The fall quarter has just started, and I’m teaching the introductory Python classes again this year. Since for the first time this year we have multiple majors (computer science, gaming, and information assurance and security engineering) taking the Python classes, I decided to give them a survey asking three questions:
- What are you most excited to learn in this class?
- What are you most concerned about with respect to this class?
The majority of responses were expected, citing programming in general and Python specifically as the thing they were most excited about and the workload and grades as the thing they were most concerned about. But one response to the third question absolutely crushed me:
That girls do not get the same respect as guys. Not coming from instructor (sic), but from other male students.
I’m assuming, of course, that this was written by a woman. It was certainly written by a computer science major, since that’s what was indicated. And I have all sorts of mixed feelings about this response. Is it good that she already knows this attitude is out there? Is it bad that someone so young is already jaded? Can’t we get rid of this already?
Along those lines, I met with an advisee of mine today, also a computer science major. He was talking about his classes and that he feels like he’s doing well. He cited the fact that he had built a computer as something that was helping him. Then we had the following exchange:
Student: And, like lots of boys, I like games.
Me: And some women!
Student (visibly embarrassed): Yes, and some of them are really good.
When I was taking computer science classes in the 1980s I bumped into this a lot. I am stunned every time I realize that as much as some things change in technology, some things do not. I only wish they did.