Archive for September 24, 2012

Are computing educators professionally and legally required to change and improve their practice?

I did a Blog@CACM post this weekend asking a question that I’ve been wondering: Are we as computing educators professionally and legally required to change our practice in order to diversify our classes?  In the United States, we have a law called Title IX that says:

No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.

Because of this law, many female-only athletic programs have been created in the US, with scholarships, so that women would have the same opportunities as men do in sports like football and baseball.  Does this same law apply to academics, and specifically, computer science?

There are huge benefits for having a computing degree.  Jane Margolis says that those who don’t get access to computing get “Stuck in the Shallow End” of the economic pool.  If we are constructing our degrees in such a way that women don’t get access, are we “denying them the benefits of” our education programs?

“But women can take our programs! There are women in our programs!”  one might reply. Yes, but few.  Why?  If the reason is bias (even if unconscious), then I think that Title IX would require us to change.  I wonder if Title IX creates (at least) a legal obligation to monitor gender participation in computing programs, and to seek to improve that participation.

I do believe that higher education computing teachers ought to uphold professional standards, but it’s not obvious to me what that entails, and if there are legal requirements in addition to the professional obligations.  I wrote the blog post to explore the question.  What are our obligations, as computing education professionals?

September 24, 2012 at 11:07 am 7 comments


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