I’ve always felt like STEM was out of reach for me. It wasn’t that I felt locked out of the party, like many women throughout history have been, I just never thought I would actually enjoy a job in any of those fields. Much like our guest writer Emily explained, I love the idea of more women working in STEM… but other women, not me. Just the thought of sorting through code or equations when I could be reading or writing makes my eyes glaze over.
Luckily, over the last couple years, I had the serendipitous opportunity to work at a lab that combines the hands-on approach of maker culture with consideration for the humanities. This job forced me to approach a lot of tasks that I had never really encountered before, but it allowed me to do so from the perspective of a humanities student. We were prototyping, yes, but with the goal of understanding more about history, culture, and theory. My experiences at the lab gave me a whole new level of interest in the field of STEM and, while I still don’t feel like it’s the field for me, I feel confident enough to approach coding or engineering for some very (VERY) basic projects. It’s opened the door to ideas that once felt impossible to even consider.
I’m particularly excited to learn about the accessibility of maker culture because I recently decided to pursue a career in teaching. The more I learn about in the world of making and prototyping, the more excited I am to implement these approaches when teaching.
That’s why I’m so thankful for kid-friendly tech companies who want to make this process simpler and more interesting for kids (and those of us with a child’s attention span for detail).
The first time I tried circuit building was with a Makey Makey, a kit that easily assembles into a simple circuit and allows you to use a variety of household items as computer keys (like food, pencil markings, and play dough).
I also brought it to work with me when I was running a summer kids program and got the kids to assemble it themselves. They loved the experience and were full of questions about why and how we could turn cucumber slices into a piano keyboard. I can only imagine how a simple circuitboard like the Makey Makey, or circuit stickers like those at Chibitronics, could make simple physics that much more exciting to learn. Continue reading →
A few weeks ago a close friend called me up because her family had bought a bunch of tickets to see The Phantom of the Opera at Seattle’s Paramount Theatre. Lucky for us, they ended up with a few extra tickets that they needed to sell. The tickets were an incredible deal and Seattle isn’t very far from where we live, so we leapt at the opportunity.
On the day of the play we were ecstatic. In high school, several friends and I had become obsessed with the film version of The Phantom of the Opera. One of these friends made himself a Phantom-like cape for Halloween and even managed to convince the rest of our class that we should have a Phantom of the Opera theme for our grad banquet. While John wasn’t quite as familiar (or obsessed) with Phantom, he had acted in community theatre in high school and was looking forward to seeing a professional version of such a well-known play.
At this point I should probably warn you about spoilers, just in case you have never seen the film or the play.
Since our tickets were such a great price, we were hardly surprised when we were seated in the nosebleeds. Quite frankly, we didn’t care. We were too busy looking around at the ornate theatre itself.
This was the only photo I was allowed to take in the theatre itself. As you can see, we were pretty far back. The brown object in the centre is the chandelier, covered up, and the stage is covered with a dark screen that makes all the objects appear covered in cobwebs.
As anyone who has been on the internet since Wednesday night probably knows, the Avengers: Age of Ultron trailer has been released online. As a person who has professed his enthusiasm for comic books time and time again let me say to all of you, right now-
-my mind and body are ready.
Let me follow that up by asserting that I plan on doing ever single thing within my power to not look at another trailer before I watch the full-length film next May. I repeat, I will not be watching any new trailers that are released. Continue reading →
I’ve read all four Twilight books. Would have checked out Midnight Sun, a retelling of the first novel from Edward’s perspective, but a copy was leaked online and Meyers never ended up releasing it. My plan is to read a minimum of 52 books this year, and my hope is that 50 Shades of Grey makes it onto that list somewhere.
No, I’m not a middle-aged suburban mom who’s been catfishing you all these past two to three years. All of that was just a little background to set up today’s topic, which is our right to write about, well, anything. Continue reading →
EVAN: This week on E> we take a break from scrutinizing film to look back about seven or so months to a different time of our lives: college. Now that we’ve both graduated we find ourselves in a different stage of life, and it begs the question of what those four years did for us, and whether or not that’s what we wanted or expected.
GORDON: Throughout my college career, especially towards the end, I heard a recurring argument:
“College is a scam,” they said, “It’s a trap or, at very best, a waste of money. You don’t learn anything you can actually translate into a job, so either drop out while you can or don’t sweat the grades and party your buns off.”
EVAN: Wait, who is the “they” that was saying this?
GORDON: I’ve read it in various Cracked articles, I’ve seen it covered in webcomics and in comments, I’ve heard it on the radio. Not always the same tone, but it always boiled down to that essential idea. “College doesn’t teach you what you really need to know, it just puts you in debt and wastes your time.”
EVAN: Well, I guess that really begs the question of “What is it that we’re really supposed to know?” If college is the great institution to prepare us for our lives, what should it have taught us?
GORDON: Some would argue that technical and vocational skills are what we really need. Stuff that’s meant to train us for jobs. Wrenches, not Whitman.
EVAN: Which is the sort of thing you see advertised on television late at night or in the middle of the day; schools for electricians and dental assistants and plumbers and what have you.
GORDON: Which always come across as propaganda films from a dystopic alternate timeline. They can claim to be breaking the mold all they want- I’ll still always just see Orwellian Factory-Schools designed train the subservient masses for laboring in name of supreme leader and glorious fatherland.
EVAN: Heh heh.
The contrast to this idea you brought up when first introducing this topic, that the two sides could be seen as college prepping us for our careers or making us more well-rounded individuals.
There’s obviously more to it than that, but how would you boil the latter option down to its essence?
GORDON: I’d probably cite our own alma mater’s (for me more just “mater”) slogan of “global mindedness.” The idea is to create people who are, first and foremost, thinkers. Logical and critically minded thinkers with strong creative abilities and appreciation for art and wonder. A noble enough sentiment to be sure.
EVAN: To really engage with this topic I feel like we should have equal footing, and I’ll have to give our readers a little bit of context-
I’m currently unemployed, and chose to live the latter part of 2012 living with and taking care of my grandfather, whose wife [my grandmother] passed away in September. My job hunt has only very recently started up again.
I say that because as it stands one of us is currently working and knows how his education has aided him and the other is not.
GORDON: I, unlike my Canadian counter-part, am currently employed, having worked two jobs simultaneously for a while there. Having vainly searched for a job the entire summer and most of the fall, I am now working a job helping unemployed people find work, the irony of which is not lost on me.
EVAN: And did you, my Employed-American friend, find that a degree helped you in your search for work?
GORDON: In all honesty, I’m not sure.
On one hand, I can say that certain classes I brought definitely assisted me in securing a job, but those classes really more on the whole “applied” spectrum of education. I definitely didn’t need to go to a top 3% college. People, it turns out, don’t give a crap about where you went.
EVAN: Again, I can’t comment from experience, but I’d like to say that it depends on the job.
GORDON: This is probably true. However, if you were looking for a job, which is gonna look better on a resume? Four years of college, or four years of experience in that field? From everything that I’ve seen, I’d take experience every time.
EVAN: And I agree with that entirely. I can’t count the number of want ads I’ve seen [and this is for stuff like janitorial work, and dishwasher] that require “minimum 2 years work experience.”
It’s like, heck, what was I doing in school when I could’ve been out working this whole time?
GORDON: But of course, that brings up the first question: what’s the point of college? Are we expected to choose a career path and be trained like the mindless, dehumanized proles that we are?
EVAN: Well, for me personally my career goals were more tailored to an academic setting. My personal interest in writing and editing is definitely something that can and is fostered in that environment.
That being said, if I had skipped my four years of college to simply freelance as hard as I could out there in the real world, would I be a better writer today? I honestly couldn’t tell you.
GORDON: The problem is that both sides have really, really big flaws.
On the one hand, turning college into a simple vocational training course does truly rip the soul right out of academia. It makes it just the place you go to get a desk job instead of a manual one.
On the other hand, college as it is now, while fostering intellect and creativity, is as unhelpful as it is expensive. Why put yourself over a hundred thousand dollars in debt to not get employment?
EVAN: I guess in the bigger picture, what is it that we want to do with our lives?
There are plenty of jobs out there that don’t require a college education, and that certainly benefit from hard work at an early stage.
On the flip-side, there are jobs that you simply can’t get without a degree.
GORDON: We also can’t imagine that we can simply get any job we want to begin with. It’s all a gamble. I can get a degree in biology, but that doesn’t at all mean I’m gonna get a job in biology- heck, I’d probably be lucky if I got something even close!
EVAN: Like a janitor in a pharmaceutical company. Or the guy who delivers mail to a biology professor’s house.
GORDON: Exactly. So is that it, then? It’s the whole dang system?
EVAN: I mean, yeah. I feel like more often than not that’s all it really boils down to.
GORDON: So let’s talk about an ideal universe. Or at least one that ain’t quite so screwed up. What’s college look like? Give me your take.
This does not count as an ideal college…
EVAN: It’s tricky, man- Because I would like everyone to be well-read individuals who think about the media that they access and have a fuller understanding of what makes us who and what we are as a culture, I mean, that’s the dream-
But at the same time I acknowledge that there are people who don’t care a whit about any or all of that.
And with so many people who enjoy poetry and the arts, while those are debatably important parts of society, what happens when they need to find work? How many playwrights can any single country sustain?
GORDON: My response would be “how many playwrights are there actually out there?”
EVAN: I think there’s a difference between the actual number, and how many individuals would actually like to be a part of that number.
GORDON: Touché, but we can blame certain jobs being glorified and others suffering from unwarranted contempt.
But let’s move on. College. Your college- what’s it look like?
EVAN: A thorough exploration of the ideas that created Western civilization, the one most of us live in today, because it’s extremely important to observe our origins before we can look at our present and then ahead, after that.
A strong emphasis on writing with the reason that without the ability to properly communicate our thoughts how can we even really fully think them to begin with.
GORDON: Sounds to me that you’re still leaning more towards the side of academia.
EVAN: Well, like we’ve discussed, I have a slight bias. And I suppose we haven’t really defined the question as far as the purpose of college.
GORDON: My take would a combination of both sides, with the end goal being application. We’re talking about the study of English for the purposes of applying the principles in same, either in writing or screenplays or entertainment or communication of some kind.
I feel this would allow for all the creative and academic elements while keeping the whole process grounded. No ivory towers.
EVAN: I don’t think my take discounts the possibility of lining up with what you said, but that’s a really good description of how college could and maybe should be.
That being said, we are actually overtime.
GORDON: You wanna talk about drugs and culture next time?
EVAN: I think at some point we could hand this back to the viewers, actually. We’ve really gotten a handle on this whole E>. I’m just not sure when or how to do so.
GORDON: The readers are slack-jawed cattle who would eat their own shoes if we told them to.
EVAN: I should probably edit that out of the final post.
GORDON: Nah, we can let ’em vote. My subject would be Drugs and Culture.
EVAN: Mine would be . . . um . . . huh. About SNL. How to fix SNL.
GORDON: Nice. Let it be so.
EVAN: Tell the nice people to have a good Wednesday, Gordon.
GORDON: Have a good Wednesday, Gordon.
EVAN: And don’t forget to vote, readers! Thanks for putting up with my co-writer!