying to work in the tech industry, if discrimination were a prevalent problem there would epic whining about it here.

            • Girls don't want to get into technology.....A real scientist revises his theory when the data proves him wrong.

              A real scientist presents data. Where's yours? Maybe they do want to, but are being discouraged. You don't know because you're coming to conclusions before collecting data. Stop it.

              Well, the claim that women are being discouraged is being made, so I'd rather like to see data that supports that claim. Lots of people would. The problem is that the social science majors who are making the claim don't understand even undergrad level stats. Maybe if they had studied STEM majors instead of humanities there'd be more females in STEM.

      • No one said Microsoft (or anyone else) has to use the school system to push their program. Would creating after school programs or summer coding camps aimed at young girls not be a reasonable solution?

        If the school doesn't want to play ball it doesn't mean that Microsoft can't use other avenues to achieve their goals.
      • Re:Enough (Score:4, Insightful)

        by crbowman ( 7970 ) on Thursday February 12, 2015 @12:22PM (#49039149) Homepage

        No, we get it, we just don't think it's OK for you to accept funding for a public benefit with the condition that it discriminates against a part of the population. It wouldn't be acceptable to do this for boys it's not acceptable to do it for girls.

        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

          What you are saying is that you can't help any individual or group without discriminating against anyone else, which to you is unacceptable.

          If you want to donate an organ to a family member you can't, it has to go into the general pool an be offered to the first person on the list. If you want to give your child and your neighbour's child a ride to school you can't, you have to set up a school bus service for all children. If you want to donate money to the local cat rescue charity you can't, you have to do

          • by goose-incarnated ( 1145029 ) on Thursday February 12, 2015 @01:27PM (#49039871) Journal

            The real kicker that's going to bake your noodle in 3 years time: After millions of dollars and at the expense of thousands of young boys, the demographics don't change (or perhaps they change but not in a direction you thought it would). What do you do then?

            Let's face it - you've marketed this "thing" to girls at great cost in money and at great cost to society on the evidence-less assertion that all the girls need are more appealing marketing to find CS desirable. What the hell are you going to do come 2018 and the girls still aren't interested? More aggressive marketing? More exclusionary policies? More money? All three?

            Or will you just give up? For a long while now I've been pointing out that those societies which are more oppressive towards women (Iran, India, etc) have more women in CS. That's right - in countries where women have no choice they are found in CS. In other countries, such as most western countries, where women are told from birth that they can do whatever they like they go ahead and do something other than CS.

            That data point alone illustrates that the situation is more complex than you think, and simply spending money, excluding boys and general misandry might noe be enough to get girls to go into CS. All over the world, girls with no choice or say in the matter go into CS, and girls with choice and say in the matter choose something else.

      • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

        I don't think he is. He probably wanted to say "keep your sexism out of our classrooms" but instead had to say something politically acceptable.

      • by Rich0 ( 548339 )

        The dissenter here seems to be missing the point. Yes, there is a need for more funding of all CS education. It would be lovely if money grew on trees and the budget was infinite, but it isn't. On the other hand, that's quite separate from the issues facing girls and the desire of Microsoft and others to spend some cash trying to address it specifically.

        I fall somewhere in the middle on this.

        If there is a culture issue where we are systematically discouraging women to go into CS-like areas, and spending helps to fix that root cause, then I'm for it. That could include education sessions for elementary school teachers, or updates to textbooks if they have cultural issues, and so on.

        On the other hand, I'm not a big fan of things like girl-only classes/programs/scholarships/etc. First, I think that is treating the symptoms - we might be getting more girls i

    • Spend that money on BOTH genders to promote CS.

      That is not one of the options. Here are the choices:

      1. Spend the money to help girls learn to code.
      2. Don't get the money.

      These corporations are not donating money out of the good of their hearts. They are donating to deflect political pressure to change the composition of their workforces, and donating some money to the schools is way cheaper than hiring less qualified workers.

      • by plopez ( 54068 )

        And donating a pittance is way cheaper than actually paying to support the educational system which benefits them. They seem to have a sense of entitlement.

      • If the corporations care so much what's stopping them from creating after school programs or summer camps targeted at young girls?

        They don't need to go through the school system to effect change in young children.
    • Anecdotes are not data, but here's one from a colleague of mine who was involved with a computer science masterclass series for school-age children:

      Each school was invited to send up to two people. In the first year, they almost all sent two boys. When asked why, a large number replied with variations on 'girls can't code.' The second year, they said you can send up to two, but if you send any then you must send at least one girl. That year they got a roughly even gender ratio, with the girls spread ro

      • by Bengie ( 1121981 )
        Filling a room with 50% girls is quite different from filling a room with girls who really want to be there and were not tricked.
      • Anecdotes are not data, but here's one from a colleague of mine who was involved with a computer science masterclass series for school-age children:

        Well here's one that is NOT from a friend. My current wife[1] has a three-year computer engineering diploma from before I met her. She works as a book-keeper, which required her to complete a three-month course. She makes about a third of what a computer programmer makes. She was taught to program in Java, she can assemble PC's, solder circuitry, etc. Yet she works for far less money as a book-keeper. Even though she completed all her programming courses she has no will to actually use any of it to make mon

    • Exactly. The WA Superintendent for Public Schools has it right. The amount of money being funneled into education is way too small. One shouldn't deny opportunities to motivated boys just to encourage girls to code. Only after enough money is in the pipeline for both sexes, will more girls become motivated to follow in the footsteps of other girls to start coding and learning computer science. However, computer science shouldn't be pushed until after the more need for more general and comprehensive sci

    • by Bengie ( 1121981 )
      I wouldn't mind more marketing to get girls interested, but don't spend more in-class resources on girls.
    • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

      The fundamental question that remains unanswered is why is there a gender imbalance. And the answer to that question will upset people, which is why there isn't much research into it.

      It could be something as simple as "girls don't like computers and never have" in which case there's nothing we can do to encourage them - if they don't want to do it, we can't force them. (This will anger all the equality/feminist groups).

      But, the answer could be more sinister - perhaps boys intentionally force girls to quit,

  • Make it mandatory (Score:4, Insightful)

    by CurryCamel ( 2265886 ) on Thursday February 12, 2015 @11:40AM (#49038693) Journal

    In this day and age, basic computer skills should be a mandatory field of teaching. Right? As a side-effect, it solves this issue for every other minority aswell.
    Assuming they don't have ergonomic mouses.

    Or does K12 mean university level?

    • In this day and age, basic computer skills should be a mandatory field of teaching. Right?

      In many schools it already is. My son attends public school in San Jose, California, and is in 4th grade. They are learning Scratch programming as part of the mandatory regular curriculum. They made room for it by dropping dead end topics like cursive writing. They learn enough cursive to sign their name, and that's it. Instead, they learn to type, and then learn to code.

    • Don't confuse computer skills with writing code.

    • All you need to do is limit the admission of boys to be equal to the number of girls in STEM programs. Then, perfect gender equality is guaranteed and no girls are forced into programs they don't want. Perfection achieved! The excess of boys can just go into basket weaving. I mean, it's not like we have a need for so many STEM students.
  • You can't offer education to a single gender intentionally without opening yourself up to discrimination lawsuits.

    This push to get girls in tech should be aimed at the real problem which is the culture of female girls and females in general that don't take tech seriously in the first place.

    They're not being excluded... walk amongst the nerds and ask them if they hate women... they don't. But the female of the species doesn't see tech as cool... unless there is a lot of money. And so they avoid it.

    Really, th

    • This push to get girls in tech should be aimed at the real problem which is the culture of female girls and females in general that don't take tech seriously in the first place.

      Its not "culture."

      This should be obvious to anyone whose lived 4 or more decades in a mixed society.

      Men tend to define themselves by their actions.
      Women tend to define themselves by their relationships.

      Any attempt to change these natural tendencies through manipulation is a disservice to our nature, and probably should be considered criminal if the State does it.

  • by Totenglocke ( 1291680 ) on Thursday February 12, 2015 @11:47AM (#49038757)
    Girls have the same opportunity to sign up for these classes as boys do, they simply CHOOSE not to. Like it or not, girls and boys find different things interesting.
    • Exactly. Where is the government program to encourage more stay at home dads?
    • by Viol8 ( 599362 )

      Hey, are you trying to confuse people with the truth?? You can knock that off right this minute my friend or we'll send the right-on thought police around!

  • "way too many young people, particularly our girls...simply don't have access to the courses at all," What happens after a generation of pushing STEM exclusively to women? Will there be programs for male-only STEM education? I doubt there will be. The access has always been equal. Interest, on the other hand, is not.
  • by cjonslashdot ( 904508 ) on Thursday February 12, 2015 @11:57AM (#49038859)
    It won't be long before deep learning systems are taught to code. Coding is a dead end. Teach kids fundamentals - math, science, writing.
  • by CQDX ( 2720013 ) on Thursday February 12, 2015 @11:59AM (#49038887)

    With laptops available under $300 (cheaper than many smart phones!) there is essentially no barrier to learning to code.

    If they don't have the desire to learn to code on their own they won't cut it in the work place, their resumes will be screened out on the first pass. Why bother?

  • Trees (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MerlynEmrys67 ( 583469 ) on Thursday February 12, 2015 @12:03PM (#49038921)
    The trouble with the maples
    (And they're quite convinced they're right)
    They say the oaks are just too lofty
    And they grab up all the light
    But the oaks can't help their feelings
    If they like the way they're made
    And they wonder why the maples
    Can't be happy in their shade

    And of course the sad ending

    So the maples formed a union
    And demanded equal rights
    'The oaks are just too greedy
    We will make them give us light'
    Now there's no more oak oppression
    For they passed a noble law
    And the trees are all kept equal
    By hatchet, axe and saw
    --- Rush 1978
    Remember, you can never make yourself better by having someone else chop the other person down. Very powerful song - still resonates today.

    • Geddy Lee Should stick to his main skills of playing bass (very skillfully, BTW) and singing (if you can stand his voice), as his thoughts on forestry seem to be just as good as his political ones. In many cases, cutting down tall trees is the right thing to do for a healthier ecosystem. But what do I know, I just happen to live in one of major wood producing states in the country.

      I worry about people who get their philosophical ideals from rock stars. But not too much, they're usually harmless.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

      Can you explain how providing funding for girl's education harms boys? They are not taking anything away from boys, simply giving something extra to girls. Are you saying that the increased number of women in the job market will harm men, and so women should just stay at home and not work?

      • Can you explain how making coloured folks sit in the coloured section of the bus harms them?

        *I* Can, but it seems from your position above that you think that would be just fine..

        Your second attempt at a strawman is of course totally unrelated. women have the *advantage* of more socially acceptable *choices* including
        stay at home parenting - somethings they choose to do that (and yes, sometimes there is no choice, just like sometimes there is no choice
        for a husband to go to work in a shitty job).

        NO one is t

  • This isn't about equality, or fairness. If it was then the same people should be trying to fix the problem with the male dropout rate between their Associates and Bachelors degrees that's created a fairly wide education gap in women's favor. The drop out rate gap started in 1996, and there is plenty of data to look at to show how, and possibly why it became existent. But no, because Women fled CS faster in the 80's then men did we have to waist our time on an issue that's much harder to understand, and with
    • This isn't about equality, or fairness.

      This is Microsoft, Facebook, and Code.org. What they see is a huge, untapped pool of potential engineers. What they are thinking is, "if we can get them into the programmer pool, there will be more programmers overall and they will be cheaper."

      It isn't about fairness, or gender, it's about long-term thinking on how to depress wages.

  • Girls-first or generally, I don't know if pushing a single field or skill ("coding") is the right idea. "Coding" is increasingly becoming stratified due to outsourcing of routine stuff. You have people working on the core guts of operating systems, VM platforms, etc. who are very high end and always in demand, but you also have a huge glut of mid- and low-level coders. These are the corporate IT developers doing Java or .NET CRUD-style applications, and it's becoming pretty clear that outsourcing is killing

  • Misandry (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MikeRT ( 947531 ) on Thursday February 12, 2015 @12:32PM (#49039237)

    Boys are systematically falling behind women across academia and they are obsessed with getting more women into one of the few areas where boys are still doing well. No equivalent zeal for the question of why boys are falling behind on most other subjects. If the roles were reversed with legislators assaulting the few academic strongholds where girls were still excelling, the center and left would be frothing at the mouth about the obviously misogynistic priorities of the government.

    There should be absolutely no government concern for women in CS until boys are back up to parity with girls in public education and universities. None. Women already are starting to dominate Law, Medicine and other big former bastions of professional men. The idea that girls face any meaningful barriers to getting an education that leads to a career in a field with solid remuneration is a very sick joke.

    Women, particularly feminist women, need to do some serious "privilege checking" on the education issue.

  • by Perl-Pusher ( 555592 ) on Thursday February 12, 2015 @12:46PM (#49039419)
    These companies aren't really concerned about a lack of coding talent. They are concerned that pay is too high and will use any excuse to flood the market with people of these skills especially H1B visa holders and women who traditionally have been easy prey when it comes to pay disparity. Microsoft couldn't careless about your child. There plenty of women in my CS classes in college many of them thought they would be rich developing websites. I have a had 3 women co-workers that became school teachers so they could spend more time with their kids. There are many reasons for the disparity. Lack of opportunity isn't one of these.
    • I make a good living fixing the results of those H1B visa holders and other low paid but not very disciplined developers.
  • by fhage ( 596871 ) on Thursday February 12, 2015 @01:06PM (#49039629)
    Why wait for youngsters to graduate in a decade? Women should make up 95% of the H1-B visas issued for 10 years to make up for the historical 5:1 imbalance in the program.

    A significant part of the brogrammer "culture" has been imported. The H1-B program has amplified the problem.

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