April 16, 2013  • Curriculum

igniteFootage from a presentation I gave in January was used as part of a story on NBC last week about IGNITE, the initiative started by Math Plus Academy to encourage girls to pursue STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) subjects with enthusiasm. (I’m at about the 3:10 mark in the video.)

The story begins with a question, “How often have we heard that girls just don’t like math and science?” Luckily, that was never heard in my house growing up. Nor did my parents accept blanket statements like, “I’m too creative to do my math,” or “I’d rather do my art homework than my biology homework.”

(Of course I gladly would have done twice as much art or algebra homework to get out of biology, but that wasn’t an option. At all.)

My parents came from the “of course you can, just do it” school of parenting, and they never subscribed to the idea that our predispositions in gender, tendencies, preferences, or habits should prevent us from mastering a basic proficiency in all subjects.

But if all households were like mine, events like IGNITE wouldn’t be as popular as they are. And if all households were like mine, I wouldn’t have fully enrolled classes of art students and a full speaking schedule dedicated to enhancing financial literacy among artists and arts organizations.

Because in truth, it is easier to shrug off things we’d rather not be doing, especially if those around us encourage us to do so, implicitly or otherwise.

      • “Girls just don’t like math and science.”
      • “Don’t worry about algebra; you’re a really good painter.”
      • “Don’t worry about chemistry; you’re so pretty.”

All three of those sentences made my stomach turn. But in truth, I’ve heard variations of all of them. And it isn’t that much of a leap to go from “Girls just don’t like math and science” to “Don’t worry about chemistry; you’re so pretty.” Or to start with gender generalities and move to professional ones: “Girls just don’t like math” to “Artists just don’t like math.”

So how often have we heard such things? Probably too often. But thanks to IGNITE and Math Plus Academy, not to mention OSU and CCAD and PONY and the DeVos Institute of Arts Management and the Arts & Business Council of New York and countless other hosts of my work, hopefully we’ll be hearing such things much less often.

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