May 28, 2010

From Christopher R Lee:

Re: Mostly-male book images may reduce girls’ science scores (April 23): When I was at school, science textbooks didn’t have pictures of scientists. They were rather dry, but perhaps it was better like that, and the school didn’t have to buy a new set every time the social fashion changed. Textbook writers should be preoccupied by other matters than the right gender and racial mix in their illustrations. Soon they will have to worry about who is looking at or sitting next to who in their illustrations.

Nowadays, budding chemists are no longer expected to have blown up their garden shed, and the current practice of including safety information in books is a good idea. However, if you add to that all the political correctness stuff, a book that has little room left for the science is hardly likely to inspire.

That doesn’t mean to say that there isn’t a place for library and personal books of a more relaxed style. However, even here, a less hamfisted approach would be more appropriate. For example, in the biography of a famous male scientist, an author could indicate which schools and universities he attended, with just a mention of the arrangements available for girls at that time.

Finally, it would be totally stupid to refuse to discuss the possibility that there may be gender differences with repect to some kinds of scientific abilities, and in th attitudes needed to make the best of these abilities.


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