Update to yesterday's post (aka What could possibly go wrong?)
I'd like to thank the dozens (hundreds?) of people who have responded positively to my To My Daughter's High School Programming Teacher post.
I told a non-technical friend that I was worried about writing that post yesterday, but it had been brewing in my head for months, and the titstare incident made me pull the trigger. My friend responded, "What could possibly go wrong?" His comment cracked me up, and I told him I was getting that statement printed on a t-shirt. When I wrote yesterday's post, I seriously underestimated the response I'd get. I haven't (and won't) read the comments posted on other sites, but I would like to respond to questions and feedback I've received directly.
Believe me, if there were any way for me to have written this anonymously or without mentioning my daughter and our specific experience, I would have. (We survived high school, yay!) Our story, however, isn't unique. Since yesterday, I've heard from dozens of readers — teachers, fathers, mothers, male and female students, tech professionals, and so on — who had similar experiences to share. Others, luckily, had much more positive experiences, too.
I provided personal background to show that, unlike many kids, my daughter had access to technology and plenty of encouragement, support, tools, and mentors in tech. To clarify, that does not mean that I expected her to become a developer; I just wanted that door to be open to her, should she choose to walk through it. I thought she might enjoy a programming class, and she thought so, too. In our case, this one class did not squash the dreams of a budding programmer, by any means.
Some well-meaning folks have offered suggestions for what I should have/could have done as a parent, or what they would have done differently in the same situation. I've found that it's always a breeze to theoretically raise someone else's kid, but in practice, we're all doing the best we can with what we have to work with at the time. My kid didn't come with a manual, otherwise, I definitely would have read that one. Unlike teaching, parenting doesn't come with new semesters, a fresh round of teenagers, and a do-over with more experience under the belt.
I wrote an open letter because I am not blaming a particular teacher, group of boys, or programming language. I don't want anyone retroactively punished or called out. (Like I said, we survived high school.) Instead, I'm sharing, after months of internal debate, a personal experience that illustrates how complicated the topic of increasing diversity in tech is, how early kids can get turned away from computing, and how each of us is a small part of a bigger picture. [And for those of you who thought I "harped" on Visual Basic, I only mentioned it three times in the post. If you want to teach programming to kids, starting with a single language that they can't easily use, for free, outside the classroom, on a variety of operating systems, simply is not the best approach.]
The fact is, there is a noticeable lack of diversity in technology, and many of us — regardless of gender or operating system preference — would like much more diversity.
I graduated high school in 1988. I got a killer electric typewriter for graduation, and it got me through my undergraduate degree. My first car came with an 8-track player. Fast forward to 2013 and even infants play on tablets and cars are complicated, powerful computers on wheels.
I strongly believe that every kid should have access to computers and the internet, an introduction to programming, and an understanding of the variety of roles computing plays in our society. I see these things as essential as learning how to read and write, math, science, history, government, and geography. Not every kid who takes a programming class — regardless of how the class is taught or who is in it — will become a programmer. But we can do better, and maybe increasing diversity starts one class, one teacher, and one kid at a time.
USENIX is one of many organizations actively working on increasing diversity in technology, and I'm thankful to work with a community of supportive, diverse, intelligent, open-minded, creative professionals. I encourage you to join us and the many other organizations, projects, individuals, and events working toward increasing diversity in technology:
- USENIX Women in Advanced Computing (WiAC)
- Apply for a student grant to attend LISA '13 (application deadline is September 30)
- Attend the upcoming Women in Open Source luncheon at LinuxCon, or the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing
- Donate to the Ada Initiative
- Join PyLadies
- Learn more at the Geek Feminism Wiki
Which resources would you add to this list? Let us know in the comments.