NYT: in politically correct computer science programs, equality trumps ability

Now that women are starting to outnumber men on most college campuses, feminists are in the hunt for fresh opportunities to further their agenda.

The New York Times reports on their efforts in a field traditionally dominated by men: computer science. Apparently, programming is just not cool enough for girls:

“The nerd factor is huge,” Dr. Cuny said. According to a 2005 report by the National Center for Women and Information Technology, an academic-industry collaborative formed to address the issue, when high school girls think of computer scientists they think of geeks, pocket protectors, isolated cubicles and a lifetime of staring into a screen writing computer code.

This image discourages members of both sexes, but the problem seems to be more prevalent among women. “They think of it as programming,” Dr. Cuny said. “They don’t think of it as revolutionizing the way we are going to do medicine or create synthetic molecules or study our impact on the climate of the earth.”

Certainly, few people would study computer science if there weren’t useful things to be done with computers. But if your goal is to be an doctor, materials engineer, or climate scientist (why does the media feel the need to push global warming in every science article?), why would you spend four years studying the theoretical foundations of information technology? Virtually all scientific and engineering disciplines require working with computers, but only one specializes in transforming real-world problems into code.

If computer science is not about your programming skill, then what is it about?

Moving emphasis away from programming proficiency was a key to the success of programs Dr. Blum and her colleagues at Carnegie Mellon instituted to draw more women into computer science. At one time, she said, admission to the program depended on high overall achievement and programming experience. The criteria now, she said, are high overall achievement and broad interests, diverse perspectives and whether applicants seem to have potential to be future leaders. [Emp. mine]

“Broad interests,” “diverse perspectives” and “leadership skills” are politically-correct code words for affirmative action. Once skills are thrown out, what exactly is left? Imagine if airlines and hospitals announced that they were changing hiring criteria from flying ability and medical skill to “diverse perspectives?” Whom would you prefer to have written the software running your airport’s radar – someone with programming experience or “broad interests?”

The NYT implies that computer science is about more than “a lifetime of staring into a screen writing computer code.” That’s certainly true, but ultimately, programming is about sitting on front of a computer screen for years on end and solving highly abstract problems. Whether due to social or genetic factors, more men happen to be suited to that environment than women. (As an application developer in a corporate environment, I can attest to this.) Denying that reality carries a cost: aspiring students who become victims of political correctness because they are found guilty of having the wrong chromosome.

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One Response to NYT: in politically correct computer science programs, equality trumps ability

  1. a chick

    Great write-up. I actually agree with you and I happen to be a black chick who works in the IT field (insert chuckle here). I’m very logical by nature so I took to programming easily. However it just wasn’t fulfilling enough for me to stick with as a career option. I would have dropped IT altogether if I hadn’t discovered web design as a way to feed my creative and imaginative side.

    When I read that article the first thing I thought was: let’s cut the b.s., living in front of a computer screen and agonizing over code structure just isn’t appealing for most women. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s ok for men and women to be different in some ways – because we are just that: different in some ways.

    You’re right about the choice of language like “diverse perspectives” and what not. But I would take it a step further and say it just shows that the overarching socialist agenda that has been parading around higher ed. for the past couple decades is finally infiltrating the tech fields (that sounds hardcore doesn’t it). But it’s true.

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