I barely remember the one college Calculus class I was required to take to complete my undergraduate degree. I could say it’s because I wasn’t really interested in the class – it was only a requirement, not a passion. I could say it was because i wasn’t applying myself, or because the lecturer who taught it was from Eastern Europe and i missed half of what he said in trying to puzzle out the first half of the words coming out of his mouth. I could say it was because my first semester of college I barely slept and calc was just another place to rest my head for a few weary minutes. But the truth is something far more far-reaching – I never saw math as a worthwhile skill.
I have a poet’s soul. I can listen to a physics professor talk about the wonders of the universe or an inventor talk about his new Idea, or a designer talk about a current project and be totally enthralled. But I am more enthralled with the words, the person, and the passion they show than the ideas behind them. I do have my own curiosity and love of learning. I do still have some interest in the less word-oriented aspects of life. But to me they remain subject matter, rather than goals in and of themselves.
A part of this preference is probably due to old prejudices. Language is a female sphere. Hard sciences are male. Despite the growing numbers of girl students doing just as well as boys in analytical subjects such as math, there remain underlying preferences that are not necessarily based on ‘natural’ tendencies.
There have always been questions as to whether or not boys are predispositioned or socially conditioned toward certain subject matter. Obviously boys and girls are biologically different. Most likely certain parts of our brains either start out different as well, or at least adapt differently due to slightly different bodily functions. At the same time, there are countless ways in which that brain function is identical, or at least very similar, between a wide variety of individuals. What then does it mean that most engineers are still men? What does it mean that I consider myself a nerd, but still feel superior to the science nerd?
If there is a brain difference between girls and boys that makes one or the other less strong in certain sciences, that’s one thing. There will always be outliers anyway. But I would guess the difference is more ‘personal preference’ than actual skill. And if so, are we as a society telling our sons and daughters to value very different skills and even modes of thinking?