Monday, January 3, 2011

New Year, New Possibilities

I decided to take more math. It is a New Year and I think that means that it is time for me to start something new.

One thing that I hear a lot from college and post-college female friends is that they miss science or math. This seems to break stereotype. Going to an all-girls high school, I had always heard that single-gender education and tailoring classes to "the way that girls learn best" allows girls to feel comfortable in math or science (or any field) and should help confidence and begin to rectify the gender gap in the sciences. Yet, there seems to be something wrong with that theory. A number of girls who enjoyed science in high school but went into humanities, art, or social sciences instead.

Some of them probably had issues in their math or science classes like I did (as I mentioned in "Circumnavigating the Wall"). Some of them just decided another path was better, and now have changed their minds, or wish they could reincorporate math and science back into their life. The real problem seems to be that the sciences require constant devotion. To finish as a physics major in four years at my alma mater, you had to start immediately as a freshman, otherwise you could not graduate in time. However, students often changed their majors to the humanities or social sciences after the first year. The problem was not that there were less requirements-- it was that classes in the humanities and social sciences can be taken concurrently. For example, one could take a 200-level Shakespeare class, a 300-level Chaucer class and a 400-level Literary theory class all at the same time, provided instructor consent and student devotion to the subject. With math and science, there is much more of an order of things; each level builds on the previous one and requires a rigid line throughout. Most of my female friends have a large variety of interests [1], and either did not want to sacrifice most of their other interests to science or were not sure that was the path they wanted to venture down.

So what should this group of girls do, who like science but have BAs or are working toward BAs in other fields? Taking science classes after a BA is regarded by other people as "useless," "inefficiant," or "a waste of time and money." I decided that I don't care. Today I registered at a local college and when my registration is processed I am going to sign up for a calculus class. I will probably never need advanced mathematics in my life, just as I will probably never need to know the philosophical standpoint of Pierre Bourdieu, which I studied in my Lit Theory class, but I think that it will enrich me as a person.

I picked the college because it was nearby, but also because it decided to offer German. None of the programs in my area had been offering it. I guess it's because German is primarily useful for classicists and students of philosophy, neither of which really exist at the local colleges [2]. German will help me get into graduate school and will also allow me (hopefully) to eventually read the German philosophers and writer's I like in their original language.

I hope the classes are not so full that I cannot get into them. Wish me luck!

  1. There are probably males in this position as well, I just do not know any of them. Most of the guys I know who have varied interests seem to have varied interests within the humanities, or are science majors who take a few classes in other disciplines but have never wavered in their devotion to science.
  2. There is a big university near me (which has great programs in both classics and philosophy), but unfortunately one cannot take many classes there unless one is an actual student at the university.

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