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Education

Interviews: Ask Adora Svitak About Education and Women In STEM and Politics 155

samzenpus writes Adora Svitak is a child prodigy, author and activist. She taught her first class on writing at a local elementary school when she was 7, the same year her book, Flying Fingers was published. In 2010, Adora spoke at a TED Conference. Her speech, "What Adults Can Learn from Kids", has been viewed over 3.7 million times and has been translated into over 40 different languages. She is an advocate for literacy, youth empowerment, and for the inclusion of more women and girls in STEM and politics. 17 this year, she served as a Youth Advisor to the USA Science and Engineering Festival in Washington, DC. and is a freshman at UC Berkeley. Adora has agreed to take some time from her books and answer any questions you may have. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one per post.
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Interviews: Ask Adora Svitak About Education and Women In STEM and Politics

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  • I know! I know! Ask her about her implication on the future best seller "Barbie: I, against all odds, can be a computer engineer for Amazon in Seattle"!

    • I know! I know! Ask her about her implication on the future best seller "Barbie: I, against all odds, can be a computer engineer for Amazon in Seattle"!

      You've won Slashdot for the day. Congratulations!

  • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Thursday November 20, 2014 @02:00PM (#48427509) Journal
    In your talk you said that kids deserve high expectations.

    What help do you have to reach your high expectations? What should kids do who don't have the same help?
  • Child prodigies (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 20, 2014 @02:06PM (#48427579)

    To what extent do you believe child prodigies are merely products of their environment?

  • by Kohath ( 38547 ) on Thursday November 20, 2014 @02:11PM (#48427629)

    Do you believe in microaggressions? Why or why not? Is a belief in microaggressions helpful or harmful? To whom is it helpful? Who should worry about microaggressions? Who shouldn't? How can someone be certain they are innocent of committing microaggressions? If someone is accused of something like committing microaggressions, are there two sides that must be considered, or only one?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    STEM is such a big area. Where are the jobs???

    Daughter just complete BS in Math in 3yrs and cannot find a job. Now, is user support line on how to fill out a health insurance website at $10/hr.

    So what good is STEM student degree by a female, if their is nothing waiting at the other end??????

    • That's Because the Rich White Men have given all the STEM jobs to people from India using H1B Visas working for half the salary US Citizens would expect. Please note, (R) and (D) are in on this almost equally.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        This is uniformly true - it's easier to brain drain a developing country of its skilled labor than it is to pay appropriate wages to those domestic graduates who find themselves with immense, insurmountable student debt.

        It's very interesting how capitalism works in this instance - we instill values in our youth that they have to work hard and they'll get jobs matching their talent and grit, and we tell other countries that with a bit of investment in education and succeeding past simple industrialization th

    • by AIXadmin ( 10544 )

      STEM is such a big area. Where are the jobs???

      Daughter just complete BS in Math in 3yrs and cannot find a job. Now, is user support line on how to fill out a health insurance website at $10/hr.

      So what good is STEM student degree by a female, if their is nothing waiting at the other end??????

      If your daughter has a degree in mathametics then she should have no trouble learning and becoming a programmer. Success in life is correlated with tenacity. Not with the level of education.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Dear Adora Svitak,

    At 17 years of age, you do not have enough life experience to say anything of real importance about anything involving the greater issues facing society. It doesn't matter how brilliant you are or think you are. It doesn't matter how much of a rep has been manufactured for you by spinmeisters. You are simply too young to have any real perspective or ability to identify the machinations of those around you.

    One of the most dangerous things in the world is for someone to believe their own

    • You're young; therefore, all of your arguments are 100% incorrect.

      That is brilliant logic. You are a true genius.

      • by Archangel Michael ( 180766 ) on Thursday November 20, 2014 @03:01PM (#48428181) Journal

        No, that is not what he said. That is how you twisted what he said, which only shows that some adults act more like kids who haven't learned anything.

        For instance, What Adults Can Learn From Kids is a null point of view. ALL adults have been kids, so ... kids offer nothing new to adults. We can be reminded of what we already know, but that isn't really "learning".

        The concept of using kids to question Adults is a tactic used by people with an agenda of control. You see, it is easy to manipulate the young minds, and if you tell them something is so, they will believe it, and if you can convince adults that kids know more than they do, you can control the world. This doesn't mean kids cannot contribute. It also doesn't mean kids are less intelligent than adults. In fact, i know some kids who are smarter than many adults. Which says more about the adults than it does the kids.

        • No, that is not what he said. That is how you twisted what he said, which only shows that some adults act more like kids who haven't learned anything.

          No, it doesn't show any such thing; you arbitrarily decided that it does.

          In any case, he didn't respond to any specific arguments she made, and focused almost entirely on age, and then randomly concluded that the voting age should be 25. I do not think my interpretation was unreasonable in the least, given all that. If that person wants to come forward and clarify themselves, then fine.

          You see, it is easy to manipulate the young minds, and if you tell them something is so, they will believe it, and if you can convince adults that kids know more than they do, you can control the world. This doesn't mean kids cannot contribute. It also doesn't mean kids are less intelligent than adults. In fact, i know some kids who are smarter than many adults. Which says more about the adults than it does the kids.

          It's easy to manipulate anyone. That's why we have nonsense like the TSA, the NSA's mass surveillance, the Unpatriotic Act,

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

      Were you a child prodigy, author and activist? I wasn't, and I'm interested to here about her experiences.

      If you don't want to listen then feel free to ignore her article, but I'll see what she has to say before making a judgement. Age is no guarantee of wisdom or intelligence or experience.

    • At 17 years of age, you do not have enough life experience to say anything of real importance about anything involving the greater issues facing society.

      How perfectly appropriate that these choice lines should be posted by to Slashdot by an Anonymous Coward.

      The timing couldn't be bettered as well.

      We should certainly laud Mattel for deciding that 2014 is the year Barbie strikes out on her own as a career woman after 55 years and 150-plus jobs (including hating math and babysitting, with a welcome stint as a computer engineer in 2010).

      But Entrepreneur Barbie reminds us that --- like every other ostensibly inspiring incarnation of the doll --- her main role is to look pretty and wear lots of pink.

      In the end, both [Supermodel Barbie and Entrepreneur Barbie] are part of the same old problem. As 16-year-old feminist and former TED speaker Adora Svitak told Forbes' Denise Restauri this week:

      ''She encourages an unrealistic expectation of beauty grounded in narrow ideals --- whiteness, thinness, a lack of hair and an abundance of breast tissue --- instead of kindness, smarts, self-confidence, or athleticism.''

      Mattel's Latest Affront To Little Girls: Entrepreneur Barbie [forbes.com] [Feb 2014]

      I have nothing against padded bras in general. But my immediate thought in the store was, Why the hell does a teenage girl need one?

      The issue of the over-sexualizing of girls from an early age has come to the forefront with a recent news story about model Thylane Lena-Rose Blondeau posing suggestively for the cover of Vogue magazine. Over a series of photos, the ten-year-old is shown sprawled on leopard-print cushions, wearing a skimpy gold dress, stiletto heels, and posing heavily made-up, with rouge and lipstick. She's ten years old, yet she looks scarily adult in the photos.

      By creating so many illusory images of physical perfection, whether on store aisles or storefront ads, magazine covers or TV shows, we speak more to the profit margins of companies than the self-esteem of today's girls. The unsaid message of that endless rack of juniors' pushup bras? No matter what size you are, it still isn't good enough.

      Would You Buy This for Your Daughter? [huffingtonpost.com] [Aug 2011]

    • by ljw1004 ( 764174 )

      At 17 years of age, you do not have enough life experience to say anything of real importance about anything involving the greater issues facing society. Incidentally, What Adults Can Learn From Kids ~ {null}, which is why society would function much more smoothly if the voting age were raised back to 25.

      Wow! That's mean. As a 40 year old myself, I've learnt a lot from my and other kids. I wonder whether you, Anonymous Coward, have enough life experience to back up your claims?

    • You know, when I was a kid, people like you kept telling me that I didn't understand stuff and wasn't responsible. That was a long time ago - you know what? Damnit, I *was* right! I was as savvy and responsible then as I am now. The only thing I've learned as an adult is that "is an adult" has a weight of exactly 0. I used to think the people in newspapers saying stuff had some authority, but really they're just "a dude said some stuff".

      One of the great lies adults like to tell and believe is that there's s

    • And by the way, get off his lawn.
    • by clovis ( 4684 )

      At 17 years of age, you do not have enough life experience to say anything of real importance about anything involving the greater issues facing society.

      I disagree completely with your uncalled-for insult.
      Most human learning is done through vicarious experience and not through "life experience". That is to say vicarious experiences such as listening to people discuss their lives and recalling stories of how others live, as well as reading literature, news reports, scientific journals and so on.
      Fortunate children learn and grow from association with adults who are living an intellectually engaged life.

      I maintain that "life experience" has little relevance to being able to say anything involving the greater issues facing society.

      If you had said "most 17 year olds ... have nothing of importance to say etc", I could buy that. But that is not what you said, and you directed your statement to a specific person.
      By directing it to a specific person, and for your statement to be anything more than thoughtless insult, you must show how her published works and TED talks how your statement is true.

      Furthermore, do have you in mind some specific "life experiences" that no 17 year old could understand well enough to discuss unless they experienced it in person? If so, what are those experiences?

      • by clovis ( 4684 )

        At 17 years of age, you do not have enough life experience to say anything of real importance about anything involving the greater issues facing society.

        I disagree completely with your uncalled-for insult.
        Most human learning is done through vicarious experience and not through "life experience". That is to say vicarious experiences such as listening to people discuss their lives and recalling stories of how others live, as well as reading literature, news reports, scientific journals and so on.
        Fortunate children learn and grow from association with adults who are living an intellectually engaged life.

        I maintain that "life experience" has little relevance to

  • by Anonymous Coward

    When are you girls going to get off your knees and fight back? You're as masochistic as the average voter. You're being abused because you let them abuse you. Stop it! Just stop it [youtube.com]!!

  • what does some random 17 year old with rich helicopter parents have to tell us?

    seriously...

    all these "child prodigy" stories are bullshit and nothing more than advertisements for the parents

    • Anyone who questions child prodigies is obviously just jealous, and being jealous invalidates your arguments. My logic cannot be defeated.

    • by dave420 ( 699308 )
      Read her comments and then you'd know what she has to tell you. It's really not difficult. If her ideas are wrong, challenge them on their merits, not because of her age. Dismissing her out of hand simply because of her age isn't a rational thing to do.
  • by squisher ( 212661 ) on Thursday November 20, 2014 @02:21PM (#48427745)

    Hi,
    I'm the "typical" white male in CS gradschool. My subjective view is that CS has one of the lowest number of women compared to other STEM disciplines. I'd estimate that typically there are about 5% tops in classes or at conferences. For various reasons I think that this situation is a shame for the community and society as a whole. What do you think can be done to improve this?

    Thanks!

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I for one don't know. I hope your question is answered is a concrete manner. I am sick of vague answers and non-answers when this comes up. I want an answer that I can implement, and I am sick of being blamed for the actions of HR and hiring managers.

      If you attempt to recruit women, you're a sexist. If you try to ignore the problem, you're a sexist. If you transition to living as a woman, now you're a rapist and invader, too.

      The only thing I can do is to assist women asking me to know more about these

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Hi,
      I'm the "typical" white male in CS gradschool. My subjective view is that CS has one of the lowest number of women compared to other STEM disciplines. I'd estimate that typically there are about 5% tops in classes or at conferences. For various reasons I think that this situation is a shame for the community and society as a whole. What do you think can be done to improve this?

      Thanks!

      What can be done to improve the number of male registered nurses?

      What can be done to improve the number of female aircraft mechanics?

      What the hell do you mean no one in those industries are up in arms about the gender inequalities?!?

      My point here is simple. After two decades of decline, the statistics SHOULD show hiring discrimination IF that were the clear-cut case. If it doesn't exist by now, then what exactly are we all up in arms about? Could it be the same exact reasons we're all "up in arms" abou

      • by dave420 ( 699308 )

        You are assuming that discrimination is happening during hiring. That's quite a powerful assumption, but not the only one.

        Put yourself in the position of these women when they were children. Nearly every "computer person" they saw was a guy - from the computer TV shows, to the most famous writers in Computer magazines, the CEOs, the developers, and so on. They saw they were not represented in that industry. Why should they want to study in this masculine field, when it appears like no place for women, a

    • First off CompSci accounts for about 10% of all degrees conferred, just to put things in perspective. Second women earn nearly 2/3rds of all degrees and either dominate or are near parity in virtually every major other than CompSci and Engineering as well as utterly dominating every single measure we have for the education system.

      CompSci, Engineering, IT... all of these fields commonly require people to make great personal sacrifices to pursue them, giving up any semblance of a work/life balance and throwin

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 20, 2014 @02:31PM (#48427837)

    Hi Adora! Looking through any debate on gender issues is somewhat demoralizing, as there seems to be little focus on resolving the underlying issues. What do you think could be done to help people cooperate rather than yelling at each other?

  • Do you support women in stem?

    Do you support stem in women?

    If it's good for the goose, is it good for the gander?

  • I Don't Get It (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Thursday November 20, 2014 @02:46PM (#48428001) Journal

    After seeing my development job outsourced to India in the early 2000's during an IT slump, I have no compulsion to steer my daughter into STEM. I hope she finds a career that she grows into and does well, STEM or not.

    STEM is in demand at this spot in history, but I've learned the hard way it's subject to fads, bubbles, age discrimination, H1B's, and outsourcing.

    Please tell me, why push women into such risk?

    I suspect it's lobbyists trying to get cheaper IT labor for their plutocrat bosses by flooding the market. Feel welcome to convince me otherwise.

    • by Richy_T ( 111409 )

      You are correct.

      It's actually pretty short-termist too. Women are being pressured into taking on careers, are having children later or not at all and denying the future new scientists, engineers, whatever. It's self-defeating at root.

      Now I will attempt to defray the cries by stating that women who are interested in these things should absolutely be encouraged to follow their dreams. I hope my own daughter has significant achievements. Let's not force it though, eh?

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

      Please tell me, why push women into such risk?

      It's not pushing. They want to enter IT because they find it interesting. It's removing the barriers.

      • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

        Then why not equally focus on removing barriers in other lucrative fields, including CEO, where females are underrepresented? Play the whole piano, not just the STEM key.

        • by dave420 ( 699308 )
          People are already doing that. Society can work on more than one thing at a time. The best way to get female CEOs is to remove as many barriers to women in the workplace in every department. IT is rather important, so it makes sense that any short-comings in this aspect should be tackled.
  • by mrex ( 25183 ) on Thursday November 20, 2014 @03:07PM (#48428255)

    How much credence to you give to the theory recently put forward in a recent NPR Planet Money piece [npr.org], ascribing the absence of women specifically in the computing industry to 1980s media representation of geeks and computer worker lifestyles?

  • "When I was a teen, I thought I knew everything too".

    ISBN Number" 0071111eleventy

    It actually took me until fairly recently to be right about everything ;)

  • Do you think that they should have similar programs to get males into areas where they are typically underrepresented (nursing, etc.)?
    • by dave420 ( 699308 )
      Of course. All cases of lacking equality should be investigated. IT is a special case, as it drives our economies, so is rather important to fix.
  • Referring to the Sports Illustrated controversy, you stated:

    She encourages an unrealistic expectation of beauty grounded in narrow ideals-- whiteness, thinness, a lack of hair and an abundance of breast tissue-- instead of kindness, smarts, self-confidence, or athleticism.

    1. Were you aware that the Barbie line includes dolls of different skin colors? How would you plausibly represent the diversity of skin color in a single example?
    2. Where would you add hair to a Barbie doll?
    3. How would you project k

  • How do you feel about contradictory laws that, while they customarily allow suffrage and personal accountability at the age of 18, restrict the consumption of alcohol or possession of firearms or other items considered "dangerous" to those age 21 or older? What about the contradiction of prosecuting those under 18 "as adults"? Do you feel that the increasing US state regulations placed on child labor, which greatly restrict or totally exclude teenagers from the workplace, are denying young people valuable
  • There have been a lot of talk and even initiatives to improve the number of women in the STEM field. While I myself participated in assessments for young women to encourage them to choose STEM topics, I am less and less convinced that these initiatives are working. The main problem is that we do not really know why women choose other topics. True they have been asked what they want and why they have chosen this instead of STEM. However, this does not give us the root cause which pushed them in that particul

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