Interaction between Geek-Boy Culture, Gender Diversity, and Education

June 7, 2013 at 1:27 am 3 comments

A nice piece making the argument that we can’t fix the computing employment shortage without diversifying our labor pool.

I found this quote (further along from the quote and link below):  “Geeks often have a hostile relationship to formal education. Rather than sit through a pre-programmed curriculum with problems and solutions laid out in advance, geeks like to tinker and hack to solve new problems and innovate.”  If that’s true (and I believe it is), why are geeks advancing MOOCs, which are as formal and pre-programmed as you can get?

Despite a deserved reputation for progressiveness, the tech sector is highly exclusionary to those who don’t fit the geek stereotype–and this tendency is getting worse, especially in Silicon Valley. You might have heard, based on 2011 numbers, that only 25 percent of the U.S. high tech workforce is female, and the percentages have been in steady decline since the nineties. The numbers for minority women are even more dismal. Hispanic women represent 1 percent of the high tech workforce, and African-American women don’t fare much better, at 3 percent. The better the jobs, the lower the proportions are of women and non-Asian minorities. Despite the diversity of the population of the region, Silicon Valley, which boasts the highest salaries among tech regions, fares much worse than the national numbers.

via The Geek-Boy Irony Behind Mark Zuckerberg’s Tech Lobby ⚙ Co.Labs ⚙ code + community.

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Alfred Thompson  |  June 7, 2013 at 8:57 am

    I wonder how many geeks behind MOOCs are just fascinated with the idea of creating the tools and the product? On the other hand they may also see it as a way of getting personal interaction without actually interacting with people.

    • 2. Seth Chaiken  |  June 7, 2013 at 11:46 am

      Some geeks, of which the late Steve Jobs is the quintessential example, have the obsession for control, the more mechanistic and universal the better. It is an unfortunate feature of human nature that some highly talented people exercise their own freedom and power to restrict those opportunities for others, especially those who are not in their own corporation, class, gender, age cohort, creed, etc.

      Sorry for that snarky thought: An outcome of a few recent posts on this blog and some current events.

  • 3. Erik Engbrecht  |  June 8, 2013 at 11:15 pm

    MOOCs, at least in the form they are in today, may be more formal an preprogrammed than their traditional counterparts within the scope of an individual class, but they are much less so in the bigger picture.

    With a MOOC there’s very little expenditure and commitment required of the student. I want to just audit a class? No problem. I want or need to stop participating in a class 3/4 of the way through? No problem. I want to take a class for which I have none of the prerequisites? No problem. I want to take a class that is lower than my current educational level? No problem. I want to take just the classes that interest me as opposed to the ones prescribed by a degree program? No problem. I want to select classes from a multitude of geographically distributed sources? No problem.

    Contrast that with a traditional degree program. There’s a significant upfront cost to each class. I need to take not only the classes I’m interested in, but also the classes that my institution thinks I should take. If I want or need to stop participating in a class before it is over, I both lose the substantial amount of money I paid for it and receive a negative mark on my transcript for withdrawing. I have to take prerequisites. Taking lower-level classes that interest me may be an option, but it’s an expensive one that contributes little or nothing to my progress towards the degree I’m seeking. For the most part I’m restricted to what my institution offers, and cannot take classes from other institutions for credit.

    Traditional education requires placing a fair amount of up-front faith in the institution providing it.

    MOOCs make taking classes like normal consumption, which places much more control in the hands of the student, as opposed to like, well, going to school.


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