The Human Animal

Found wandering in downtown San Mateo.

I just finished reading Animals in Translation. It’s an informative and insightful view into how the animals in our lives may be thinking, and how to better address their needs. The focus is on livestock, but the author’s personal experience with her own pet animals poses some neat questions about our relationships with our companion animals. There’s some science in there, but I don’t know why I feel like I have to post that as a disclaimer?

Science is fun!

A long time ago, I made the decision to switch college majors from biology to political science and philosophy, not because I didn’t like science but because science and engineering degrees usually have courses taught where students are graded on a curve. As a poor brown girl whose scholarships at an expensive private school was based on her keeping a high GPA, and whose first semester put her dangerously close to losing said scholarship, it made sense to switch to a major with less curved grading.

Curved grading is scary. Which is something that gets overlooked in the discussion regarding how and why women, especially women of color, don’t pursue careers in tech and engineering. High school aged me spent a lot of time stressed out because I knew that my family didn’t have the wherewithal to afford the price-tags on most college campuses. The first time I had to deal with reading through an acceptance letter that included my proposed financial aid package, I cried.

Not tears of joy, but the awful hot tears of disappointment, because you’ve spent your whole life hearing your parents push you to go to college but know behind closed doors they worry about how they’ll ever afford it, and no matter how hard you pray several hundred thousand dollars just aren’t going to miraculously drop from the sky. So when a school does offer you a full tuition package, you take it without really reading the fine print (believe you me I read it all the time now).

That was my reality, and while I probably could have figured out a way to have a better GPA in the sciences, I was too scared to risk losing my scholarship since without a way to pay for the education, I would have had to drop out or be forever in debt. Not a fun way to live, and of friends I’ve made throughout the years, the ones that were able to stick through the sciences and engineering were the sort of folks who didn’t have to worry about paying their way through college, too.

I’m not sure what a solution would be to encourage women to stay in the sciences, to encourage women to commit to careers in engineering. There’s something about conservative fields and curved grading, the justification is that the schools are separating the wheat from the chaff and employers get their pick of the top notch students, and somewhere in there is baked in the idea that everyone learns in the same manner. Which science has shown us isn’t true.

Maybe a solution would be for more employers to invest in their employees’ education? I know I’d be happy to stay with any employer that paid either for me to get a science/engineering degree!

What are your thoughts?

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