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Education PhD candidate: Objectivity in science is sexist.

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From Joy Pullmann at Federalist:

College science classes are hostile to women and minorities because they use the scientific method, which assumes people can find reliable truths about the natural world through careful and sustained experimentation, concludes a recent dissertation by a doctoral candidate at the University of North Dakota.

Laura Parson, a student in the university’s education department, reviewed eight science class syllabi at a “Midwest public university” and said she discovered in them a hidden hostility to women and minorities:

Instead of promoting the idea that knowledge is constructed by the student and dynamic, subject to change as it would in a more feminist view of knowledge, the syllabi reinforce the larger male-dominant view of knowledge as one that students acquire and use make [sic] the correct decision. More.

The dissertation’s abstract does not immediately signal the rottenness within:

Abstract: This study explored the gendered nature of STEM higher education institution through a feminist critical discourse analysis of STEM course syllabi from a Midwest research university. I explored STEM syllabi to understand how linguistic features such as stance and interdiscursivity are used in the syllabus and how language and discourses used in the syllabus replicate the masculine nature of STEM education. Findings suggest that the discourses identified in the syllabi reinforce traditional STEM academic roles, and that power and gender in the STEM syllabi are revealed through exploration of the themes of knowledge, learning, and the teaching and learning environment created by the language used in the syllabus. These findings inform and extend understanding of the STEM syllabus and the STEM higher education institution and lead to recommendations about how to make the STEM syllabus more inclusive for women. Dissertation.

But we go on to read,

Another aspect of the chilly climate is competitiveness, and the STEM syllabi were also framed as competitive courses, exemplified by grading on a curve, “The final grading scale may be curved based on class performance” (Lower level biology). Grading on a curve is one way that the literature has found to be competitive and discouraging to women and minorities (Shapiro & Sax, 2011). Finally, the competitive, difficult chilly climate was reinforced in the syllabi through the use of unfriendly and tough language, “Do not ask me to figure out your grade standing. I’ll be glad to show you how to do it yourself, but the homepage includes that explanation already” (Lower level geology). Like this statement, many of the syllabi used language that was unfriendly and reinforced the individualistic, difficult and competitive nature of the STEM classroom. Throughout the syllabi, the chilly climate was reinforced through language use and the selection of assessments and teaching methods.

So, if some can’t stand the heat, we just turn off the power to the kitchen!

At Federalist, Pullmann adds, regarding Parson’s claims,

In education theory this exhibits itself as a theory called “constructivism,” and teachers who subscribe to it say students should be set free to “construct their own knowledge” by exposing them to many different environments and giving them freedom to select their own courses of study and even lessons and reading material.

But cognitive research throws cold water over this outdated and ineffective theory about how people learn. It turns out that refusing to give students explicit instruction or set their course of study drastically increases minority achievement gaps. It also turns out that people do construct knowledge, but not independently; we develop knowledge best when it is directly and explicitly transmitted to us as an objective reality to digest. More.

But Pullmann, that’s a benefit, not a feature, as far as the education industry is concerned. For decades,  government will throw ever more money at educrats to “fix” the very problems that the industry now exists only to perpetuate. Discouraging objectivity in science students supports their goal.

And, overall, wow! This is right up there with Julie Shaw in Scientific American, on the benefits of post-fact science.  Let’s see now, we’ve also got a war going against falsifiability and Occam’s razor, plus a huge influx of feelgood fake physics stories and mounting scandals in peer review.

As we’ve noted, the real problem with all the “marchin, marchin” for science these days is that the troubles killing science are back at the desk. They are not caused by anti-science villains but by people the marchers would probably feel compelled to embrace and march alongside.

It’s like a drug. Get help, people, before you forget what sobriety felt like.

Note: I (O’Leary for News) am leaving it to whoever wants to jump in to make the point that women and minorities should be offended by the idea that they are not capable of thinking objectively. The main thing to ask here is not “Why is this idea stupid?” (But do go on and tell us, if you feel like it…)

No, the main thing to ask is, why is Parson’s view considered reputable and reasonable? If Big Science chooses to throw in its lot with educrats like these, it will have much to answer for.

See also: A scientist on the benefits of post-fact science

2016 worst year ever for “fake physics”?

Jason Rosenhouse: Multiverse is a “done deal,” Occam’s razor doesn’t apply

March for Science in Boston: Geek sign language to ponder

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6 Replies to “Education PhD candidate: Objectivity in science is sexist.

  1. 1
    kairosfocus says:

    You can’t make this stuff up!

  2. 2
    News says:

    kairosfocus at 1, I wish we had to make it up. It would have been great satire if it weren’t fact.

    Not only isn’t it made up but tens of millions of people whose children will be harmed are helping to pay for it.

  3. 3
    tragic mishap says:


  4. 4
    EvilSnack says:

    The dissertation’s abstract does not immediately signal the rottenness within: …

    Actually, it does, because the first sentence quoted from the abstract claims that it uses a “feminist critical discourse analysis”. That’s a red flag to anyone who’s paying attention.

  5. 5
    News says:

    EvilSnack at 4, sorry, we thought that was just a big typo. The gobbledegook meter went off. 😉

  6. 6
    mahuna says:

    Lo! these many years ago, I tested “above the 99th percentile” for both math and English, and so I assumed I was supposed to be a Science kinda guy. That turned out to be wrong: Science guys have to work harder than I care to.

    But once I understood how the world worked, I fit in just fine in the Social Sciences.

    So, if a student who happens to be female tries a couple physics classes and does NOT like them, there is nothing wrong with either her or the science of Physics. Last time I heard, we aren’t especially short of Physicists today. In fact, we have more than enough Physicists to spare a carload or 2 to waste grant money on crap that has no possible value to the society that’s funding the grants.

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