Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Women in Engineering and STEM Fields

Right now, only 18-20% of engineering students are women, and only 15% of the engineering workforce is complied of women. This is an improvement over the 1980's where just over 5% of women were engineers. But why is engineering still such a heavily male dominated field? Why have women been prevented in making major change in this boys club?

Some different Ideas are currently being explored including, but not limited to:
  • How Math attitudes from an early age associate Male with Math making it harder for women to associate themselves with Math and STEM: There is a disconnect with technology and the idea of women 
  • Lack of Role Models in Science=Lack of confidence in abilities
    • A self fulfilling prophecy: girls believe they can't be good at math, therefore they aren't 
  • The way people 'do/perform' gender. The way women feminize engineering by centering it around helping people, making it socially acceptable for them to participate
    • This prevents acceptance of women into more technical engineering fields, preventing advancements 
I am looking for more information about how society stereotypes prevent women from making the engineering choice: why is this choice so much harder for females?  

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Invisible Effects of Poverty

In Barbara Ehrenreich's novel, Nickel and Dimed, she highlights various effects of being poor. Due to lack of income, the working poor are forced to face countless hardships including exhaustion and dehumanizing decisions.

While settling down in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Ehrenreich attains jobs at Menards and Walmart. After enduring a 8 hour Walmart Orientation, Ehrenreich refuses to attend her first day on the job at Menards even though it is the better paying job, "The embarrassing truth is that I am just too exhausted to work, especially for eleven hours in a row" (149). Most members of the working class do not have the privilege of the safety net Ehrenreich has and could not make that decision. They would have to peel themselves off the bed and go work a repulsive eleven hour shift to provide for themselves or their families. Due to the constant stress of money shortages, working class push their bodies past the healthy limits trying to make ends meet.

The dehumanization of laborers was one of the harshest effects of industrialization. However, workers are not only dehumanized in the workplace. Again, due to lack of money, Ehrenreich has to sacrifice basic civilized instincts in her home. One such example was finding of surface to eat off of, "Eating is tricky without a table. I put the food on the chest of drawers and place a plastic supermarket bag over my lap" (159-160). Drawers for a table, a plastic bag for a tablecloth. Ehrenreich is doing the best she can to provide for herself. However, coming from a well off lifestyle, this must feel unnatural and unnerving. When a basic function such as eating becomes a project, other emotional human parts of you are shut down to satisfy your basic human needs.

Ehrenreich concludes her novel stating, "To be a member of the working poor is to be an anonymous donor, a nameless benefactor, to everyone else" (221).  If you are a 'member' of a class of people constantly trying to please others, when do you become a priority? To constantly work in the service of others is frustrating and is perpetuates the notion that one class is set above the other and somehow more worthy of such a lifestyle. To be 'anonymous' and 'nameless' is to be stripped of ones identity. Our capitalistic society has been built on the abuse and dehumanization of vulnerable and desperate workers.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

On Making Nickels and Dimes

In the Novel Nickel and Dimed, Ehrenreich chooses jobs in order to provide 'daily bread'. However, her drive to always perform to the best of her ability allows her feel useful to the extent her executives allow.

Ehrenreich was raised on the working motto, "If you're going to do something, do it well. In fact, "well" isn't good enough by half. Do it better than anyone has ever done it before" (18). Ehrenreich is driven to succeed in not only writing but in any menial job performed. She finds meaning by completing tasks 'better than anyone has ever done it before'. She pushes herself above and beyond expectations set by superiors, she wishes to do well for herself: to find a sense of personal accomplishment.

While serving in Maine, Ehrenreich feels a personal attachment and obligation to her customers. She often sets high personal expectations, "Sometimes I play with the fantasy that I am a princess who, in penance for some tiny transgression, has undertaken to feed each of her subjects by hand" (19). Ehrenreich is finding meaning in serving by using her imagination to infuse her position with more power and responsibility. She dramatizes the situation by calling herself 'princess' and customers 'subjects'. She increases the stakes of her job by undertaking the task of 'feeding each subject by hand'. By increasing the accountability of her job and striving to achieve these goals, she allows her work to feel necessary and rewarding. Ehrenreich does not just show up to work wanting to just complete the tasks at hand and go home. By giving her customers extra croutons and kind polite greetings, she's not only doing an excellent job, she's also fulfilling a personal satisfaction.

As much as Ehrenreich strives to succeed, she is often hindered by rules and executive regulations. While working for a maids service in Maine, she is directly to clean with a damp rag and remove impurities only visible to the eye: to wipe. Because Ehrenreich was brought up to clean with boiling hot water, she remarks, "But the point at The Maids, apparently, is not to clean so much as to create the appearance of having been cleaned, not to sanitize but to create a kind of stage setting for family life" (76). The instructions of the maid service dissatisfied and irritated her to the point where she researched and asked professionals on correct cleaning techniques (shown in the same footnote as the quote above).  Her irritation is visible through words such as 'appearance' and 'stage setting'. She is not satisfied with creating a fake setting. It angers her that just going through pointless motions and not doing a quality cleaning job of 'sanitation'. The cleaning job feels pointless and she looses her sense of usefulness. She cannot feel accomplished in this line of service work because she knows her work is not really helping actually clean the house. Because her bosses are more worried about money, time, and customer satisfaction, Ehrenreich is not able to apply her drive to make her cleaning job feel important.

Throughout Ehrenreich's service line work, we see her try to attack each day with fervor and a natural wish to please her customers. However, restrictive rules and regulations from higher up prevent her from fully satisfying her personal goals to achievement.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Conformity in Food

Displaying IMG_7239.JPGMy Mom wrote on my blog a couple weeks ago about yoga and how it has transformed her life. When my mother started her new job, she started using yoga as a way of relaxing and escaping from the stress of her four children. Soon, she became immersed in the yogi-culture.

Over the past two years, my mom took her granola way of life to a new extreme. She stopped eating a lot of meat and started consuming only non-processed, organic, non GMO foods. Everyday for breakfast, she utilizes her shiny new Nutribullet to make herself a smoothie made of hemp seeds, chia seeds and frozen fruit. Then she will make another smoothie for her lunch. This time a green smoothie concocted of kale, spinach, bananas and who knows what else. She's also invested in coconut oil: a substitute for the fat-rich canola oil. Coconut oil significantly reduces the unhealthiness of chocolate chip cookies and other desert options. They are interchangeable except for a slight distinction in taste. For dinner consists of mainly a spinach kale salad, or a different vegetable option, and small piece of meat.

My mother says her new way of life is based on research indicating plant based diets reduced the rate of developing cancer (read more about it here). However, I believe the motivation for the change in diet initially came from her place of occupation. All of her yoga friends always talk about their new 'diet fad' and how amazing switching over to the 'green side' has been. My mother took their persuasions of the granola people to heart, did a a couple days of research, and began conforming her life to the new information. She bought new cook books and began making quinoa. As a result, her whole family has started eating healthier. The word 'conformity' is usually associated with losing individuality and carries a negative connotation. However, as my mother conformed to the healthy lifestyle of her friends, she started feeling better physically and emotionally. She now believes she's on the right track with her food decisions and if she "had know better would've never fed you the same junk back when you were little."

My mom has twice taken her plant based diet to extremes. It's called her "Ten day cleanse". She coerces my dad into joined her and together they go vegan and gluten free. They are on strict diet with every calorie  mapped out each day. They are attempting to 'rid themselves of toxins' and loose weight.  Only allowed to eat beans, fruits and vegetables, my parents are cranky for ten days. My dad, whose an avid runner, went hungry between every carefully planned meal. My mom relished the challenge and felt proud of her new food accomplishments. This extreme form of conforming to new fads and trends frightened me because I thought I would be the next victim to coerced into the ten day cleanse. My mom loved the extremism and drastic change from her daily life. There cleanse is also an example of nonconformism because both my parents steered far from a 'normal healthiness person's diet' of chicken, salad, and fruit.

Every person has a different relationship with food. Some see it as an outlet for their feelings. Other's see it as the devil and leads to their destruction. My parent's viewed their new diet as a way of bettering themselves. No matter where the initial motivation came from, our whole's families diet has changed for the better even if my mom sometimes takes it too far.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

What is the Point of Finals?

With finals week just on the horizon, emotional breakdowns are increasing, sleep is decreasing, and stress is skyrocketing. As we prepare for the seemingly important tests, we have to ask ourselves: what is the point of this terror.

Some might say finals measures growth and learning. However, isn't that what teachers and the administrators were supposed to be measuring all semester? We hardly ever receive our finals back and get to review our mistakes. Their is no room for growth after the final.

Finals promote a culture of learning for the grade. The pressure of high school finals causes students to only study for the grade in order to get into their dream college. Finals create a short term memory bank for students that is cashed in on the test and then forgotten. Relearning the material just to forget it again seems quite pointless.

High school finals are unnecessary and help no one. For teachers, they have to write a massive test and spend hours on hours grading. Meanwhile, Students must forget about health, family members, and their lives for one to two weeks. And in the end no one wins.

If Students are taking finals with low Cs and Ds, finals probably won't help them enough to make an impact, even if they do, should they be receiving the higher grade if it stayed consistently low over the semester? Students with high performing standards who have studied long and hard all semester and then their grade drops dramatically from the final. What does this teach them? They are left with a grade that is not a reflection of their long term effort.

I understand reviewing hard material and attempting to understand it is a key process in learning. However, learning is gradual and is done over a long time. In a real life situation, no one will ever ask you to sit down and take an accumulative test to measure your knowledge. There are alternatives to finals- take home projects and test that also measure the knowledge and force students to review the materials. Memorization is not learning. Final exams cause unnecessary stress for all parties involved.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Trump 2.0

I know I've already expressed my opinion on Donald Trump but his latest racist comment against Muslims cannot be ignored. 

On Thursday, November 19th following the attacks on Paris a reporter asked Trump, "Do you think we might need to register Muslims in some type of database, or note their religion on their ID?" 

Trump replied," We're going to have to look at a lot of things very closely. We're going to have to look at the mosques. We're going to have to look very, very carefully."

On Friday, November 20th a separate reporter asked, "Should there be a database or system that tracks Muslims?"

"There should be a lot of systems," Trump responded. "Beyond databases. I mean we should have a lot of systems."

Trump has such proposed that the United States of America needs to keep track of a certain group of individuals based on their religion. This is blatantly unconstitutional and could never be put into practice. However, the very idea this idea is proposed is disgusting. His comments are radicalizing a group of Americans and promoting anti-Muslim sentiments. Furthermore, the Muslims in America who have lived her their whole life are being talked about as criminals. Imagine if
you were a Muslim child and to hear Trump call for your country to keep track of you? It's awful. He is a racist, sexist, idiot and will make America better for rich, white men. America is a country not a catering service for white supremacist agendas. Thoughts?

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Terror Attacks In Paris

On Friday, November 13th, France experienced the worst violence since WWII. Six different locations were attacked in Paris, including a soccer stadium, a restaurant, and the deadliest, Bataclan concert hall. The French say 128 are died, but are expecting the numbers to rise. A hostage situation near the concert hall left nearly 100 dead. Shootings and bombings left 300 people are hospitalized, 80 in life threatening conditions, around 170 in somewhat critical conditions. Attackers were carrying AK-47s and some even strapped to bombs. Eight of the attackers are dead- 7 from the suicide bombings.

ISIS claims responsibility for the attack and President Francois Hollande says, "This is an act of war." The streets are emptied. Terrified, everyone is mourning inside. 
"It's like a warzone right now," said a middle-aged worker at the brasserie Le Goncourt who refused to give his name. "This is very serious. We are living in fear."
Europe and America reaches out it's support after these horrifying attacks and plan to stand united behind France.  Obama said, "This is an attack not just on Paris, not just on the people on France, but an attack on all humanity and the universal values we share." He called the attacks an "outrageous attempt to terrorize innocent civilians." This is a tragic, shocking situation. These devastating attacks of terror have sent Paris into a panic. This historic day will be burned into the memory of all French people, and will stay with them in the upcoming years while the world combats violent extremists. 

This Peace for Paris Symbol is rapidly spreading over social media.
"injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere"- Martin Luther King Jr.