Tag Archives: education

Tech Coed

My father-in-law (in Massachusetts) was in town for his fiftieth MIT reunion — class of 1958! He took my partner and me to a couple of events, and we noticed among the red-jacketed men a few red-jacketed women. By various accounts, there were nine to fifteen women (out of a thousand students) in the Class of ’58 at MIT, a half dozen of whom were at the 50th reunion.

Tonight, five of them — representing mathematics, chemical engineering, mechanical engineering, and physics — got together and revisited a song they sang back in the 50s, called something like “My mother was a Tech Coed” — apparently a takeoff of another MIT favorite, “My father was a something something engineer.” We chatted with some of them tonight for a while, and got to hear amazing stories about classes, the women’s dorm that held only 17 students — so the rest had to live off-campus — and other experiences of MIT in the 1950s.

But the song was the highlight, and they were kind enough to give us permission to reprint the lyrics that they sang — they said there were probably ten or fifteen verses altogether in the original. The first four are what they recalled of those verses. The last two they wrote at the reunion.

She never held me on her knee
But she was all the world to me
That lady with the pointy head
My mother was a Tech coed.

She couldn’t cook she couldn’t sew
But she could fix a radio
She used T-squares to make a bed
My mother was a Tech coed.

As she approached maternity
She also got her PhD
And started working on Pre Med
My mother was a Tech coed.

Her cocktails were a potent brew
She learned the trick in 5.02*
She always bought her cakes and bread
My mother was a Tech coed.

Now 50 years have come and gone
I still remember dear old mom
Her dying breath she taught me well
Above all else, that Tech is hell.

We are the queens of gray and red
The very coolest Tech coeds.

* Second semester freshman chemistry.

universities and copyright

Suddenly there’s a lot of press about the rights enforcement companies and their P2P notices — this Washington Post article and this AP story are just two of the recent press.

How timely — I just finished a report on exactly this issue. I spoke with representatives from 25 different educational institutions and online service providers to understand their processes and practices, and pressures.

What we found is that universities have indeed set up overly harsh policies in response to P2P notices. The policies were typically created in the last few years, under significant political pressure and media spotlight — pressure and spotlight engineered by the large entertainment companies. University officials are typically very concerned about academic expression interests, but may not have looked at these policies in relation to all their other policies.

We found a lot more of interest — including really problematic behavior on the part of the rights enforcement companies. The report (Intellectual Property and Free Speech in the Online World) is available online, for free, in PDF.

ID advocate admits it ‘has no content’

”I’m not pushing to have [ID] taught as an ‘alternative’ to Darwin, and neither are they,” he says in response to one question about Discovery’s agenda. ”What’s being pushed is to have Darwinism critiqued, to teach there’s a controversy. Intelligent design itself does not have any content.”

The evolution of George Gilder Boston Globe, 7/27 [linked from pharyngula]

It’s refreshing to see an ID advocate admit that there is no content to intelligent design.

As for their claim that they all they want to do is teach the controversy — great. Teach the controversy. Teach scientific controversies in science class. Since there’s no content to ID, there’s no scientific controversy. So what kind of controversy is it? It’s a political & social controversy. Political & social controversies absolutely should be taught in schools, in history, social science, current issues type classes. Heck, even comparative religion classes — why not? I’d love to see kids learning about other political & social controversies about children’s education: the controversy over sex ed, for instance, and how right-wingers want to teach abstinence & sexual ethics instead of sexual and reproductive healthcare. Or hey, how about we ‘teach the controversy’ regarding going to war on disputed evidence?

New Yorker on ID: the Unseen Urban Planner

The New Yorker has an article evaluating the <cough cough> science of intelligent design.

Most amusing (and insightful) quote (from discussion of Behe’s “irreducible complexity” argument):

It’s true that when you confront biologists with a particular complex structure like the flagellum they sometimes have a hard time saying which part appeared before which other parts. But then it can be hard, with any complex historical process, to reconstruct the exact order in which events occurred, especially when, as in evolution, the addition of new parts encourages the modification of old ones. When you’re looking at a bustling urban street, for example, you probably can’t tell which shop went into business first. This is partly because many businesses now depend on each other and partly because new shops trigger changes in old ones (the new sushi place draws twenty-somethings who demand wireless Internet at the café next door). But it would be a little rash to conclude that all the shops must have begun business on the same day or that some Unseen Urban Planner had carefully determined just which business went where.

raise your hands if you’re glad you’re not raising a kid in kansas

I’m just so sorry for the kids in Kansas, because their education is being screwed up by a bunch of not-quite-as-fully-evolved-as-the-rest-of-us folks with their heads up their nether regions. [The Kansas state board of education is holding hearings again on whether & how evolution should be taught in schools, and to what extent the religious convictions of some folks should inspire and guide criticism of scientific knowledge.]

Science education should be education about science. Period. If a person’s religious beliefs cause her to question evolution, geology, dinosaurs, or whether pi = 3.14…, then by all means, she can screw up her own kids’ minds & teach them whatever bogus facts she wants, at home. But don’t screw up the education of an entire states’ worth of kids. Geez.

Some part of me almost manages to feel sorry for the leaders of this initiative. They have built their house on the sand of fairy tale history rather than on a rock of faith. Consequently, when the fairy tale history butts up against actual history, their entire religious faith is shaken. I’m not religious — I’ve been an atheist for more than half my life now — but even I can appreciate that there’s something deeply sad about someone whose claim to a deep religious faith can be shaken by, well, scientific knowledge.

I said almost sorry. Mostly I’m just really POd at these people for being such bozos & inflicting their own pathologies & fears on the rest of the world. Retrograde jerks.

[cnn 5/5/; AP/kansas city star 5/7] And just because I love ‘em, a link to the National Center for Science Education, who do great work.

And check out this great cover from a recent issue of Nature:
Nature Magazine April 2005 cover with a warning about evolution