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To my daughter's high school programming teacher (usenix.org)
726 points by Anechoic 1387 days ago | hide | past | web | 578 comments | favorite



I feel for the daughter who (like many women before her) had a crappy experience in the male-dominated programming world. I feel for the parent who sees her daughter possibly reject a very fulfilling career path after a bad initial experience, when the future could be so much better. But as a former high school teacher, I also feel for the teacher. Giving them some benefit of the doubt, I just want to point out a couple things:

1. As many others have mentioned, if this is a public school, it's quite unlikely that this teacher is college educated as a programmer, let alone has ever been a professional developer. I'm sure they're teaching VB simply because that's what they have experience with, probably making them the most experienced programmer on staff at the school.

2. High school bullies are typically quite good at restricting their bullying to times when they're unlikely to be spotted by an authority figure. As a teacher, you try hard to maintain awareness of the entire room as much as possible, but there are always tons of gaps. You might be writing something on the board, helping a student 1-on-1, addressing some other kid's behavior, or doing any of dozens of other tasks.

3. Most teachers try to keep tabs on their students on a personal level, especially when they behavior or attitude noticeably changes, but not all students open up. It takes a lot of effort to maintain an authentic connection. Parents have trouble connecting authentically with their children--imagine doing it with scores of students per semester. And when it comes to bullying, most teenagers downplay to avoid being though of as a snitch. Some are self-conscious to be bailed out even when they haven't "snitched".

4. For many of the author's suggestions, the teacher may be doing these things (recruiting, cross-promoting, etc.), to the extent that they have time. But these are outside the job of teaching. These are things the author could be doing at the school too, but presumably she's too busy. I'm sure the teacher can relate.

Teaching high school was by far the most grueling and emotionally taxing job I've ever had. My work career also includes being a custodian at a health club, a baseball umpire, a senior software engineer, and and a startup founder. None of those jobs is anywhere near as demanding.


I had people saying absolutely awful things to me in the middle of class, well within earshot of an authority figure who couldn't be arsed to do anything about it.

Funny enough, by far the worst class I took was a networking class. I thought I'd be surrounded by smart people. Turns out, I was only surrounded by assholes, with a teacher willing to let anything and everything slide.

The best class? Geometry. The teacher was more than willing to deliver an attitude adjustment when she had to, and she did, without even being mean about it. As a result, it's one of the few places I was ever comfortable interacting with people I didn't really know.

Healthy attitudes can be taught, but people have to be willing to step up and do it. It's not just on teachers—it's something anyone who has the potential to influence others' lives should be working on.


> it's something anyone who has the potential to influence others' lives should be working on

Especially parents. Ethics should be passed on from generation to generation, religious or not. Somewhere in the past century, the art appears to have been lost. Or it may dilute with each generation, as can be observed in children raised by their grandparents when compared to children of the same age raised by their own parents.


Every time someone drops the "generational breakdown of ethics" idea, I can't help but think that we really can't have fallen that much ethically when we used to have legal slavery, legal disenfranchisment of the poor, and so forth. On the other hand, in a lot of ways we have found more subtle and palatable ways for groups to seek power over others.

In the end, I just think that over time, the "goodness" of human ethics has been more or less stationary. We've got wants and needs. We've got empathy. We've got conscious minds that seek rationalizable patterns of behavior that satisfy both of these things, but the end result isn't really a consistent normative ethical scheme. Even the most religious people (obviously) find ways to bend the spirit of the ethical schemes to their own benefit.


I totally agree with your comment, one thing though

> a crappy experience in the male-dominated programming world.

It's a bit far fetched to call a high school level programing introduction class audience the "programming world". Given the amount of people that, even in totally CS oriented engineering school, give up, or aim at a management career after they discover what CS really is, I'm confident to guess that no more than 1 or 2 kids in this class will be one day professional programmers.

I don't think this story as anything to do with sexism in IT.

It's also possible (but we will never know) that she was bullied more because she was doing great in the course than because she was the only girl (which is still unacceptable of course).


The bullying took a sexist form. I don't care why, no female should ever be told they need to go to the kitchen and make sandwiches for the guys in a programming class.

That's behavior that should be stopped, or preferably never happen. The expectation should have been set that it will not happen, that the cool programmers don't discriminate and are respectful of each other as individuals.


Do you know what it was like for the only guy in home ec? It is not a case of sexism, it has nothing to do with programmers (likely none of the students would identify with programmers at all). It is just normal bullying. The same kind that teenagers who are in a minority of some kind deal with all the time. Yes, it needs to be addressed. But pretending it is some other problem isn't going to help it be addressed.


I really have a hard time believing that anyone can think someone who says "make me a sandwich" isn't making a sexist remark. Don't get me wrong, I agree that in some contexts it can be given and received as a joke, but it is absolutely sexist.

Just because males may receive gender-based outcasting in a home-ec class does not make that also sexist (are they harassing him to go bring her home a paycheck???), nor does it make the original case OK to disregard as "kids being kids".


Nobody said the original case is OK. In fact, knowing in advance someone would advance that strawman, I preemptively addressed it in the post you replied to. I stated that it is bullying, not sexism. If you try to solve bullying by addressing sexism, you will fail.


>I stated that it is bullying, not sexism

It's not mutually exclusive. The sexism comes from the culture that even makes "make me a sandwich" a remark to use in a bullying context. Bullying comes in all forms, but gender-based bullying has another insidious component in that it re-enforces sexist ideas and cultural norms. This is why addressing it independently is important. Just addressing bullying does not eliminate the culture where these terms derive their power.


Saying "make me a sandwich" doesn't have power. The environment of "the majority are singling me out" is what has power, the words are quite literally irrelevant. Sexism would be if the boys in the class thought they were better than girls and thus a girl shouldn't be in the class. That is without a doubt not the motivation, but rather the standard "we can pick on this person so we will". There was only one girl in one of my programming classes too. She was part of the group picking on me, because the group felt I was an easier target. That really is the root of it, and attempting to address nonexistent sexism will not help solve it at all.


I can't agree with this line of reasoning. The words are not irrelevant. The words "make me a sandwich" aren't powerful because someone of the majority (in, say, a school context) said it, but because of the wider implication that that's a woman's place--making a sandwich for a man. In fact, these sorts of words can be used by people who have little power in a given context because they derive their power from the wider cultural norms. The power dynamics of whatever isolated group under consideration is what is irrelevant. The fact that they chose to bully her in that specific way indicates a sexist train of thought and that must be addressed separately from the issue of bullying. One can bully based on gender without it being sexist. This was not such a case and that fact is meaningful.


You are welcome to your opinion, but you aren't welcome to try to force me to accept it as fact. I've seen no evidence to support your interpretation, and all my experience has shown the opposite. What wider implications make the millions of other taunts adolescents hurl at each other effective? Have you spoken to a high school girl before? Do you actually think they believe there is some "woman's place" making a sandwich for a man? The majority of them think it is just something to say, like any other random taunt. Just because you want there to be sexism there, doesn't mean there actually is.


I, too, was a child, and so I have my own counter-anecdotes. Most taunts from kids don't have wider cultural implications. Sexist insults are an exception--as are racist insults, you certainly wouldn't be so dense as to claim that a kid calling another black kid a nigger derives its power from 4th-grade-power-dynamics would you?


That depends on the context. Believe it or not, plenty of kids of all colors have no idea what nigger means or why it is offensive. A white kid calling a black kid a nigger can be racism, or it can be that the kid has no idea what it means and also calls white kids and asian kids niggers too. That's really the very crux of the issue here, sexism is a motivation, it doesn't exist purely because the word sandwich is used. Just as the word nigger does not automatically mean racism is involved, racism is a motivation that could cause someone to use the word, but that doesn't mean you can extrapolate backwards and say there is always racism behind the word.


Your defense of your point is bordering on the absurd. Yes, its technically true that these things may not indicate racism/sexism is the motivation behind their usage, but the vast vast majority of their usages are derived from racist/sexist thoughts from the wider culture or in the individual themselves. This is even more true in the case of the word nigger. To offer your point as if it has any usefulness in practice is ludicrous.


Except that is exactly what is happening in the case the article presents.


And now we're back to the original point of contention.


First, I am glad that you agree that it needs to be addressed. If you disagree with everything else I think, we can at least agree on that.

I think your argument is that this is bullying, not sexism. I don't think bullying supercedes sexism. I think bullying comes in a variety of types. I don't really care if it's sexism or bullying, except in so much as it may make it easier to stop this sort of BS.

In my mind, You are teaching them to program, hence you are making them into programmers.

When I learned to drive, I learned both the mechanics of the car, but also the rules and expectations. Like let people merge, and wave a thank you to people who let you merge.

That said, there may be a better way to address the issue then trying to inculcate egalitarian values as part of being a good programmer. I didn't dig through journals to look at studies of bullying/sexism interventions in american secondary education. Feel free to do so.


> I don't think this story as anything to do with sexism in IT.

I agree, but it'd be nice if it could be nipped in the bud.

> It's also possible (but we will never know) that she was bullied more because she was doing great in the course than because she was the only girl (which is still unacceptable of course).

Children are horrible to each other and will use anything. Ginger hair? Your life will be hell. Overweight? Your life will be hell. Only woman / man in the class? Your life will be hell. I agree that none of this is acceptable.


Be that as it may, I think it's pretty likely the daughter thinks of the class as being representative the programming world.


Since she is "friend with a linux kernel contributor, and ARM developer, etc", I wouldn't be so sure about that...


But then there's all the women who take a programming class for the first time who aren't friends with industry experts. And even if this teenager is willing to give it another shot, I wouldn't blame her, or anyone, for feeling left out, and believing this is what the world of programmers is like.

I know I made that mistake in high school: I actively dissociated from the male/techy-dominated "CS" kids in my school, due to the culture of the "nerdy male" that they cultivated, and only took my first course because I was lucky, and at a "Welcome to your new college's science programs" presentation was wowed by a CS professor's presentation. And I only stuck with it because again, I got lucky, and most the students in the intro course had little to no experience and didn't consider themselves computer geeks, and the course was much more about problem solving and new modes of thought, rather than being an exercise in "learning to program." And it didn't hurt that the course was taught by a woman who was excited about the material.


You know how it feels if people dissociate from you in high school becasuse you seem nerdy? It's such a joke that feminists now try to turn that on the head and claim those nerds prevented them from programming for sexist reasons.

No, those nerds did not become the bullies they hated in high school. You are still the bullies you were in high school, you just found new excuses (then: they seem nerdy, now: they are sexist).

See, most male programmers stuck with it despite the bullying. They did not need special encouragement. Excuse me if I feel little enthusiasm for developers who need to be bribed into the profession.


These girls weren't even in school when you were getting bullied, many of them weren't even alive. The 'nerds' in school weren't in school at the time, and probably weren't even alive.

There is no group of feminists that bullied nerds by disassociating with them (beyond what is acceptable in just not talking to people who don't share your interests) in this story 'claiming the nerds prevented them from programming for sexist reasons.' There is a girl getting treated like crap by people, for no good reasons, because of some group-politics sexism.

You're just foisting the arguments of the past, of different people, onto the current generation - This isn't like there's some evil cheerleader figure who stumped nerds for years turning up and expecting them to welcome her into their programming fraternity.


I was responding to a comment, not the article. Perhaps you should read the comment before judging my reply. As for the article here, I am not yet convinced her ordeal was really as bad as the mum-with-an-agenda writer describes it. Impossible to know without knowing more context.

Nevertheless I am always opposed to bullying, but unfortunately sometimes we have to deal with it. Calling for a nanny state to work things out for us is not always a workable solution.


> I'm sure they're teaching VB simply because that's what they have experience with, probably making them the most experienced programmer on staff at the school.

VB is a fine language to get children interested in programming. Personally, I know many people who weren't able to grasp programming via C but were pretty excited about VB's gui designer and easy database connectivity. Most of the introduction to VB didn't teach them much programming, but at least it got them interested.

> High school bullies are typically quite good at restricting their bullying to times when they're unlikely to be spotted by an authority figure.

The author is being unfair when she is holding the teacher solely accountable for bullying.

> It takes a lot of effort to maintain an authentic connection. Parents have trouble connecting authentically with their children--imagine doing it with scores of students per semester. And when it comes to bullying, most teenagers downplay to avoid being though of as a snitch. Some are self-conscious to be bailed out even when they haven't "snitched".

There is also the fact that being teacher's pet generally invites more bullying. If they can't harass you, they will begin isolating you. And of course, the general mentality isn't in favor of snitches even when the snitches are hapless victims. Children don't have a strong sense of right and wrong and peer pressure muddies it more.

> For many of the author's suggestions, the teacher may be doing these things (recruiting, cross-promoting, etc.), to the extent that they have time. But these are outside the job of teaching. These are things the author could be doing at the school too, but presumably she's too busy. I'm sure the teacher can relate.

I haven't taught at professional level, but I do like teaching. And I like to teach people who are interested in learning. If I were a teacher, I won't really do much recruiting and promotion. If the job requires me to do it, I probably won't take it.


I think that if I were going to teach programming to high school kids I'd show them the console in Chrome / Safari, because it's something they all have easy access to (I assume we're talking about a first world country, right).

VB seems to me to be a poor choice because it doesn't intersect with the kids' lives. They likely won't go home and build VB apps (on their Macs...) The console is like lifting the curtain and revealing the motor underneath something we all use every day.


I totally agree. But most high school computer teachers simply aren't that sophisticated. At the very least, the poor guy would need something like Dev Bootcamp or an intensive General Assembly course to even scratch the surface of modern software development. Who's paying for that? If this guy actually had modern software development skills, he's have the option of getting twice the pay of his current job of being a teacher/programmer/recruiter/promoter/psychiatrist/policeman/administrator/coach (possibly)/network admin (possibly)/ ... ad infinitum, and with a less critical audience of parents, students, and administrators.

Our disjointed education system has done a pretty crappy job of anticipating the software revolution and gearing up for it. I mean think about it, even in higher ed, software development/engineering as a discipline separate from computer science and computer engineering is not even 10 years old in many places. At most ed schools, software education is just a component of overall tech ed, if it's available at all, and specializing in tech ed is a good way to make yourself expendable by not being certified in a "core" subject.

And with most K-12 curriculum priorities being set by individual local districts and schools, it seems hardly probable that administrators, overburdened as they are trying to increase test scores in core subjects, are going be able to sense and react to long-term economic trends by beefing up their software instructional staffs.


To each his own. I find web development(dynamic or just html/css) doesn't have the instant gratification something like VB has(it doesn't have to be VB). The main purpose of teaching programming to high-schoolers is to con them into learning it themselves. VB, despite its warts, was one of the most popular programming languages of its time. Excel and VB owe its popularity to the simple fact that they aren't hostile(or at least not as hostile as others) to newcomers.


I agree that VB's build-run-debug cycle is highly gratifying, but so is JavaScript's if properly taught, and it has the advantage of -- as I said -- being the underpinning of something they actually use.

If you want to show the joy of a VB-like build-run-debug cycle, use Unity and C# (or Unityscript) and it's (a) free, (b) runs on Macs, and (again) (c) builds stuff they might actually care about.


As someone who learned programming in VB, I agree with you. As a junior high kid I was able to make things from business calculators to arcade style games. Was my code great? NO. Was it hip and trendy? Back then... maybe, but no. Am I now a successful programmer "who knows better" with a degree/full time job/start up? Yes.

I'm not sure VB was a "make or break" factor in my education, but it certainly didn't help. Also, I'm trying to teach my girlfriend development and web development, it turns out, IS NOT a good place to start.


I learned to program in school using BASIC on an Apple II, and it was great, but that doesn't mean I think this is the way to teach programming today. As recently as, say, 2000 desktop applications written in VB were kind of cool and relevant. Today: not so much. In 2000 the original writer's daughter would probably have bugged her for a Windows laptop and not a Macbook Pro.

> I'm trying to teach my girlfriend development and web development, it turns out, IS NOT a good place to start.

I totally agree, which is why I would teach Javascript, not web development.


And then what happens when they go "Ok, so... can I actually make anything with this? How would I use this in the real world?" Which is exactly what happened to me a week ago.

Then you're on the hook for "Well, first you'll have to learn HTML, then you'll have to learn how to access the HTML from javascript... then you'll have to learn CSS to actually make it not look embarassing." I SUPPOSE I could make my novice girlfriend write a backend server in node with her new found looping and if/else if skills.

I think once she gets the basics down I'm going to have to switch her over to objective-c, which is going to be a bitch but at least she can do something and see results. I love javascript, but it's not a fun and immediately rewarding experience like you get with a design->compile->run process.


>> High school bullies are typically quite good at restricting their bullying to times when they're unlikely to be spotted by an authority figure.

> The author is being unfair when she is holding the teacher solely accountable for bullying.

Come, now. Yours is not a reasonable conclusion to make from the blog post. It should be obvious to the reader that the bullies in question are responsible. The author's point was that the teacher shares responsibility in providing a safe environment for all students in the class. Perhaps you don't agree (and what a shame if you don't), but you should not misrepresent the author's argument to make your case.


The teacher has a responsibility to provide a safe environment THAT ENDS AT THE DOOR TO THEIR CLASS. If the harassment happened out of view, is the teacher still responsible? Are you responsible for harassment that takes place at your workplace outside your cubicle? Students have remedies, they all know what they are. I knew. If the child spoke up to a teacher, principal, janitor, or anyone and the school did nothing then I'd side with the OP in a heartbeat. Absent any real facts about what happened I'd have to guess (and it's only a guess) that the teacher wasn't the problem here.


> The teacher has a responsibility to provide a safe environment THAT ENDS AT THE DOOR TO THEIR CLASS. If the harassment happened out of view, is the teacher still responsible? Are you responsible for harassment that takes place at your workplace outside your cubicle?

The teacher may be responsible, sure. The harassment happened; knowing that, it is an absolutely fair question to wonder if more could have been done by the teacher.

> Students have remedies, they all know what they are. I knew. If the child spoke up to a teacher, principal, janitor, or anyone and the school did nothing then I'd side with the OP in a heartbeat.

I feel it must be pointed out, and repeated if necessary, that someone does not need to report a wrong action for that action to be wrong. I know that's not exactly what you said. The author's daughter was harassed, and that is wrong. Full stop.

> Absent any real facts about what happened I'd have to guess (and it's only a guess) that the teacher wasn't the problem here.

If you are absent any real facts, why hazard a guess at all?


>The author's daughter was harassed, and that is wrong. Full stop.

IF the author's daughter was harassed THEN that is wrong. Full stop.

I have no idea what really happened. You have no idea what really happened. Neither one of us was there. Neither was the mom. Her version is still just hearsay and worth exactly nothing. The only one who knows what happened is the young girl involved.

People throw the word harassment around a lot. Being bullied is the new black. What if this kid is super-sensitive (we all know people who cry when they step on ants) and the other kids just laughed at her and called her a teacher's pet. Maybe that was enough to sour this kid? But... is that harassment? Are the other kids just evil? Maybe the teacher was a completely insensitive jerk. Maybe the teacher was in on it. Maybe the mom embellished the story in some bizarre modern day blogging version of Munchausen by proxy.

At the end of the day all we can do is speculate that if A happened then B should have been done about it. In a perfect world A would never happen, but we don't live in that world and everyone who tells a story brings their own biases to the conversation. It's fodder for discussion and not much else because it's a story with only one version of the "facts".


> VB is a fine language to get children interested in programming.

If I had to take a Visual Basic class, I would've taken up woodworking as a career. Seriously, what the hell? It's awful.


In re: bullying

When are we going to start sterilizing people who raise shitty kids? I'm being intentionally provocative because I'm so fucking sick of this problem. It's the stupidest fucking problem in the world and it hurts so many people.


So, was this article about the student's experience or the mother's? Because it reads like it's about the mother. The guys in class suggested that their peer go make a sandwich. That's the only accusation actually made against the class and the teacher. While I don't endorse such teasing, it's certainly in no way specific to computer programming, and it's not anything like the intensity one would expect when trolls find an article.

Minority entities will be teased practically any time they exist, regardless of sector or age, and they need to be taught to handle it well. We can continue to attempt to stop the teasing altogether, but in the meantime we have to live in the Real World, and if this child quit programming because a few guys made a kitchen joke, the mother is really misdirecting her efforts by writing a letter to the teacher.

It's hard to imagine that any rape joke would be allowed to fly in our classrooms where students can hardly wield pencils anymore, and if you read carefully, you'll see that it doesn't appear to have occurred. It appears to me that the author is attempting to use some clever wording to create an impression that the "harassment" was much more intense than it actually was by subtly crossing over into her personal experience with online trolls.


>It's hard to imagine that any rape joke would be allowed to fly in our classrooms where students can hardly wield pencils anymore,

Zero tolerance tends to create situations in which schools/teachers/administrators do nothing since they don't want to get someone expelled. This creates an environment in which students say/do terrible things with little or consequence. Best case the teachers look the other way but often the teachers will harass students as well (I saw two teachers in my Junior High School sexually harass students). Occasionally the school will overreact and have someone arrested for using the word gun in an essay. The general rule is to expect them to do completely the wrong action, every time in every situation. At least that was my experience.


I agree. While gender-related issues in the software industry are important and worth talking about, this article seems to have pretty little justification.

I was in high school a few years ago. Put that many teenagers in a room and of course they're going to fuck with each other.

I've heard sandwich jokes made in liberal arts classes, biology classes, even a badminton class--which also had only one girl in it. The takeaway is not that the badminton industry is misogynistic or that the Phys Ed teacher is failing womankind; the takeaway is that high schoolers are dicks.


> the takeaway is that high schoolers are dicks.

High schoolers grow up. When they grow up, do they remain dicks, or do they change? I finally watched 42 the other day. There's this scene where a white dad is screaming at Robinson to get off the field, that they don't want him there, calling him all sorts of names. His son is hesitant at first, but starts following suit. The implication was clear. What you see as acceptable when young can stick with you for a long time until you have a shocking wake-up call. And seriously, who in society has really seen these wake-up calls happen more often than not? Especially given the amount of evidence we see of it not happening.


>the takeaway is that high schoolers are dicks. //

Sure. But not exclusively [which I know you weren't claiming].

I had some pretty degrading and misandrist remarks made about me in situations with lots of women in; where I've been the only man (mothers, women of an age to marry and more mature women too).

I think these things are a lot about group dynamics.


> I think these things are a lot about group dynamics.

I think that's right, particularly male group dynamics.

I'd say all guys are bullied, except most of us wouldn't call it such - it's the establishment of hierarchy, and bonding.

Is that right? Is that right when they don't differentiate their bullying towards girls? I'm not even going to wade into that. However, I feel (through personal experience) masculinity is being more and more removed from young men, and at a high cost.


> Minority entities will be teased practically any time they exist, regardless of sector or age, and they need to be taught to handle it well.

Yeah? So this high school programming class isn't so much a programming class as a crash course in coping mechanisms for gender-based harassment?

Please. It's the educator's job to create a safe space for, you know, education--for every student in the class, not just the privileged majority. It's their job to track their students' education and interest level, and make adjustments if either starts dropping. It's not their job to facilitate a hostile environment and let minority students flounder in the interests of 'real world training'. It's not their job to decide that since it's hard for women in tech in real life, it should be hard in their class. Education isn't about maintaining the world we already live in, it's about shaping the world our kids will live in.

You want real world training? Show me an HR department in a software company that's fine with comments like "get in the kitchen and make me sandwich". Which real world are you advocating this high school programming class introduce to a 16-year-old girl?


>Which real world are you advocating this high school programming class introduce to a 16-year-old girl?

The real world where HR thought police aren't sitting in every room of every company. The real world where even HR people try to "make jokes" and be funny. The real world where HR people generally judge the severity of a harassment complaint by favoritism, which reality a blunt HR person (not employed at my current employer) just relayed to me recently. The real world where real humans, not perfectly politically correct robo-trons, must work, play, and engage.

I don't endorse teasing that harms a person's feelings. But I also think we shouldn't be so thin-skinned that we shrivel up and quit the first time a trite, cliched joke is thrown our way, because that happens all the time to everybody (your peers _will_ find a difference to comment upon no matter how mainstream you think you are), and if you can't handle it, you'll have a lot of difficulty handling more serious emotional situations, like getting passed up for a promotion.

It'd be great if the programming teacher first, was made aware of this problem, and the article never claims he was, and second, was able to stop the problem, but there's no guarantee he could've effectively done so even if he tried (and he may have), just as corporate HR departments can't stop all incidents of "harassment" even though they "try".

I believe the author probably wrote the piece primarily as a hypothetical, but I also believe it was bad taste to do so since this supposedly is traceable back to a real person who may not deserve that type of criticism, and I don't believe her fundamental complaint ("someone said something that made my daughter sad, so you all should feel bad :( ") is very worthy of the community's attention.


And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why 16-year-old girls leave programming. Remember, guys ganging up on you and telling them to make them a sandwich is just funny! You're so thin-skinned, ladies! thought police!

http://hoydenabouttown.com/20110218.9512/sexist-joke-bingo/

...almost got bingo... good work, cookiecaper.


I didn't say it was funny or that being offended wasn't an OK response. I simply believe that we should handle potentially "offensive" situations wisely, instead of curling up and quitting. It is more than fine to voice your complaint and indicate that a so-called joke makes you uncomfortable and expect your peers to respect those feelings. It is also an effective requirement to recognize that you aren't always going to be able to get people to stop saying things you don't like, and that you can't let it cripple you.

And I only see hits in two squares on the "sexist joke bingo", not that it matters.


kaltai quite specifically called you out for the trope "you're so thin-skinned!". Quoth you:

> But I also think we shouldn't be so thin-skinned that we shrivel up and quit the first time a trite, cliched joke is thrown our way


Fine members of the audience, I give you the Myers Shuffle.

http://squid314.livejournal.com/329561.html

Will you take the free space kaltai, or can we stop trying to use rhetorical tricks like talking dismissively about(rather than to) and trying to out-meta the other?


>is just funny

Why is it that people misreading comments to call them out almost always come off as bigger asses than the people they're replying to?


The post I was responding to did refer to the sandwich comment as a "joke" and jokes are generally defined to be "funny." I would not consider the sandwich comment a joke, myself, since it doesn't fulfill the criteria I have for a joke, but apparently the poster I was responding to does consider it a joke (even if not one he likes, per se). Thus to the poster it does fulfill the criteria for a joke, whether good or not, and thus it is not inaccurate to rephrase those criteria, including funniness.


The poster characterized it as a joke, but did not say that that excused it. Your reading of the post as defending every aspect of the situation is what I object to.

And unfunny, bad-taste jokes are still jokes. I can talk about the KKK member's standup routine and call his words jokes without saying that I found them funny.


that's the most PC thing I've seen all week.

and I mean that in the worst possible way.


> Third, "politically correct" is a label principally used by reactionary dullards to dismiss arguments or objections that they see as excessively leftist. It's equivalent to calling someone a commie. Mind you, some people are communists, some people are knee-jerk excessive leftists, etc... but if that's true in a particular situation, you can just explain why it's true. Calling it "political correctness" is just a lowbrow dismissal.

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6358263


It's just an easy algorithm for detecting trite arguments! Makes some of these discussion more amusing for those of us who get to hear 'em a lot, and Lord knows we need some amusement.


I think we're evaluating the circumstances with different criteria. You're looking at the story and relating it to a thin-skinned woman who can't handle non-politically-correct humor in the workplace. I'm relating it to a 16-year-old kid who hasn't had the time or experience necessary to develop the thick skin and snappy retorts that would shield her from her peers' disrespect. She's not getting passed up for a promotion; she just wants to learn programming. It's entirely within the job description of a teacher to notice, step in, and set standards for behavior in the classroom. Even when they're not met, they communicate more than tacit acceptance of bad behavior.

I completely agree that people in general, and women in tech specifically, have to be thick-skinned to survive professionally. Nobody's advocating HR thought police--they'd be unnecessary in this case anyway--or politically-correct automatons. We're talking about kids. Kids! Surely it's not totally out of line to suggest that they could learn better behavior than "get in the kitchen and make me a sandwich". Surely there's a better response to the whole situation than "that girl needs to suck it up and learn how the world works".

For what it's worth, I remember the first time those trite cliches were thrown at me, and they felt neither trite nor cliched. They hurt. I thought I was part of a team, among equals, brothers-in-arms, friends, and I wasn't. I was different, I was other, I was less, I was not welcome. It's a paradigm shift that happens in an instant, and it can be pretty shattering--great for killing enthusiasm and developing thick skin in the future, maybe, but not for learning things in a programming class.


I agree with the thrust of your comment. But as a member of the "privileged majority" who did not have a safe learning environment for most of my school years, I'm tired of getting dumped on online and being told my experience is not valuable or valid in these discussions.

School sucks for nerdy white boys, too. Yes, I'd like to see a safe and healthy learning environment for everyone.


Thank you. If we accept discrimination of minorities as inevitable, then it will be.


Seriously, you can get fired for making the sandwhich joke? Sorry, but the US is really fucked up.


No, you can't. It's not that bad yet.


People can talk about how the real world is without endorsing it or thinking it should continue to be that way.

Do you understand the statement above? If not, I'll quit wasting my time.


She went off on some tangent about comments on an article she wrote - what the hell does that have to do with her daughter's computer programming class?

This was a rant about the mother's issues directed at a seemingly innocent teacher.

This article disgusted me.


There were no rape jokes in the classroom. The article mentions the author had comments in reply to another article she wrote.


Child gets bullied (shock horror), mother assumes it's sexism (it ain't, it's bullying. I'm a dude. Got bullied at high school. Does that make my tormentors homosexual autosexists?), rants.

I'm so bored of this sort of thing. Yes, there are man-children who post stupid and hurtful crap on the internet. Yes, there are cretins who make dick jokes on stage at conferences. There are also women who are complete and utter asses to all men because "all men are rapists", which IMHO is a far more misandric view than the kind of offhanded misogyny of "sudo make me a sandwich" shit nerd guys come up with.

People are dicks. People do stupid crap. People hurt each other.

People who use gender as an emblem and weapon are also dicks, because they create a line of demarcation and balkanisation where there IS NONE. We are PEOPLE. Not "Men" and "Women" who are some kind of antagonistic polar-opposite species.

Edit: Rape jokes. Interesting one that. I recall being 12, on a school bus on a trip to some camp in Michigan (am mostly schooled in the UK, spent a year in 7th grade in the US, loathed it), and being astounded at the fact that the gaggle of girls sat behind me were all cracking rape jokes. I actually couldn't parse at first what they were talking about "rip? ripe? rope?", until I clocked the macabre subject of their humour.

It took the (male) bus driver to ask them to all kindly shut the fuck up.


Two things stood out in particular: Bullying and sexism can coexist and feed off each other; and 'all men are rapists' feminists are actually extremely rare - far, far rarer than the 'man-children' you reference.


I sorry you had a bad school experience and absolutely agree with your point that things shouldn't improve and we should do nothing to help.


"We have to do something! This is something. Therefore we must do it."


... hello wilful misinterpreter? You don't fix a gas leak by buying a new sofa. I'm just saying that the thing being posed as an issue isn't the actual issue.


Your comment boils down to, "It was this way for me. Life's tough. Suck it up."

How can a situation where a child enters a classroom full of enthusiasm and leaves a year (term?) later depressed not be an "actual issue"?


"Life's tough." is a truism, whining about it or demanding everyone "be nice" is fail. You have control over yourself, believing you have/can control others is delusional and dangerous (to society).

The way to deal with it is "Suck it up." i.e. have self-confidence and act you, yourself, personally, better than others. Lead by example, not legislation.


This is fundamentally wrong. During development, security and self-confidence come from the environment you're brought up in.


Either you have serious reading comprehension issues, or you make a habit of deliberately misconstruing others statements - or you're a troll, and I'm stupidly feeding you.

I am saying that it IS an issue, but that the issue is not one of gender discrimination, just one of kids, and humans, being dicks - and you can't combat it purely on gender lines as all you're doing is treating a symptom rather than the disease.


>I am saying that it IS an issue, but that the issue is not one of gender discrimination, just one of kids, and humans, being dicks

Wrong. You're assuming that all forms of bullying are equally bad. This is patently false. Bullying based on traits that already set you apart can reenforce imposter syndrome. Specifically in the case of programming, a woman in a male-only class will already feel isolated and like she doesn't belong. Being bullied with gender-specific insults is much more harmful to this persons potential as a programmer than being bullied with gender neutral ones. So addressing specifically the sex-based bullying is necessary in addition to bullying in general.


All bullying is based on traits that set you apart. People don't bully "one of the crowd". They bully the outliers, the different ones, the ones who are female, or fat, or thin, or clever, or stupid, or black, or white, or old, or young, or even the kid that wears last season's "cool clothes".

It's not about gender. It's about ostracism. You don't have to be female to be ostracised. You just have to have something, anything, that sets you apart from the crowd.

This is the societal control mechanism we have culturally evolved to ensure conformity and "strength" in groups. It is really, really, really fucking dangerous, and leads to fun shit like Nazism. It's also really powerful, and is the basis of nation states.

Ergo, the problem needs treating at its cause, which is a cultural illness, and is far from simple to treat. You cannot simply resolve one emergent aspect of it and then expect to treat each aspect the same way. You do not cut down a tree by plucking at its leaves.


>All bullying is based on traits that set you apart.

This is certainly true. What I meant to convey was that in the context of a programming class, being bullied for a trait that is itself already suspect within oneself reenforces it and thus is more damaging. If that girl had been bullied in the programming class because she was fat, it may not have had as much of an impact on her decision to pursue the career. Being bullied because she's a girl on the other hand, had the secondary effect of reenforcing the idea that she doesn't belong in tech.


That's a fair point, and I agree that in the circumstance due to the framing of the situation it could be more harmful - but it doesn't change the fact that the root cause is bullying.

We as a species have a remarkable proclivity to be very unkind.


The problem in and of itself is a valid problem that can be worked on. By lots of small, manageable efforts we can make the world a better place. Abstracting problems away - making them more generalised - only turns manageable problems into philosophical debates.

Btw, you need to get away from the habit of directly attacking the author and focus instead on attacking the argument.


Oh, pot, kettle! C'mon already.

You're right that by abstracting things away you can just create a philosophical point with no path to resolution, but you can also actively inflict harm by tackling an issue in isolation without evaluating and understanding the root cause.

This is the same philosophy (general problem, specific problem within that general problem that we think we can act on, so act, without looking at the general problem) that lead to rampant mercury poisoning and insanity across the globe in the late 19th c., as a poultice of mercury nicely clears up the sores from syphilis - but does not cure syphilis.


I don't understand your point. The syphilis example is, as you say a specific cure to a specific problem. Good. It's also good science. This is the opposite of what you were arguing earlier.


Your deliberate misrepresentation of the posts you are replying to is simply dishonest. There is no way for a constructive conversation to come out of that.


What?


It is about the student's experience reflected in the eyes of a mother. Parents are not known for their objectivity when it comes to children, but in this case the (rather far fetched) idea that the evil boys and their sandwich jokes made her daughter dislike programming found fertile ground in the whole "designated victim" narrative of women in online environments.

There is no violence and rape in this story, there's only a mom with an axe to grind and a daughter who might not be interested in programming.


This is a learning moment for you, Mr stefantalpalaru. What you've just said, although I know you meant it sanely and sensibly, has been interpreted as lacking in compassion. This is not your fault; what happened is you have made a comment from a position of unrecognised privilege. For your own good, and the good of any women you may have any kind of relationship with now and into the future, it would be a very good idea for you to read up on the concept of privilege, with an open mind. You will find it uncomfortable, and you will probably prefer to fight back rather than acknowledge a flaw in yourself, but in the long run it will prove to be the best thing to do, and you'll be glad you did.

Best wishes, and good luck!


If your goal is to increase the acceptance of women in the tech community, this post is very counterproductive.


Not at all! My goal is to respond to someone who is unkind with something close to kindness. If he goes on the way he has been, he'll do himself as much damage as he does to the people around him. The reasonable response to that sort of privileged blindness is anger; I was aiming for something a little more compassionate.

You, however, don't get the same consideration, because I strongly suspect you're a pillock.


It's probably safe to assume that you're parodying the nakedly Orwellian nature of third-wave feminists, but I'm going to respond just in case this is a serious post.

This use of "privilege" as a targeted weapon to silence specific demographics has to stop.

Women in the western world have always been among the safest, most privileged people on Earth. This entire thread, in fact, has been a shining example of female privilege.

No one cares that women soundly outnumber men in university admission, and university graduation, and even high school graduation. Heck, no one cares that it is men who overwhelmingly make up the bottom of society.

Instead, we're having a collective anxiety attack because a hyper-privileged white woman is upset that her hyper-privileged white daughter might have had her feelings hurt in high school. This is surreal.


Another apologist on HN, what a surprise.. Let me guess.. you are a white male. Nice. So am I. We have no idea what its like..

Gender equality in America has come a long way. However, there are still many occupations and places in America where equality is not the norm at all.

The best example of an occupation where women are not welcome is the military.

The best example of inequality in the courts is this recent case: http://techcrunch.com/2013/06/09/hacker-faces-more-jail-time...

Inequality is all around us.


Oh dear. No help for you either, is there?


For reference, hacker789 repeated this comment here https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6360113 where it attracted more attention.


You must have had one horrific childhood if your bar for "nothing wrong at school" is "no violence or rape". If you ever have kids, I hope you aim a little higher for them.


A school with "no violence or rape" wouldn't be just nothing wrong, it would be extraordinary. Even elite schools in developed and rich countries are filled with bullying: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/aug/28/swedish-school-... Maybe you really ought to think about which school you went into in which neighborhood, which social clique you were a part of and if you still think no bullying happened, maybe it's time to think back on school and reevaluate some of your actions (hint: pranks and teasing might not be seen as that after all).


I read this comment as normalizing violence and rape - saying that it is expected, as a matter of course.

I disagree with that characterization. Bullying, violence, and rape should never be normalized, nor acceptable, regardless of the age of the perpetrators. This is aberrant, immoral behavior and should never be treated as anything else.


I went to an all girls school, and while I'm sure there was bullying, there was definitely no violence or rape.


I feel like I should come to the defense of mixed-gender schools here a bit, even though I realize your comment doesn't necessarily advocate gender isolation (but it does sort of imply the benefits of it).

I went to a mixed-sex high school, albeit you might choose to take this anecdote with a grain of salt since that was 20 years ago in Germany. There was certainly some bullying, although not on the scale I discovered much later in life was common elsewhere. There was almost no intra-school violence. I feel pretty confident in saying this because these things were taken very seriously by both staff and students alike, and the few cases where there had been confrontations between students quickly became very public and a matter of much water cooler talk afterwards. I can also say with about the same level of confidence as you that there was no rape, or other forms of gender-based violence. And coming back to the article's subject, CS class was mandatory for everyone at first - and even though in later years the course became one of those that could be voluntarily dropped, the gender balance stayed the same after that.

That said, school wasn't ideal for me as I was in it. CS class wasn't exactly great, mostly due to utter disinterest by 90% of the students who took it. At the time I had the feeling the school was a bad choice for individualists like me, though in hindsight I would revise that conclusion a bit (as a humanist-themed middle/high school it was actually much better than any other school I could have gone to).

I think it's important to bring young people up together and not artificially separate them into two groups. Of the many social problems present in my time studying there, gender issues were not one of them. There was no us-versus-them mentality, and informal social groups were almost always mixed. I can't help but wonder if that sort of normalcy is something single-gender schools actively campaign against.


I also went to school outside America, ten years ago. I don't have a decided opinion on mixed schools either way - there are definitely benefits to single sex education, but they need to be weighed against the artificiality of the environment, as you say. Its worth noting that many of the straight up academic benefits of gender separation appear to be stronger for girls - higher participation in STEM subjects, more participation in class, better performance in general - but there is some evidence that boys perform better academically with girls in the class. (this might be a little out of date, I am less interested in the theory of school since I left it myself). I got the impression that the idea was basically to reduce social distraction during school: one could always hang out with the opposite sex after school (and most people did).


Whenever the topic of K12 .edu comes up, two loud and inherently conflicting arguments always percolate to the top:

1) Either we need to make school even less like the real world, by separating the sexes as per the above suggestion, or turning the school into the chronological opposite of a work release prison,

or

2) We need to make school more like the real world by banning unnatural things like homeschooling, because obviously no human beings work are home or own their own businesses and self direct themselves. Or no human beings carry a tiny swiss army knife on their keychain, so we need to ban that too, etc etc.


Although I'm not really sure why your defense of rape as normal high school experience managed to turn into a subtle accusation that I may have been a bully myself, and I probably should have ignored that.


It wasn't a subtle accusation, because in my experience people who say school violence doesn't happen or they never saw it happen are/were actually bullies themselves. This post just confirmed it with the nice twisting of words, 'defense of rape as normal high school experience', oh really?

I was pointing out how much, much worse stuff happens in schools than just being told to 'make a sandwich' and trust me, I would have been a very happy little boy if only that had happened to my friends and me. To be honest, starting from the author of the article, this entire thread displays just how sheltered of a life many of this community must be living to start an Internet crusade (because this is what it is going to end up when the social justice warriors get wind of it) because of a boring class with an unqualified teacher.


I think you may be using violence to mean any kind of bullying, which is a little vague. Teenage girls certainly engage in a lot of bullying, but very little physical violence, perhaps even less so in the rich private school environment I was in. I'm sorry you don't believe me. And I think claiming that not-rape would be extraordinary is pretty solidly in line with saying that rape is normal, yes.

To me the thread illustrates that for a community that gives so much lip service to disruption and progress, a lot of people are really unwilling to put up with the idea that high school shouldn't have to be the pit of misery that is apparently common in American public schools. But über is solving real problems!


But there isn't a problem to solve for this community, because bullying isn't actually seen/acknowledged as a problem. Education officials are also only paying lip service and even that only after some very horrible case hits the newspapers and teachers are very underpaid for the amount of work they do. And the people who were bullied either won't get into any position of power with the capability to enact changes or are truly trying to forget it all.


Bullying is violence, and I wonder how you know there was no rape.


Bullying can be, but it isn't necessarily. Please don't trivialize real violence.


You're right, i completely discounted the possibility of female-female rape. I'm still pretty confident, but I take back the definitely. And I was using violence to mean physical injury, sorry if you were confused. I think it shouldn't be an unrealistic goal to have high schools where no one is raped or physically assaulted, I'm very confident i was at one, and I think that people who consider that so outlandish a suggestion that I must be an unwitting monster must have some sad backgrounds.


Well, since almost everyone else completely discounts the possibility of female-female rape - probably including the teachers at your school - I wouldn't be so confident. After all, how would you know?


And now I should apologize, because I realized I was thinking only of the student body when we did have some male teachers. So although I would be shocked to learn of any incidents, it is not as impossible as I said.


I was obviously referring to the starting lines:

> trigger alert

> (violence and rape references)

This is not Slashdot, you're supposed to read the article before commenting ;-)


It's not as much about "evil boys" in general, like other commenters have pointed out similar jokes are heard in all classes. But it's much harder when you're the only girl, guy, white kid, black kid, ect. Even if it's an innocent joke it starts a me against them mentality.


The entitled and largely unconscious male privilege in most of these HN comments is pretty hard to stomach against the large and steadily-accumulating picture of just how very different this industry presents itself to men and to women. Just because you don't directly experience or see it doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Just because you haven't been (consciously) chauvinistic to a woman doesn't mean women don't experience deep and pervasive chauvinism.

It's not a fucking "free choice" that women are making when they steer away from programming in the face of the grotesque pastiche of misogyny and bullying that underlies our vocation, in which most of the people who aren't actually bullying women are falling over themselves to deny its existence or make excuses for it.

Male programmers need to stop congratulating ourselves on how "libertarian" and "meritocratic" we are and start taking responsibility for how profoundly hostile and off-putting we have allowed this field to remain for most women.


So, you're saying that women need special treatment as the more delicately nurtured sex? I completely disagree. The tech environment is what it is, and I don't want to be treated differently than my male co-workers.

Also, I've never seen anything resembling a "grotesque pastiche of misogyny and bullying" in my 17 years of working as a programmer or systems analyst.


So, you're saying that women need special treatment as the more delicately nurtured sex?

Uh, no, he's not saying that. The issue is that women, generally, are already treated differently than their male co-workers, and they shouldn't be. It's about not treating them differently.


Close the thread everybody, a token woman just invalidated the whole thing. No misogyny in tech. Also one time a black dude said "what racism? lol" so there's no racism.


Racism? What's that? Isn't that what Morgan Freeman said we need to ignore?


Have your male coworkers ever been threatened with rape? Have they ever been told to get back in the kitchen and make a sandwich?


> Have your male coworkers ever been threatened with rape?

Do you actually think they'd report it if they were?


I've always assumed rape in general is severely under reported. People are rarely treated in a sensible way when they make an accusation that could end a person's ability to lead a normal life even if they're found innocent.


Well said.

Who here has never been someplace and felt like they didn't belong? Maybe you were the only person of your ethnicity at some event and you stuck out like a sore thumb. Maybe everyone had their inside jokes and familiarities you didn't know about. Maybe occasionally, people made in unambiguously clear that you weren't welcome, by being cold or outright hostile. This is what it feels like for many women in the tech world.

I really feel like this comes down not so much to an inability to comprehend and empathize, but more so to a vested interest of deniers in the status quo. More outsiders means people on the inside have to let go of their insularity, and moreover, compete with an influx of people who bring in diverse skillsets and viewpoints. Our supposedly meritocratic software world is actually anything but. I believe Chris Hayes nails it with his Iron Law of Meritocracy, summarized here [1].

[1] http://letstalkbooksandpolitics.blogspot.com/2012/09/the-iro...


The danger of some meritocratic systems is that weak leadership will put up with bad behavior just because someone is clearly a star. "Yes, he's hard to work with, but the code would fall apart without him." This is even worse in finance. "We can buy off any kind of lawsuit, after all, he made us $50 million last year!"

The problem is that this causes a moral decay. Once a firm accepts that this behavior is acceptable, the slippery slope starts. Well, a couple fudged expense reports isn't bad. Oh, what the client doesn't know won't hurt them. No need to be entirely up front with government. Management doesn't get it, don't share anything with them. Criminal complaints from the government, we're just the victim!


I tend to agree with the points you are making -- I certainly don't mean to derail this by a straw man argument, like it already happened above. But I think the importance of this particular incident is... well, somewhat overstated. Because:

> So, you see, I was all too familiar with what my daughter was going through, but I was unprepared for the harassment to start in high school, in her programming class.

Really? High school?

I went to high school, too. I distinctly remember how everyone was calling everyone else whatever they could. I've been called a faggot, a lunatic, a drug-addict, a bitch, a teacher's pet, a limp dick and a long list of other things, and I've been the target of a whole bunch of male stereotypes.

Like, you know, every fucking teenager on the planet. I cracked sexist jokes with other dudes -- hell, I cracked sexist jokes with girls -- and I've been the target of sexist jokes, too. Some of them were mean, some of them were in good spirit. Hell, at one point I was the only dude in a Latin class. Few things are more awesome than having the openly lesbian, short-haired colleague asking you whether you'd like to shine her boots and fetch her paper later (particularly after addressing you with "hey sissy" rather than your name).

But what the hell, that's what you do when you're a teenagers. We were a bunch of stupid fucks whose most important achievement in life was learning how to play the intro to Stairway to Heaven or trying to fuck while dead drunk. We insulted each other with no reason. Our behaviour was definitely unprofessional, because we went to school, not to work.

Seriously, if we're going to get upset and bring out the discrimination pitchforks every time a teenager says something mean to another teenager, we're going to be really busy. People are going to be mean to each other, particularly those who don't have this privilege of sheltered education.

I honestly sympathize with this young girl. Humour and sexist jokes apart, I had my share of insults and bullying because of a somewhat visible physical defect (one of my eyes isn't exactly agile). But being a good parent is not a good way to deal with this, no matter how much we'd like that, because it depends on other people being good parents, too.

My folks were awesome. Both were cultivated fellows, and my father was in the army and taught me how to punch. I got through school without traumas related to these experience using nothing but wits and kickboxing.


These two incidents are really nothing alike. I am a guy in a tech field surrounded by other guys and I imagine it would be very intimidating for a female colleague to be around us. It would take a lot more than this comment box to go into the details of why.


"We were a bunch of stupid fucks"..

Guess what? In High School many of us were quite together and tried our best to have fun while avoiding people like you.


I avoided high school entirely because of people like him.


That's exactly what we thought, too. We only understood we were a bunch of stupid fucks when we got older. We're all stupid when we're teenagers :-).


Thanks for writing this. I was thinking the same thing.

Most everyone has had this problem at one point in time. It seems to me that mom needs to teach her daughter to have a thicker skin...which is the EXACT same lesson I got from my parents.


I appreciate that sentiment, but to be honest, even most adults pressed into that kind of environment would not do well. Remember as an adult you are granted the autonomy to get away from unpleasant situations, and if not that, then the tools to resolve issues fairly.

Children have no tools, and are forced into these situations with no possibility of escape. The thicker skin you describe doesn't exist for the majority of the planet.


When your kid feels harassed and bullied telling them to just "have thicker skin" is not going to cut it.


Of course not, but bringing the gender equality into discussion is pointless. Teenagers find any reason for bullying. I was bullied for having a lazy eye and enjoying baroque music back when everyone my was hooked up on Smooth Criminal. My cousin had her share of it because she played the drums (how unthinkable for a woman!)

My parents tried all they could to shelter me behind regulations, and even they -- a colonel and an elementary school teacher -- failed and eventually admitted I have to stand up for myself if everything else fails. I stood up to (and beaten the crap out of) bullies and even stood up to teachers if I had to.

The people who don't care about the rules are the people against which bullied and harassed teenagers have no one to count on other than themselves.


i completely disagree that it's pointless to bring up. That is the entire point. Yes, kids say stupid things, but part of the job of the adults in their life should be to help them see why those things are stupid and learn to not act so horribly as "a joke" so they don't grow up to get up on stage and pretend to jerk off at a tech conference.


Hmmm, I don't remember saying that.

My parents didn't teach me to run to them or to teachers when stuff like this happens. They taught me how to deal with it myself.

Treating high schoolers like they're helpless kids might be fashionable now, but it might not seam as wise when they're 30 and living at home.


You should give an example of what would cut it.


This is a high school class, not the tech industry. You can't blame the tech industry when a bunch of highschoolers act like idiots just because the class they did it in happened to be a programming class. If they had done the same thing in a Algebra class would you be writing a rant about how we need to fix the rampant misogyny in math?


If it happened frequently enough, sure.

I went to a high school where the two calculus teachers were both female. I also went to a math PhD program where a professor -- specifically George Mackey http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Mackey -- wondered openly as to whether women could do top-level mathematics. In fairness to him, the women in that era were still few and below average, and one even had the temerity to whine about discrimination when the real problem was that she wasn't particularly smart or hardworking.

Moral: Even if you don't see bigotry in YOUR part of a group, don't assume it isn't common elsewhere.


But that's the thing, every time someone does something misogynistic that's even remotely connected to tech in any way we get a storm of "stop the rampant misogyny in tech" rants and comments, never a "stop the rampant misogyny in the USA/UK/Western World/Whatever". I don't see this as a tech problem, and blaming the tech sector for it is a cop-out. If there genuinely is a larger problem with society as a whole, that's where it needs to be addressed, picking on one subset of the larger group because you can't constructively offer any suggestions for how to fix the larger problem isn't useful.

At the end of the day, this was a highschool class with comments being made by highschool kids. The one comment specifically detailed in the article is an old internet meme that was largely popular in gaming circles. The teacher, the only one in this entire story that might have some small connection with the tech industry, never made any inappropriate comments or behaved in any way misogynistic at least so far as the details in the article. To call this story an example of misogyny in the tech industry is pure BS, it had absolutely nothing to do with the tech industry in any way.

Edit: More context on the comment the article mentioned: http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/get-back-to-the-kitchen


Sure, there's general misogyny and all that, but just browse the rest of this thread if you don't think that the tech industry has a disproportionate amount. HN is one of the worst offenders, as a matter of fact.

I agree that it's not necessarily an example of misogyny in tech per se, but it's absolutely a contributing factor in why there are so few women in tech -- many first experiences tend to be as the sole female in classes with socially outcast males.


I'm not even going to bother with your first point, particularly as it isn't really a point per say and I don't think anything constructive will come of it. Your second point on the other hand, that has some meat to it. I've said several times in the past now that the low representation of women in tech is the fault of the media and our school systems, and to a very small extent this article demonstrates that.

To begin with the state of tech education in public schools is absolutely abysmal, it takes a dedicated student with a strong interest in tech to tough it out through the school system, rather than being encouraged to go into tech by the school system. The media portrays programmers and other tech industry professionals as a bunch of lonely anti-social misfits who are almost exclusively male and either so exceeding stereotypically nerdy as to practically qualify as autistic, or else overweight and lecherous. These two factors combined mean that the vast majority of students, both male and female, decide to avoid the tech industry at an early age because either they believe the media stereotypes or else they take some tech related classes and are so appalled at the curriculum that they practically run to other professions.

When considering a career in the tech industry, going solely by the state of pre-college and entry level college tech courses, combined with the overwhelming media stereotypes around the tech industry, is it any surprise most women decide to pursue other fields?


The reason we people in tech are trying to stop discrimination in tech is that -- surprise -- we work in tech. Just because people around the world litter is no reason not for me to pick up trash on my street.

Also, I believe it is specifically a tech problem. Medicine and law are approaching gender balanced. Tech, though, has been getting worse over the decades.


Two things. First, it's fine to try to stop discrimination in tech in the general sense, but it shouldn't be framed as a problem specifically with tech, doing so narrows the focus to the point at which it can't actually address the general problem only very specific limited instances. Secondly, you're confusing two different issues, the gender imbalance in tech, and gender based discrimination in tech. While it's true there is a gender imbalance in tech, I do not accept that it's being caused by gender discrimination in tech. Yes, discrimination does sometimes occur, however I don't believe it's much more prevalent in tech than it is in any other industry. The gender imbalance and media stereotypes around tech have an amplifying effect, not to mention being a significant minority in any situation tends to lead to being singled out and marginalized (human nature). If you want to fix tech, then fix the media stereotypes and more importantly the poor quality of tech education in schools, the rest will work itself out as the gender imbalance is equalized. As for the more general problem on misogyny in all parts of life, I'm not sure how best to fix that, biggots of all kinds exist everywhere, I do my best to avoid them whenever possible (in the rare cases where I'm actually in charge of them I'd set them straight with what's acceptable, but that rarely happens).


You seem to have a lot of theories on how other people should be solving the problem. What specifically are you doing to solve the problem?

To me this sounds like another version of the "you're doing it wrong" anonymous grumbling that the internet provides for pretty much anybody doing anything.

I'm going to keep trying to fix tech the way I think tech should be fixed. Whether or not J. Random Commenter "accepts" my analysis of the problem isn't something I'm worried about. It's a given in pushing for societal change that most people think you're wrong in one way or another; otherwise we would already have made the change.


I already told you what I was doing, which is pretty much everything I can. Being that I'm not management, don't run a company, don't have anyone reporting to me, and am generally low man on the totem pole what I can actually do is fairly limited. Further limiting that is the fact that as I said, I don't think there's anything particularly wrong with the tech industry that's actually a fault of anything the tech industry is doing and as such changing things in the industry will have no impact at all on the problem. If I was someone in charge of education policy, or had any kind of pull with the media I might be in a position to do something, but I'm not. I also can't do anything about the war in Syria, the crazy politics over in the middle east in general, or Russia's stance on gay rights, and frankly I don't see where wringing my hands about it and making a bunch of pointless rants on the internet is going to do any good either.

You keep trying to fix what isn't broken while ignoring what is, just don't go harassing everyone who's trying to get things done, or get upset when everyone else thinks your nuts for tilting at windmills.


I can only really think of two ways of understanding the extreme gender imbalance in these jobs. Either there are systemic discriminatory forces at work, or women are somehow inherently ill-suited for programming jobs (ie. because of cognitive deficiency).

I worry, but of course couldn't prove, that the sort of responses you get to proposing the former betray that many people subconsciously believe the latter.

To those of you who don't believe that widespread discrimination in whatever form exists, how do you explain the fact that, from school classes to upper management, there just aren't nearly as many women in the technical sphere?


"cognitive deficiency"??? Please consider the possibility that just because someone else's mind doesn't excel in the same way yours does, it doesn't necessarily mean their mind is deficient! I believe your choice of words demonstrates well the bias that is at the root of the problem we are discussing.

IMO nerd superiority is the most unbecoming pervasive trait found in the tech industry.


I think you may have missed my point; I think the idea that women have any sort of cognitive deficiency is absurd. I believe that the reason there are so few women in tech has to do with systemic disincentives, rather than that they "aren't good at it" or "don't like it."


I see. I'm sorry that I misunderstood you.


> I can only really think of two ways of understanding the extreme gender imbalance in these jobs. Either there are systemic discriminatory forces at work, or women are somehow inherently ill-suited for programming jobs (ie. because of cognitive deficiency).

A third alternative is that they are not on average as interested in this kind of profession as the average man. That is a perfectly reasonable theory. But of course that doesn't put you between a rock and a hard place by having to choose between a society-is-sexist or a women-are-inferior theory, so I guess it's not a very fun theory if you want to stirr up a lot of emotions...


That's not really a theory, you're just deferring the question. Why wouldn't women be interested in this kind of profession? Do women not like comfortable, creative, high-paying jobs with lots of perks?


> That's not really a theory, you're just deferring the question.

No, it's still a theory. It might naturally lead to the next question, "why don't they wanna?", but so does a lot of theories/explanations (just ask Socrates).

> Why wouldn't women be interested in this kind of profession? Do women not like comfortable, creative, high-paying jobs with lots of perks?

I don't know, but there could be a lots of reasons, since there are a lot of things other than comfort and money that people consider when they choose a career. Indeed, money is probably relatively unimportant in a more egalitarian, developed society than a society which is less developed and more (gender) unequal: nations with a higher degree of gender equality tend to have a more gender-segregated labour market. Why don't you explain that 'paradox' (it's not really a paradox), with your initial, limited dichotomy?


I don't really understand what you're trying to say. Unless you have a compelling idea about why having been born a woman makes you not want the best available job in the current economy, what are we even talking about?


One theory is that people are continually told to follow their dreams/passion/desire. If you have no passion for computers, programming, math, etc... Why would they choose programming if they've been raised to think 1. they can do anything and that the recipe for success is to follow your passion and dreams?

Besides, there are several other fields of study and careers that are pretty good at this time. Most of them engineering fields though. And from a pure money-making perspective there are other choices, granted many of which are lotteries; but probably attract a large number of adherents.


Same question: what makes you think just being a woman would make you less likely to be passionate or dream about building things with computers? If your theory is true, I'd assume its because young women are socialized to think that such dreams are not for them, and because, for example, they lack female role models to identify with, not because there is some inherent contradiction between femininity and computers.


> I don't really understand what you're trying to say. Unless you have a compelling idea about why having been born a woman makes you not want the best available job in the current economy, what are we even talking about?

I don't owe it to you to give elaborate theories. You had an assertion about how many possible reasons there might be for a given phenomena, and I argued that it was baseless of you to only assume that those two reasons might be the only possible ones. It is baseless since you've hardly argued why there might only be two. Sure, you're arguing that this kind of job gives money and comfort, but again, I've argued that people are after other things than that. And, I've given an example of a widespread phenomena of women choosing careers and jobs that are more associated with having women working in them, when they have the chance. What examples have you given? Oh that's right: none.

I don't know where you live, so I don't know which economy is "this economy", but where I reside people are still able to have some leniency when it comes to choosing a career. It has been my experience that people (men and women) are far from only concerned with money when it comes to employment.


You're getting bogged down I think. No one is talking about what's "possible." Theories don't become competitive by virtue of being hypothetically capable of being offered— you have to actually advance them and argue them. My supposition about two theories is based on common knowledge rather than some abstract analysis about the nature of possible arguments.

To put it another way, I can see two plausible forces pushing women away from tech jobs: 1) some deficiency on their part, 2) some motive on the part of the system to keep women out.

My argument is that, since many people disagree with 2), many must subconsciously believe 1), which is absurd on its face.

Examples aren't helpful in this case because your theory doesn't answer the question we're asking. Even if it were true that the mechanism keeping women out of tech was the amending of their preferences rather than forcibly excluding them (by refusing to hire them for example), this would still be the result of either something innate about women themselves or something societal imposing these preferences on them.

So, again, we still are faced with the same question. If women "don't want" to be programmers, why would that be? Because something about their female brains is disinterested in computers? Or because they've been socialized to feel as if tech jobs are not for them?


Agreed. But why are things the way they are and how do we progress from there?

In my experience, a lot of the difficulty in comprehending/accepting that women experience the industry so differently than men is that many men either A) over-generalize from an exceptional interaction, or B) follow those that have over-generalized. By "A" I mean that men can rely on confirmation bias to cement their impression of the female experience based on a few choice interactions. For example, confirmation bias can allow a random chat with a well-adjusted, confident woman who appears impervious to tech sexism can dispel for many years any notion in that man's mind that sexism exists in the industry. Thereafter, contradictory signals of other women can themselves be dismissed as exceptions, and because of cognitive dissonance, can actually reinforce his misconception.

By "B" I mean that many men have no relevant direct interactions with women (given their low numbers) and may follow the lead of the people with whom they associate, who are by definition men. Any confirmation bias of those men then spreads to them.

In addressing this, what is not often recognized is that individual women do have unique experiences. They are affected to varying degrees and in various ways by prejudism and ostracization. As a male, rather than tip-toe around or ignore the issue with a female colleague, I've found the best hueristic for recognizing your potential participation in a prejudicial environment is to earnestly sense/inquire the nature of her past experience. (You may also share your own experiences of prejudism, if any.) By opening such a dialogue, you establish a common foundation and framework for maximizing the team and progressing the industry.

IMHO, focusing on the direct, open, and individual treatment of interpersonal relationships (and moving away from the one-experience-fits-all mentality, which lacks common sense and is susceptible to confirmation bias) is an important next step for evolving relations between social groups in general.


How "offputting" the field is to women is not, IMO, as problematic as the fact that many girls are discouraged in school, by their teachers from pursuing math or science fields, simply because they're girls.

This is an endemic social problem that prevents girls from even considering sciences.

That, of course, leads to these fields being mostly misogynistic sausage fests, which is also a big problem, but that's one of the symptoms of the culture of education.

... IMO.


I manage a team that includes several women. Not saying completely ignorant stuff like "shut up and make me a sammich" is easy. It's my potential for unconscious chauvinism that worries me a great deal.


I asked my absolutely brilliant coed what does she thinks about the whole "sexism in tech" thing. She told me to read less Hacker News and work on my thesis.

So I'll just leave this bingo in case you got bored in this thread: http://bit.ly/16i7WAm


> Just because you haven't been (consciously) chauvinistic to a woman...

The implication of your parenthetical being that all men have been unconsciously chauvinistic at some point?


WeWe need to fix it, and congratulate only after we fix it.

But it's far from a fixed problem currently.


We must protect the fairer sex at all costs.

This use of "privilege" as a targeted weapon to silence specific demographics has to stop.

Women in the western world have always been among the safest, most privileged people on Earth. This entire thread, in fact, has been a shining example of female privilege.

No one cares that women soundly outnumber men in university admission, and university graduation, and even high school graduation. No one cares that young women without children (i.e. the majority) earn more money their male counterparts. Heck, no one cares that it is men who overwhelmingly make up the bottom of society.

Instead, we're having a collective anxiety attack because a hyper-privileged white woman is upset that her hyper-privileged white daughter might have had her feelings hurt in high school. This is surreal.


We must protect the fairer sex at all costs.

Where, exactly, did you find this quote? Because I can't find it in the OP, or the post you are replying to. I'd hate to think you might have pulled a strawman so blatantly out of thin air . . .

Oh, and thanks for demonstrating exactly the points the GP was trying to make.


It is a straightforward strawman. Nowhere to I state or even hint that I consider women to be somehow more delicate or otherwise inferior to men. The point I'm making is that what women experience in this industry is vastly different from what men experience, and far too many men still refuse to acknowledge this (or indeed, actively defend and perpetuate it).


He didn't literally use those words, and my intent wasn't to trick anyone into thinking he was literally using those words.


I really can't tell if you're trolling or not.

The straw man of "protect the fairer sex" is so frustrating. No one is saying to treat women like brittle creatures who cannot fend for themselves.

It hasn't even been 100 years since women were given the right to vote in America, and the amendment was filibustered before it was ratified. It's shocking that there were politicians who believed so strongly that women should be second class citizens that they filibustered the bill.

But now they are graduating from college at a high clip, and making a decent living, so it's okay to tell them to "get back in the kitchen and make a sandwich"?

It's especially frustrating that the younger generation feels like this kind of comment is OK. It shows, at best, a cultural acceptance of, and at worst a promotion of, oppressive gender roles, in which females are subservient to males.

How anyone can defend the promotion of such a hostile environment is beyond me. To you it may seem like a harmless joke, in which the woman just needs "thicker skin" to "joke around with the boys." But that's not your call to make. If it makes someone feel noticeably uncomfortable, we should be smart enough and kind enough to respect that. No one likes bullies, and every bully claims to be "just joking around mannnnn, don't be such a baby."

That doesn't mean treat people with baby gloves when it comes to everything. It's not about maintaing a lovey work environment where everyone hugs and sings together. If someone is doing bad work, call them out. That doesn't require making sexist quips.

Also want to note: being the safest, and most privileged relative to other places on earth != safe and treated equally. We shouldn't be happy with being the best on a relative scale that stacks us against cultures where women are stoned for getting raped, we still have a long way to go in the fight for equality.


>It's shocking that there were politicians who believed so strongly that women should be second class citizens that they filibustered the bill.

So how do you feel about all the women who opposed it? You do realize that men didn't have the right to vote either right? The right to vote was tied to military service.

>oppressive gender roles, in which females are subservient to males.

That is an opinion, not reality. You could describe men's "oppressive gender role" as being subservient to women. Being forced to work your life away to provide for a woman is no more wonderful than being forced to cook and clean for a man.

>Also want to note: being the safest, and most privileged relative to other places on earth != safe and treated equally

But the discussion is framed as "we have things bad, you men need to fix it", but the "you men" in question are less safe than women, and are also not treated equally.


>So how do you feel about all the women who opposed it?

It's unfortunate they felt that way. It's really easy not to take advantage of a right if one chooses, but to actively prevent others from having it is strange to me. Maybe you feel differently?

>You do realize that men didn't have the right to vote either right? The right to vote was tied to military service.

What are you talking about? When our country (referring the US) was founded, the requirements were being white and owning land, or having enough wealth to be taxed. (Which is also outrageous.) Non-whites were given the right in 1870, women in 1920, with the enactment of the 19th Amendment. "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex."

Maybe you know something I don't about military service requirements for voting?

>That is an opinion, not reality. You could describe men's "oppressive gender role" as being subservient to women. Being forced to work your life away to provide for a woman is no more wonderful than being forced to cook and clean for a man.

"Get in the kitchen and make me a sandwich" isn't supporting oppressive gender roles wherein women are subservient to men? Really?

Of course the patriarchy has its negative effects on men, but that's a result of patriarchy's existence, which is exactly what feminism is trying to correct. The man is "being forced to provide for a woman" because men want to keep women "in the kitchen to make sandwiches." It's two sides of the same problem.

And before you try to argue that men don't actually want to keep women in the kitchen... I'm using that to refer to a larger cultural psyche. How much time do men get off for paternity leave in the US? Generally none. That right there reinforces the "woman as homemaker." The woman has to stay home, the man has to bring home the money, thanks to the patriarchy.

>But the discussion is framed as "we have things bad, you men need to fix it", but the "you men" in question are less safe than women, and are also not treated equally.

It's not about "you men" fixing it. It's about assholes not being assholes. In many cases it happens to be men, sometimes its women too. Also, what are you talking about? How are the men less safe? Do I even want to know what your logic is behind that?

Maybe you're just trolling, but the problem I see in a lot of you "men's rights" people, is an unfortunate lack of the capacity for altruism. "Why should they get that if I don't get anything?! What about ME?!" They should get that because we're intelligent and evolved creatures who are capable of giving up some of our privilege and comfort to achieve a happier overall society, even if we get nothing personally in return.

If you can't see this story as indicative of a much larger problem, you're being intentionally dense.


>If you can't see this story as indicative of a much larger problem, you're being intentionally dense.

If you can respond without completely ridiculous strawmen, then you are being intentionally dishonest.


One issue has nothing to do with the other. Why is it when some minority group (in this context women) tries to address the causes of their underrepresentation there are always people that responds with some version of: "you already have it soooo good why can't you just be happy". I see this same pattern when it comes to issues regarding race/gender/sex orientation. Nothing less than full equality will ever be acceptable.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not one of those people that sees that female representation in tech isn't 50% therefore men must be at fault. But here is a clear example of horrible sex discrimination and here you come trotting out the "get over it--you already have it good" arguments.


ALL of your comments are about men's rights. I think I should make some writeup for responses to MRAs, similar to how you have done for responses to feminist sentiments, because I think I understand the worldview and bought into it myself for a long time. Of course the response might not be perfect this time around, but I can perfect it incrementally.

The first thing that is crucial to understand is that feminism itself is not the enemy. In fact, intelligent feminists should care about the problems you list. I'm not saying they do, but they should, because feminism isn't anti-men, it's anti gender roles. This means that problems like men being pressured to bury their emotions, or men not getting proper mental health care, or men not being taken seriously when they are raped, are all things that feminism is supposed to be fighting against. The fact that our society often ignores these problems is not because of feminism, it's because of sexism. Feminists, often do ignore problems like this with men, and those feminists are either ignorant or bigoted, because sexist oppression caused by society to men, and sexist oppression caused by society to women, have the same root and are part of the same problem that feminism is trying to fix. This is not a fringe view of feminism. This is the normal view.

The second thing that is crucial to understand is that the caricature of sexist tumblr-warrior "feminists" (that do indeed exist) are a distraction. The fact that people like this are taken seriously probably bothers me as much as it bothers you. However, these people are misrepresenting feminism. They do not say what feminism is supposed to represent. You can think of them as the crazy bigoted Christians or Muslims that are technically part of the same group, but do not represent the whole.

Finally, you have to realize that gender roles and sexism are oppressing men and women. I think the reason so many feminists react badly to men's rights advocates is because they marginalize women's problems while promoting men's. In truth I think this is just a reaction from seeing feminist groups do the reverse. Really, both are a problem. Just because one is a problem doesn't make another problem any more or less important. So instead of saying "This is ridiculous to be worrying about when much worse is happening to men and nobody cares," try saying, "This is an important problem," and separately, "These other things are happening to men and nobody cares."


Overall, I don't disagree with much of what you said.

> ALL of your comments are about men's rights.

Yes, most of my comments are about gender issues. And interestingly, despite the vast majority of comments in any given thread disagreeing with my own, my median comment score when discussing those issues is around 10 to 20.

Clearly, there are quite a few people here who don't feel comfortable speaking out, and for good reason! They don't want to be bullied for weeks, having their names permanently dragged through the mud: http://acko.net/blog/storms-and-teacups/

I don't want like-minded visitors to this site feeling like they're not welcome to speak their mind.

> [T]he caricature of sexist tumblr-warrior "feminists" (that do indeed exist) are a distraction. The fact that people like this are taken seriously probably bothers me as much as it bothers you. However, these people are misrepresenting feminism.

Let's ignore the social justice bullies on Tumblr. The top (western) feminist websites are probably Jezebel, Feministe, and Geek Feminism. All three of those are notoriously bigoted against men. Yes, those three websites lack the "I want to watch men burn to death" comments, but that's not saying much.

Every time I hear someone claim that real feminists aren't like that, I must ask: Where are the real feminists?


I don't really read feminism websites, but I took a quick look at Jezebel, Feministe, and Geek Feminism, and I didn't notice any bigotry against men. Would you mind pointing some examples out? It is indeed a problem if they are bigoted against men/hate men, but I didn't see it at a glance.


In addition, it may not be in said "feminists" best interest to label themselves as feminists. Marketing means a lot, and if feminism isn't exclusively about women and rather about gender equality, then "genderism" or "gender egalitarianism" is far more appropriate and inclusive.


TERFs go way beyond Tumblr, and the fact you likely don't know what TERF means is a big part of the problem.


I am very aware of TERFs, and I even referenced them in a post several weeks ago.


"silence specific demographics"

Haha, good lord. You're making fun of "hyperprivileged" white women while complaining that the white neckbeard bloc is being unjustly silenced? That must be really terrible for you, the jorts ceiling is truly an institution that must be smashed.

Also where'd you get that quote from?


> This use of "privilege" as a targeted weapon to silence specific demographics has to stop

Your concerns, such as they are, have been discussed here https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6354789, and here https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6353402

With a longer piece on the topic here https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6354336 and on the topic of criticism as "silencing" here http://www.popehat.com/2013/09/10/speech-and-consequences/


At what point does it become ok to harass and threaten this "privileged" group of people?


Never, but seriously as soon as I hear typical combinations of the words white male cis privilege I instantly write off the person using it as hopelessly deluded. These are dog whistles for social justice warrior ideologies and everything they imply.

Use "different perspective" if that's what you're trying to put across, and if it's not and you really believe the whole privilege meme as something more than that, that's exactly why I write you off.

Either way it means either you couldn't be bothered to figure out an effective way to convey a simple core idea without being horrendously offensive, or you actually don't have a clue what you are talking about.

This article was mostly excellent because it primarily avoided the classic persecution complexes that are almost par for the course in such things, to have the top comment here raving about privilege does the article an enormous disservice.


I don't even...

Would you say that black people in America have it harder than white people, perhaps in some places more so than others? If so you accept that people are treated differently based on externalities. People are treated unfairly. People are mocked, hurt, threatened, and that's just the tip of the iceberg.

And you want to tell me that it offends you when they say some people have privilege?


I'm annoyed (not offended) by referring to it as privilege. To me it suggests that the "non-privileged" are being treated exactly as they should be, and the "privileged" have been elevated in some way.

Black people and women being discriminated against is just that - discrimination, and that is horrible. But that doesn't (in my mind) make a white male privileged.

Is a white woman more privileged than a black man? Who has more privilege between a black man and a black woman? What about a homeless white man vs a successful white woman?

When someone suffers discrimination it should be called out, addressed, and made right. But it's unfair to paint the rest of the planet as an enemy for not suffering the same abuse.


What the fuck is so "horrendously offensive" about the obvious truth that some classes of people have advantages that others don't?


THe words privilege and advantage aren't really interchangeable.


I knew there was something that was bothering me about the way they abuse the word privilege, I just couldn't put my finger on it, thanks for pointing that out.


http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/privilege

> 1. a right, immunity, or benefit enjoyed only by a person beyond the advantages of most

Regardless, even if I and others called it "cronut", that doesn't invalidate the concept. So yours and Tycho's argument-from-terminology is just a distraction, and fails to even address the substance of my complaint.


The fundamental difference is that a privilege is something given while an advantage can be something inherent. Privilege isn't something you're born with, it's something someone else has given you (and there's a strong implication of it being earned rather than simply handed out). Language is important, it does no one any good to try to subvert a word to a new and contradictory use because it paints your argument in a better light because of its existing connotations which do not apply.

Regardless of all that I wasn't actually attempting to address your argument at all and my comment wasn't aimed at you. I was simply stating that it annoys me the way privilege has been subverted from its actual meaning by a minority with a particular political motivation. Similarly I'm also annoyed with the way the term organic has been subverted to mean food grown without pesticide even though the actual meaning of the word has absolutely nothing to do with that.


The definition I provided, the first definition listed for the word in that particular dictionary, does not say anything about privileges having to be granted by anyone. It's like peeving about "color" vs. "colour" - you're free to insist that one is more correct than the other, but it's quite a waste of efforts, especially since, if you bothered to try, you'd find it quite impossible to come up with an objective basis for your opinion.


The dictionary does not capture the full context of a word, only by using it regularly and being exposed to its usage in literature and speech can the full context of it be appreciated. The closest you can come to that from a dictionary definition is to combine all the definitions provided and consider them as a whole, not as disconnected pieces.

The difference between advantage and privilege is that a privilege is an advantage that is given by an outside force and ceases to exist without the influence of that external force. A person may be provided, given, or granted a privilege, it is not something they innately have. Similarly a privilege may be taken away at any time. An advantage on the other hand typically can not be taken unless it's some item or information that is providing that advantage and not some inherent capability. This is where the concept of a handicap comes from, it's a penalty applied to someone in order to balance a advantage they have. Contrast with a privilege which requires nothing to be added, merely the privilege to be removed. There is similarly no equivalent of handicap with regard to privilege as it makes no sense to add anything to attempt to balance a privilege when simply removing the privilege is far simpler.

As for objective basis of my opinion, that's the easiest thing in the world, there's several hundred years of English literature to back me up.

As for the abuse of the word privilege in this context, you could say being male provides someone with an advantage, or being female provides a disadvantage, but you can not say that someone has a male privilege, as that implies someones male-ness can be taken away.


It's so irritating I pretty much tune out whenever the word comes up. And then there is the oxymoronic 'underprivileged' to contend with.


That you shut yourself out of the conversation on social inequality because you don't like the words is childish and callous.



oh so it's 'the' conversation, is it

it's not a case of not liking the words, it's a case of not liking underhand word games in serious debates


I find it thoroughly depressing that your comment is currently fourth from the top. I can only hope it's been dragged along based on its parent's votes.


I know I shouldn't respond to the troll, but here goes.

> This use of "privilege" as a targeted weapon to silence specific demographics has to stop.

Sorry, no specific demographic is being "silenced" here. If you think that men are being silenced, well, why are you able to speak?

> Women in the western world have always been among the safest, most privileged people on Earth.

Always been, hm? So they were privileged when they were denied suffrage until less than 100 years ago? They were privileged when they were denied admission to some of the country's top universities until just 30 years ago?

> This entire thread, in fact, has been a shining example of female privilege.

What, exactly, do you see as female privilege? What do you see women being allowed to do, that men are not allowed to, that men are harassed for doing, that men are driven out of the industry for doing due to attacks? And if you do see any such behavior, perhaps someone being harassed for being a dancer, or into musicals, or the like, please note whether it's women doing those attacks, or other men.

> No one cares that women soundly outnumber men in university admission, and university graduation, and even high school graduation.

Awful generous of you to round down to "no one." If no one cares, why have you heard about it? Wouldn't people who don't care not be writing articles about it? There are plenty of people who care, who are concerned about this, who write about it and worry about it. That's not "no one" caring.

However, despite all of that, there are many fewer women in technology, and fewer still are programmers. Just because there might be other biases in other fields, doesn't mean that we shouldn't worry about biases and harassment in our own.

> Instead, we're having a collective anxiety attack because a hyper-privileged white woman is upset that her hyper-privileged white daughter might have had her feelings hurt in high school. This is surreal.

I'm not really clear on what you mean by "hyper-privileged". Is it a privilege to be bullied and told to get into the kitchen? That doesn't really sound like the definition of "privileged" to me.

Yes, there may be ways in which she is privileged compared to others. There are other problems out there. But that doesn't mean that we shouldn't try to address this one.

It is a problem when women don't enter a career due to harassment, and indifference from others in face of said harassment. Can we have a realistic discussion if a casual dirty joke counts as harassment? Sure. But there's a difference between a casual dirty joke told by one conference attendee to another, and several kids harassing another and telling her to get into the kitchen while the teacher does nothing about it.

You sound fairly threatened and insecure; it sounds like you're worried that women might do better than you at technology, and then the one way you use to make yourself feel secure in yourself may fall away. You seem to have caught on to the power of being a victim and having other people come out to defend you, so you're trying to apply that tactic to defend yourself from women who threaten your sense of technological superiority. It's not a very attractive tactic, however; it makes you look defensive and reactionary. I'd recommend trying to find other ways to feel good about yourself; for instance, by being supportive and welcoming of new people, and making programming a skill and trade that is accessible to all.


You sound fairly threatened and insecure; it sounds like you're worried that women might do better than you at technology, and then the one way you use to make yourself feel secure in yourself may fall away.

Why do you have to make your points while simultaneously being a complete douche about them? Personal attacks on HN, on purpose?


Did you read the grandparent post? Bringing up complete strawmen, making vague censorship claims, making off-topic arguments about "well, men have it tough too in these other cases, so really men are the victims", and so on.

I tried to find some reason to explain why someone would do something like that, and that's the best I could come up with. I was also trying to point out how ridiculous an argument of "stop playing the victim card, look how much of a victim I am" is. Perhaps I went a little beyond what I should have when trying to point out how ridiculous it is, but I'm not really sure how to point that out much more gently.

Perhaps you have a better suggestion for how to deal with such ridiculous, hysterical, off-topic arguments? Perhaps one that doesn't involve calling someone a "complete douche" in the same breath as criticizing personal attacks?


> I'm not really clear on what you mean by "hyper-privileged".

If we're doing this, it's privilege to not be starving on the streets of Calcutta, it's privilege to know how to read, and it is damn sure privilege to be so surrounded by functioning computers that learning how to use them sounds like a real option instead of fairy tales and bullshit.

So, yeah, if you really want to double-down on the privilege concept, we'll go into how privileged the subject of this article actually is.


Sure, you can always find someone who you are privileged relative to. Why does that matter?

That doesn't change the fact that in America, in high-tech industries, there are many privileges that men enjoy that women do not.

It's a derailing tactic to say "you're privileged relative to some extremely impoverished, down on their luck person over there, so you shouldn't ever complain." Just because I don't have the worst boss in the world doesn't mean I shouldn't ever complain about my boss. Just because the US may not spy on its citizens as much as China does doesn't mean we shouldn't be complaining about the US spying on its citizens.

That's what I mean when I don't understand what he means by hyper-privileged. If he's referring to relative to some hungry orphan on the streets of Calcutta, that's just not relevant. If he means relative to the other people in the class, which is the comparison that actually matters for this discussion, then I'm not sure what he means as she obviously is not privileged relative to them, as they were able to harass her into deciding not to continue that course of study.


> Sorry, no specific demographic is being "silenced" here. If you think that men are being silenced, well, why are you able to speak?

The verb "silence" is not restricted to scenarios in which someone is rendered literally incapable of speech. It never has been.

> Always been, hm? So they were privileged when they were denied suffrage until less than 100 years ago? They were privileged when they were denied admission to some of the country's top universities until just 30 years ago?

Definitely. The members of the anti-suffrage movement, both men and women, pointed to those female privileges as the primary reason women shouldn't be allowed an equal say in setting the course of government.

> Awful generous of you to round down to "no one." If no one cares, why have you heard about it? Wouldn't people who don't care not be writing articles about it? There are plenty of people who care, who are concerned about this, who write about it and worry about it. That's not "no one" caring.

You got me. There aren't literally zero people who care about the myriad of ways men are disadvantaged to women. Unfortunately, there are close to literally zero people with power who seem care about men's issues, which is why society allocates an outrageously disproportionate amount of attention, money, time, and energy toward women's issues.

> However, despite all of that, there are many fewer women in technology, and fewer still are programmers. Just because there might be other biases in other fields, doesn't mean that we shouldn't worry about biases and harassment in our own.

Agreed, but we need to realize that attention, money, time, and energy aren't limitless.

> You sound fairly threatened and insecure; it sounds like you're worried that women might do better than you at technology

Cut it out.

I'm not worried about myself at all. Like many of us, from a young age, I make more money than I'll ever know what do with. I have a growing a set of skills that are almost guaranteed provide me with gainful employment for my entire life.

I'm worried about the men at the bottom of society who are always marginalized by feminist policing and hand-wringing.

Feminists always point to the top of society, notice that there are more men than woman, then use that as evidence that men are more privileged.

However, they never point to the bottom of society, notice that there are more men than women, then use that as evidence that women are more privileged.

Never, never, never.

That's because they have a particular agenda. And that's fine. But it's also fine for people like me to point out that we are allocating an outrageously disproportionately amount of attention, money, time, and energy to women's issues.


> The verb "silence" is not restricted to scenarios in which someone is rendered literally incapable of speech. It never has been.

Please clarify, then, about who exactly is being "silenced" and how, and what you mean by "silenced" if it doesn't mean that the person is unable to speak publicly about the topic.

> Definitely. The members of the anti-suffrage movement, both men and women, pointed to those female privileges as the primary reason women shouldn't be allowed an equal say in setting the course of government.

Wait a minute. Are you actually aligning yourself with the anti-suffrage movement? Are you serious?

> Feminists always point to the top of society, notice that there are more men than woman, then use that as evidence that men are more privileged.

> However, they never point to the bottom of society, notice that there are more men than women, then use that as evidence that women are more privileged.

Wait a second. There can't be more men than women on both the top and bottom of society, as there are more women than men in general.

So, let's look at actual numbers from the Census Bureau: http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/poverty/data/historical/peopl...

In the Poverty by Sex chart, in 2011, we see 151 million men, of whom 21 million, or 13.6% are below the poverty line. There are 157 million women, of whom 26 million, or 16.3%, are below the poverty line.

Looks to me like in both absolute numbers and percentages, there are more women than men at the "bottom of society".

> That's because they have a particular agenda. And that's fine. But it's also fine for people like me to point out that we are allocating an outrageously disproportionately amount of attention, money, time, and energy to women's issues.

We spend a lot of time and effort on women's issues because, historically, they have been discriminated against and prevented from holding positions of power, they still make less money for the same work as men, and they are overwhelmingly the victims of domestic violence.

There are very few instances of problems that men face specifically, which women don't (or face at much lower proportion), which are not self-imposed (more men in jails is, overwhelmingly, due to more men being violent criminals). You might argue about the draft or issues of being able to be in combat in the military, and there I agree, that should be equal opportunity. However, there hasn't been a draft in 40 years, so unless something big comes up, that's more of a theoretical issue than a practical one.


> Wait a minute. Are you actually aligning yourself with the anti-suffrage movement? Are you serious?

No. (?) All adults should have the right to vote.

> Looks to me like in both absolute numbers and percentages, there are more women than men at the "bottom of society".

You're not looking low enough.

Look at the homeless. Look at homicide victims. Look at workplace deaths (including and excluding the military). Look at high-school dropouts. Look at suicide victims. Look at prisons (both violent and non-violent offenses). It's possible that men are biologically predisposed to violence, but they also live in a culture that coddles women to the detriment of men in need.

> We spend a lot of time and effort on women's issues because, historically, they have been discriminated against and prevented from holding positions of power,

Historically, almost everyone has been prevented from holding positions of power. The tiny circle of powerful people in each country had penises, but that doesn't mean the lives other penis owners were cushy.

Historically, men received significantly more severe punishments for the exact same crimes (still the case), women were given priority over men when provisioning protection and aid (still the case), and men were expected and often forced to perform significantly more brutal and dangerous labor on a daily basis (still the case, though to a lesser extent). As a result, men lived significantly shorter lives, even taking deaths from childbirth into account (still the case, though to a lesser extent).

Interestingly, the fact that men live shorter lives doesn't matter to most people. In fact, it's become the expectation: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/04/life-expecta...

Here's a direct quote:

> In the U.S., women live longer—81 years on average, 76 for men—but a recent study by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation reveals a troubling trend. Though men's life spans have increased by 4.6 years since 1989, women have gained only 2.7 years

"Surreal" is again the most fitting word.

> they still make less money for the same work as men,

False: http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2013/08/gende... and http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2013/09/11/220748057/why-wome... and http://www.politifact.com/virginia/statements/2013/jul/15/te...

> and they are overwhelmingly the victims of domestic violence.

False, and we've known this for some time: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Domestic_violence#Violence_agai...

However, women are overwhelmingly victims of serious injury from domestic violence, as that source does indicate.

Women and men violently attack each other equally; men simply hurt the women more when they do so.

> Please clarify, then, about who exactly is being "silenced"

"Check your privilege!" and "stop mansplaining!" are almost exclusively hurled at men discussing gender, not at women discussing gender, though it is equally applicable to both. Hence my phrase "targeted weapon".

Of course, the notion of "privilege" could be useful. It could be useful to discuss the specific advantages different people have in specific situations, such as female privileges at universities vs male privileges at universities.

Unfortunately, it's almost exclusively employed to bully men into feeling that their objections are automatically invalid and unwelcome unless they conform to specific set of views.

> and what you mean by "silenced" if it doesn't mean that the person is unable to speak publicly about the topic.

Bullying is silencing -- it's one of the reasons that the bullying of the girl in the linked article is a problem.

Bullies don't have to literally sew anyone's mouth shut to dissuade their victims from wanting to speak out again.


No, I am not taking responsibility for an imaginary problem. You don't get to tell the world they have to cater to your delusions. Do you know what I hear about this issue from my wife? Variations on "What alternate reality are these people living in?". The only sexism she has experienced is the sort you are displaying: the "lets fall all over ourselves protecting the delicate ladies from the horrors of nothing" sort. She doesn't want to be a female programmer, she wants to be a programmer. Constantly making a fuss about an irrelevant detail like her gender is alienating, not helpful. You are making the field off-putting to her, not the evil chauvinist boogeymen she has never seen.


> No, I am not taking responsibility for an imaginary problem.

Are you claiming that the original authors daughter was imagining her classmates bullying her?

Are you saying that I'm imagining the fact that there are far more men than women in the programming profession?

These aren't "imaginary problems". These are very real problems. Now, there may be some debate about exactly which behavior is problematic; some people have different standards. But you're not going to tell me that bullying someone and telling them to get into the kitchen is not a problem.

> You are making the field off-putting to her, not the evil chauvinist boogeymen she has never seen.

I'm sorry, are you saying that someone who's saying it's bad to push women out of the profession is more off-putting than someone in her class telling her to get into the kitchen and make them a sandwich?

These are not "evil chauvinish boogeymen she has never seen", they are actual bullies in her actual class.


>Are you claiming that the original authors daughter was imagining her classmates bullying her?

No, I am claiming that the problems the post I replied to was putting forth are imaginary. I am quite aware that bullying is a real problem.

>Are you saying that I'm imagining the fact that there are far more men than women in the programming profession?

No, I am saying that is not an indication of a problem, much less systemic oppression. There is a strong correlation between increased freedom to choose "non-traditional" professions and fewer people choosing them. More women worked "men's jobs" when they were told they were men's jobs than they do now that they are encouraged to seek those jobs.

>But you're not going to tell me that bullying someone and telling them to get into the kitchen is not a problem.

Stop presenting such a ridiculous strawman. You can read the post I replied to. You can see that it is clearly not the article. Your entire response is predicated on ignoring the context of the conversation and repositioning my post as being a response to something completely different.


OK. Let's start from the beginning. The post you are replying to was a reply to the general tenor of a lot of posts, like yours, in this kind of thread. Posts which try to deny that there's a real problem, that the only reason that there aren't as many women in tech is that they have chosen not to.

Anecdotes like the original article, as well as many others that have come before, demonstrate that there is a real problem. There is some seriously problematic behavior out there. Now, how much of the gender disparity in tech is due to these kinds of problems, and how much is due to simple self-selection? That's hard to say; there may be arguments either way. But that doesn't really matter; even if the entire gender disparity can't be explained by odious behavior, at least some of it can, because there are very clearly women who are being off-put by very obnoxious, sexist behavior.

And furthermore, people are offput by defensive behavior, where tons of people come out of the woodwork and deny that there is any problem whatsoever. If you mention that some behavior makes you uncomfortable, and then a lot of people come out saying "there's no problem. It shouldn't make you uncomfortable. You just aren't all that into tech, you don't have thick enough skin" is that going to make you feel welcome and safe?

He's saying that we need to stop being defensive about it, stop trying to deny that problem, and start taking responsibility for hostile and off-putting behavior. Taking responsibility can include not doing it ourselves, and can also include not treating it as if it's acceptable behavior, not turning a blind eye to it, and not denying that that it actually exists.

So by telling him that he was discussing imaginary problems, you were doing exactly that. You were ignoring the actual, real, live example of the problem in the original post, and saying that what he was talking about is imaginary. That's why I brought up the original post; in order to claim that RyanMcGreal's problems were imaginary, you must be claiming that the original post is imaginary.

Now, in other posts, you seem to be trying to make the distinction between bullying and sexism, brushing this off as mere bullying. What you've missed is that it can be both. There is racist bullying. There is homophobic bullying. There is sexist bullying. There is bullying just for the sake of bullying. Just because it's also bullying, doesn't mean that it's not sexist, and part of the pattern of behavior that drives some women from the field.

Taking responsibility does not mean saying "oh, I'm an oppressor, thus I should be ashamed of myself." It means speaking up when you hear someone being harassed, it means stopping bullying that's going on right in your classroom (and being aware enough of your classroom to notice it going on), it means trying to understand why someone's upset or offended and try to think of reasonable, fair ways to fix that, rather than immediately jumping to the conclusion that the problem they are describing is not actually a problem.

> There is a strong correlation between increased freedom to choose "non-traditional" professions and fewer people choosing them. More women worked "men's jobs" when they were told they were men's jobs than they do now that they are encouraged to seek those jobs.

So, where is your evidence to back up this claim? It's a pretty strong claim, so you had better have some pretty good evidence to back it up.


>Anecdotes like the original article, as well as many others that have come before, demonstrate that there is a real problem.

Sure. And that problem is bullying. It has absolutely nothing to do with women in technology. Saying "imaginary problem X is totally real because real problem Y is real" is not logical.

>He's saying that we need to stop being defensive about it, stop trying to deny that problem, and start taking responsibility for hostile and off-putting behavior

And I am saying he is wrong. That's how it works, one person gives their opinion, and another person gives theirs.

>It means speaking up when you hear someone being harassed, it means stopping bullying that's going on right in your classroom

None of which has to do with the nonexistent "technology is full of chauvinists who scare women away" problem.

>So, where is your evidence to back up this claim?

http://www.dailymotion.com/playlists/user/BrainwashingInNorw...

>It's a pretty strong claim, so you had better have some pretty good evidence to back it up.

Why don't you need evidence to back up the claim that women are avoiding certain professions because of sexism?


> Sure. And that problem is bullying. It has absolutely nothing to do with women in technology. Saying "imaginary problem X is totally real because real problem Y is real" is not logical.

The problem is not bullying alone, though that is part of the problem. Something can be both bullying and sexism at the same time. Bullies will frequently reach for the strongest ammunition they can get, whether it's racist, sexist, homophobic, or any of a number of other ways to hurt their victims.

Just because it's bullying doesn't mean that it's automatically not sexism as well.

> http://www.dailymotion.com/playlists/user/BrainwashingInNorw...

Really? A video series called "BranwashingInNorway" about how there are a few people in Norway who are too politically correct to admit that there are some sex-linked behavioral differences?

Did you have any particular evidence for your actual claim that that once it's no longer taboo women don't want to cross traditional gender lines any more that you wanted me to look at, or am I supposed to trawl through the whole four and a half hours?

How about an actual reliable citation in an academic paper, rather than someone who's just trying to demonstrate that there are a few Norwegian academics who are a little too PC for their own good.

> Why don't you need evidence to back up the claim that women are avoiding certain professions because of sexism?

I do. There is plenty of evidence. For instance, the original post that this whole thread is about, though you choose not to believe it, or somehow are trying to classify it as not sexism. But there's plenty more as well:

http://web.archive.org/web/20070503012914/http://headrush.ty...

This is a woman who was terrorized from showing up at tech conferences due to threats of rape and murder.

Or how about this, a compilation of several sexual harassment issues that explain why Valerie Aurora, a Linux Kernel developer, no longer goes to certain hacker cons:

https://adainitiative.org/2012/08/defcon-why-conference-hara...

But OK, maybe you'd rather have statistics than anecdotes. How about this study which shows that women are more likely to leave fields which are more heavily male dominated:

http://www.nber.org/papers/w15853.pdf

That, of course, doesn't address harassment directly, but the general sense of unease that being in a small minority can give you, which can drive you out of the field.

I'm not claiming that the entire gender disparity in tech is due to harassment, or a poisonous atmosphere, or anything of the sort. What I am claiming is that it happens, it does drive some people out, and it's a bad thing. You seem intent on denying that there's any problem whatsoever.


You can't complain that my evidence isn't an academic citation, and then post even worse as your evidence. You are jumping to a conclusion, and I am saying the hypothesis you should be testing doesn't appear to be true. But since you skipped the testing the hypothesis step and went straight to a conclusion, you find this offensive and unimaginable. When you observe an uneven sex ratio in a particular field, you need to form a hypothesis to explain that ratio, and then test it. You can't just jump to "it is sexism" as a conclusion.


What part of my evidence do you consider worse? The evidence of actual women who have avoided conferences because of harassment? Or you mean a paper that actually gathers statistics that demonstrate that women are more likely to leave male-dominated fields than ones which have a more even gender distribution?

And half of what I was complaining about was that you linked me to a 4 and a half hour long video series, which from a brief glance at the first video, appeared to be some guy just trying to get some Norwegian academics to claim that both sexes are exactly equal, and then catch them out on that. I had no idea where to look in those videos for evidence of the actual claim that you made, that once a profession is no longer taboo for women to join, they have less desire to do so. Could you please tell me where in those videos to find that evidence? Or, since he doesn't seem to be doing any original research himself, just interviewing academics on a variety of topics, can you point out the research that he summarizes that contains this information?

> When you observe an uneven sex ratio in a particular field, you need to form a hypothesis to explain that ratio, and then test it. You can't just jump to "it is sexism" as a conclusion.

The paper I linked to did test certain hypotheses about why it happened, and one of them that it found evidence for is that the larger ratio of men in the industry leads to more women leaving; which forms a self-perpetuating cycle.

You're right, this doesn't directly address sexism, but it does provide evidence for why there's an uneven ratio, and why it continues to be that way, even if more women enter the profession than before.

> But since you skipped the testing the hypothesis step and went straight to a conclusion, you find this offensive and unimaginable.

But it's not just the uneven ratio that we're concerned about. As I said many times, there may be multiple reasons for it; perhaps harassment is only a small portion of the reason. It is obviously a part of the reason; as I've pointed out, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence for that, of people who have been harassed out of the industry, or out of certain communities within it. But you're right, without a rigorous study, we don't know how much of an effect that is, versus other factors.

The "offensive" part is denying that there is any harassment, and denying that men should try to stop it. There is harassment. There is behavior that makes women feel uncomfortable. Rather than being defensive and claiming that people shouldn't jump to the conclusion that sexism isn't the reason why there are few women in the field, why don't we try to not act sexist, stop sexism when we see it, actively try to eliminate at least that problem? Perhaps it won't lead to a lot more women in the industry, as they are avoiding it for other reasons. That's OK; we're still at least working to fix the sexism problem.

Note that I'm not claiming that all, or even most, men in tech are sexist. I'm not claiming that there is a unique sexism problem in tech. What I'm saying is that there is sexism, that it does hurt real people, and so if you see it, you should do something about it.


On the flip side, the people on your side need to stop thinking privilege is absolute instead of relative to context, and stop imagining that individuals can be judged based on what group they've placed them into. Yes, even if those things are true statistically, that doesn't make them true for every individual.

Also, feminists need to stop being so fucking transphobic. It's a major issue and it is not being addressed.


I cringe reading this.

Since when it is alright to tell teachers how to do their job in bullet pointed letters?

* Be an adult and talk about any issues, complements or concerns during the class.

* Talk with them in person or on the phone.

* If you wish, post to your blog after the issues have been resolved. To put a global context on the situation should be supported with evidence as it pertains to life as a women in the IT industry. (See what I'm doing here with the bullet points?)

Parents theses days...

--edit-- As I'm reading some of the responses to my post, I have to ask, what pillow soft existence did many of you grow up with? Kids (and people) say terrible things. This isn't the sign of a bad teacher, it's an opportunity for this blogger to prepare her kids (Not just the girls) for the real full-contact brutal reality known is the the real working world. Life gets waaaay harder than this.


Two things:

1. The OP did reach out to the teacher:

> I suggested that she talk to you. I offered to talk to you. I offered to come talk to the class. I offered to send one of my male friends, perhaps a well-known local programmer, to go talk to the class. Finally, my daughter decided to plow through, finish the class, and avoid all her classmates. I hate to think what less-confident girls would have done in the same situation.

2. Well, the issues were, in one way, "resolved" because the daughter passed the class (with an 'A') despite her apparent unhappiness. If you mean that the parent should wait till the issues are actually fixed before blogging...well, if the teacher doesn't respond, then I guess the parent should not blog at all?

edit: My bad, the sentence in context would indicate that OP offered to go talk to the teacher, but the daughter declined. Whether or not the OP should've gone ahead and met the teacher is a whole other issue.


When this child grows up, there will be no parent to write a blog post. My point being, we all have to learn to navigate this difficult world. Stern letters from mom eventually have to stop.


The mother is not paying this school to give her child a lesson in how to deal with bullying. She is paying to allow her daughter to learn programming.

The school has failed because the daughter no longer wishes to put up with the bullying that comes with learning programming (at this particular school).

Seems like a failing of the school that should be addressed.


When? Is it never ok to defend your kid? Or is there an age cutoff?

Because it seems to me one of the primary functions of a parent, right alongside teaching them to make it in the world.


It needs to decrease over time. This girl is at the end of her high school experience, she should be handling social interactions with her peers on her own.


The first point is actually ambiguous. I think she made the 'offer' to her daughter, who insisted that her mother should actually not interfere.


One time in college, I went to a busy ice cream restaurant with some friends of mine (Fenton's in Emeryville).

After entering, we saw there was just one single open table, so we went and put our jackets down on it and then got into line. After getting our ice cream we went back to the table only to find our jackets gone and some fat people sitting there, eating ice cream with their fat kids.

When I asked where our jackets were, a man, presumably the father of the obese family, told us that there were "some jackets" on the table but that they had the security guard come and clear them. As we went to find our coats, he informed us that "putting your jacket on the table doesn't count" for reserving a table.

In reading your post I am reminded of the certitude with which this large, stupid man asserted the correctness of an arbitrary and stupid set of rules, completely of his own making.


> After getting our ice cream we went back to the table only to find our jackets gone and some fat people sitting there, eating ice cream with their fat kids.

> When I asked where our jackets were, a man, presumably the father of the obese family, told us that there were "some jackets" on the table but that they had the security guard come and clear them.

Is it just me, or is this comment really absurd, off-topic, and offensive?

First, why would you leave your jackets on a table out of your sight? The whole "put your jacket on a table to reserve it" thing is somewhat socially acceptable (though irritating), but it usually also involves keeping an eye on your jacket. You're lucky it wasn't on the floor or taken by someone other than the security guard when you got back.

But the larger issue I have with your comment is your reference to the size of the people who you're still mad at for taking "your" table. What does their obesity have to do with your story? In response to an article about discrimination, it almost seems like you must be trolling. Seriously, you could just substitute "slanteyes" or "niggers" and the substance of the story would not be at all changed. It read exactly that way to me.

Normally I'd just move on and assume others were offended as well, but this is somehow the highest voted reply...


You're right. Well, maybe -- I'm not agreeing that obesity slams are on the same level as racial slurs, but what I wrote was needlessly offensive and I can understand that it was hurtful to some others. I apologize to you and anyone else, I could have written the story without those references and the point would still remain. I should have known better.


> Normally I'd just move on and assume others were offended as well, but this is somehow the highest voted reply...

And this reply is the highest voted reply to the offending reply, including mine.

Just throwing this on the table...


Being fat is an unhealthy choice. Slanteyes and niggers are born that way and remain that way no matter how much they diet.


Seriously? You should be thanking the large, smart man for teaching you the correctness of a wise set of rules designed to maximize the number of people who can use the limited number of seats in a popular fast food joint. Unless you called ahead and made a booking, you had no right to reserve those seats and inconvenience all the other people (including said gentleman and his family) looking for a seat.


A) I was in college then. I'm inclined to agree with the reasoning you gave here now.

B) But, the reason he gave was that it was against "the rules" -- that's the point: no, it's not. It's rude and inconvenient, maybe. It's not an abrogation of a code that everyone knows. It's an unwritten agreement, at best.


From your telling of the story, he was referring to the set of unwritten rules that I personally refer to as "the social contract," which you absolutely broke by selfishly reserving a table ahead of a family that, by your own admission, had their ice cream and was ready to eat before you were.


> the reason he gave was that it was against "the rules"

That's not how I see it at all. He informed you that there was not a jacket rule. He did not in fact make up any rules or tell you anything about said rules or in fact acknowledge that there are table-reserving rules. I don't understand where you're coming from.


You are really inconsiderate. And way to be a bully and pick on their weight because you didn't get your way.


Oh fuck yourself.

I'm not saying what I did was right or defensible -- in fact in the comment you're replying to I said that I agreed that I was wrong. And in a reply to a sibling comment I apologized for thoughtlessly slamming obese people.

I wrote about a time I was a jerk and put my name next to it. You ran to your throwaway account so you could show that you're effectively illiterate.


This post REALLY isn't going like you thought it would, is it?


I think your comment reveals more about you than me. Do you think people only post to flatter their own egos, or that the purpose of posting is vanity? Going by votes, many more people find my comment helpful, additive or interesting than those who had some criticism.

It began a discussion so that was a bonus: human interaction. I learned that I was wrong as other people made good counterpoints. So what's the problem? That I wasn't the all-knowing master of the universe at the time I posted?

Of the critics, some simply don't understand the point of the story even though it's spelled out clearly at the end. Some people have taken exception to the fat language, which I understand. I am not particularly sympathetic to them but I do admit that it was insensitive of their feelings and have apologized.

What should I be expecting here? Petals in the street?


> Going by votes, many more people find my comment helpful, additive or interesting than those who had some criticism.

Everyone on this site can upvote, but not everyone can downvote, so this is not necessarily true.

Oh, also, you're an ass.


You already admitted you were wrong. No need to swear, be petulant and be even m o r e wrong, but in a different way.


I've been a jerk plenty of times, and those are my problem and I feel badly about them. I try to be a better person through introspection, patience, and humility.


The system doesn't work if everyone reserves a table, it really grinds my gears when people do that in fast food joints etc. You don't need the table at that moment, people don't take long to eat there, you're bringing down the efficiency of the place by doing that.

(sorry, pet hate...)


What if everyone sat at the table and one person ferried the money and ice cream back and forth from the counter? Would that be better? Actual utilization of the table for eating is still zero, and the table is still engaged for the same length of time.

But try and evict bodies from their seats for the sole reason that their ice cream isn't in their hands yet and you would look crazy.


It's every bit as irritating, not that I would bother to confront anyone over it, it's not worth the effort. Still rude though.

Take a table when you need one in a fast food place, not as you're joining the queue. Reserving tables before you have food makes it less likely that people with food can get a table.


I get it, I really do. But if you want to stop being annoyed about this, just realize it's the norm and do it yourself. It's definitely a waste of time/vibes to be irritated about other people doing it. It's not like a grave moral issue or something. The world is full of inefficiencies and stuff to be annoyed with and a lot of them aren't actually a big deal. :)


It's not the norm, though. Not here in the UK where queuing is basically a religion.

And it's not like I dedicate hours to being annoyed at it, or think it's a really big deal. I'm rarely in fast food joints anyway.


funny, you're mad because he broke your untold rule on method of reservation, on basis of his untold rule on method of reservation? And why is this particular anecdote constructive to the discussion, in any way?

It sounds to me that the kind man even let the security personnel know of a possibly lost and found articles of your belongings. I'm not going to bat you further on blatant bullying on the man's physiques, as many other have pointed it already.


One, there was one open table, they had purchased their ice cream and were entitled to a table before you do. You don't "call shotgun" on tables. So what, the family who has their ice cream has to stand now while you wait in line (during which time another table may clear by then that you can sit at).

Your rules are just as arbitrary and inconsiderate. Let the people who got their first and need to eat their food sit first, there is no point in having an empty table go to waste while you wait in line.


It's amusing to me that you find this extremely insignificant story worthy of mention on HN in a thread where it's not even tangentially relevant.

P. S. He was right. No way that shit counts.


Right. So how did you react? Did you have your mom write the family a letter? Post it to tumblr? Write an angry post about the poor management of the restaurant? Or did you handle the situation as an adult and move on with your life?


And if it were women, they'd harangue you for your use of "jacket" as a metaphorical sexual slur.


Speaking as a teacher, I would love to get detailed feedback from a parent regarding their perception of my classroom environment.

Of course, if I had a parent suggest I needed to talk to a student and/or them about a classroom issue (the post was pretty explicit about it), I'd start there instead of waiting until the end of the semester and thereby provoking them into writing a bullet-pointed letter.


> While I was attending SC '12 in Salt Lake City last November, my daughter emailed to tell me that the boys in her class were harassing her. "They told me to get in the kitchen and make them sandwiches," she said.

Even if you think the parent is overstepping their bounds here, I would rather a parent be too concerned as oppose to not being concerned at all. Double so that he is in the tech sector while we are facing the huge gender issue. If the teacher is not doing their job stopping the harassment and thereby enforcing the stereotype, then perhaps is should be spelled out.


Kids say terrible things. This isn't the sign of a bad teacher or a worthy of a internet rant, it's an opportunity to prepare her kids (Not just the girls) for the real full-contact brutal reality known is the the real working world.


Oh.

Just curious, where's the line on this? Like, what things is she allowed to attempt to draw public attention to, and what things should she just counsel her daughter to learn to live with, and accept as a part of life?

How should a person know what sorts of circumstances belong on which side of that line? Are these written in a book somewhere that I missed?


I'm pretty sure the general consensus is that if you're female and you want to speak up about feeling belittled or harassed, the problem is in you, and we will gladly tell you that you need to stop bringing this subject up because we are so darn tired of hearing people like you try to bring us down.

If, however, you are male and you are feeling belittled or harassed, we're pretty interested in having a serious discussion about your experience. We may not agree with you and we may tell you that we don't think you should feel that way at all, but we won't tell you not to have the discussion.

If you're a woman, though? You're not allowed to have that discussion. Leave it to the menfolk.

Does that clear it up for you?


When does any male get an audience for whining? If anything there is a huge social stigma against men complaining about anything because of their "privilege."


While it's sexist, it's also a form of bullying. Bullying is generally punished in schools.

Sexist remarks are also punished in the workplace.

It is not "preparing kids for the real world" so much as it is "failing to respond to a situation in which a child is bullied."


> Bullying is generally punished in schools. Missing citation.


If you graduated from high school more than three to five years ago, you missed it, but there's been a huge uptick in formal efforts to end bullying in the United States, and especially California.

I can't really speak to efficacy, but a formal accusation of bullying is a big deal these days.

http://www.stopbullying.gov/


What kind of relationship do you have with your kid that she has to tell you important information like this via email? Does she have a dad? I am guessing NO? Honestly, just the fact that the OP is writing the letter after the class is over, rather then confronting the teacher during the class does not sound right to me at all.


How is the presence of a father relevant? The mother was away at a conference, possibly in a different time-zone or otherwise not contactable. Email seems perfectly reasonable to me.


The girl does a lot to please her mother and chooses to communicate about important subjects over email.

Let's put it this way, I am not Dad yet, but when I am, my daughter or son will not be bullied in school because:

1. They would know how to deal with bullies. 2. And if they ever have problems dealing with it on their own, I am going to help them by doing something more then writing a letter on a tech blog.

And no matter what time of day or night it is, I would make sure that my children know they can CALL me any time they need to.


It is a long road between becoming a parent, and having a kid in high-school. Parenthood sometimes doesn't play out exactly how you thought it would.


> How is the presence of a father relevant?

If modern society has taught men anything, it is never relevant.


It's not whether the author is going too far as a parent, but that that she is not handling the situation appropriately. She showed bad faith by not ever actually talking to the teacher. She sat and accumulated complaints about this class only to blast the teacher on the internet after the fact. That's not productive and it betrays intentions other than helping her daughter succeed.


She - the writer is a woman.


My mistake. I would edit it but I don't see an edit button.


> Life gets waaaay harder that this.

In my experience, life gets much better after the end of high school, because in my experience, adults don't bully adults [1]. And if you are bullied, you can generally leave.

[1] except the TSA, NSA, IRS, CIA, etc., but that's a different issue


>In my experience, life gets much better after the end of high school, because in my experience, adults don't bully adults [1]. And if you are bullied, you can generally leave.

In my experience, life does get better but also one's ability to handle bullying gets better which leads to less bullying.


If the most adversity you experience in life is high school you're either very fortunate or very unfortunate, hard to say which.


I've experienced a lot of adversity. But at least as an adult you can do something about it.


"The World" is not this static, unchanging place where everyone has to be a dick, and all you can do is learn from the school of hard knocks.

Over time, "The World" CAN be improved, and the people who inhabit it can be better to each other than they were before. It'll only change if we get youth to change, though, and teachers allowing the status quo to continue unquestioned is not the way to make sure that things are better in the future.


Hello? Why would it not be ok to tell a teacher how to do their job when they're clearly failing at it? Who, exactly, is the customer here?

My only complaint about the article is that it did not name the teacher or the school. Public shaming can work wonders.


Public shaming seems extremely excessive when this teacher is just a symptom of the real problem. The real problem here is that we don't fund schools well enough to reduce the class sizes to the point where her suggestions are reasonable. Her suggests would be great in a world of 10 student classrooms - and that is a world that we CAN MAKE HAPPEN. If we were willing to loosen our wallets.

As it is, in a world of 30-40 (and climbing) students per classroom and 5+ classes a day, a teacher who tried to one-on-one mentor every student they came across would be fired. They wouldn't have the time to actually teach the curriculum of the class, and would quickly find themselves out of a job.

Let's not blame and shame this teacher - that's the equivalent of blaming a brick that falls off the roof of a shoddily-constructed building for killing a bystander. Instead of blaming the contractors who built the roof, let's put the brick on trial.


Be carefull with the rage. See my comment. Basically, we don't know the whole story. All we know was she was bullied, she got A, the teacher didn't notice, and the mother didn't talk to the teacher and here we are reading her post publicly. Well, she got A. That's all we know. Did she behave differently in her clasroom after the incident? Say, shown more aggressive behavior or come to class with a sad face? No. The article did not say that. Can we see it is possible that the daughter carried a fake smile to class and because her performance fooled the teacher? Don't jump to the table without facts from both sides.


As a teacher, I know that it is the job of a teacher to do better. Allowing an environment that takes engaged, bright students and grinds them down is in fact a failure to do a teacher's job: classroom management is tied with content delivery in a high school teacher's job description. Yes, there are many bad teachers, but why do you excuse doing bad work, essentially arguing that wasting kids' time and potentially doing them damage is just good preparation for the real world?


Did the student tell the teacher? Did the parent tell the teacher? From the story I get the impression that no one actually brought this issue to the teachers attention. The only context we have is that the parent offered to talk to the teacher for the daugher. The daughter declined and just put up with it for the rest of the year and avoided her classmates.

Kids are really good at hiding what they're doing, especially in high school. It's easy enough to not get caught by a distracted teacher that has 20 or 30 other students to assist. If this was happening in the open and the teacher was aware of it then there's an issue, it's very possible that's not the case. Unfortunately I saw the behavior described in this article in a number of classes during my own time in high school and none of them were CS classes. There are people that will be cruel regardless of the context.


If CS education in the USA is anything like here, the teacher of this class will be the unlucky fellow assigned with maintaining the school networks and other random "computer stuff". His qualification will be that of an interested layman, augmented by several one day seminars on random topics from Office to Java.

There is simply no curriculum, there are no standards and no requirements, and if we are honest, the level of computing in most schools and even businesses are a very far cry from the high-tech filter bubble we surround ourselves in.


My Programming I class was taught by a math teacher (who was an excellent algebra instructor). Unfortunately he was only a chapter ahead of the class in computer programming. But that wasn't the worst part. For guidance, he turned to his brother-in-law, who was a manager of developers at Motorola. He stated as much the first day of class, boasting "You're going to have the rare treat of learning how programming is done in the real world!"

All the joy of programming was quickly sucked out as we had to meticulously document our code. Sub routines needed 2-3 paragraph plain-English explanations of what they were doing. Each variable's purpose needed to be stated. And before you could write a single line of code, you first had to write it out in a form of "pseudo code" which had its own syntax rules that we had to follow. Lots of emphasis was placed on the process of what we should be doing instead of the how and why. Students struggled.

I understand what he was trying to do: having us write everything out gave him a window into how our minds were breaking down the problem. But in the process, he turned what should have been a fun, exploratory class into a grind.

The notion that programming could be a fun activity, and not just mindless, process-driven office work was completely foreign to him, and I suspect the same is true for many teachers who are stuck teaching Programming classes in both public and private schools.

Edit: And on the issue of gender, my class had 25 students, 11 of whom were girls. I remember being amazed at how a programming class could have a 50/50 ratio. I didn't notice anyone being bullied or teased. I imagine once women reach "critical mass" women won't be singled-out to the same degree. A few bad apples or even a sexist teacher can't "single out" 44% of their class. Why were there so girls enrolled? I don't know, but the class did have a reputation for being an easy A, so perhaps it was viewed as less intimidating.


There are two topics here, and the more important one is getting neglected.

Almost by definition of being on this website, all of us are well advanced of our pre-college computer science teachers. My first was actually a chemistry teacher. My second was biology. One had me doing tech support in junior high. It wasn't until the AP class that I found one who could teach me. But teachers using outdated technology isn't the issue.

The real issue of the article (and complaining about Visual Basic detracts from it) is a teacher who sets up an environment that tolerates harassment and bullying. It doesn't matter the discipline, the teacher failed all the students. The teacher failed the girl who dropped out of programming, and the teacher failed the bullies, by not pointing out that this behavior is wrong.


> The real issue of the article (and complaining about Visual Basic detracts from it) is a teacher who sets up an environment that tolerates harassment and bullying.

You are being unfair. Children while growing up can be cruel. Bullying and harassment isn't a new phenomenon. May be the teacher could have done more, but "who sets up an environment that tolerates harassment" is a bit far fetched.


Although I agree completely, that's a very high expectation of teachers (pre-college) for the amount they get paid.


That's a really sad comment. Teaching may not pay well, but the tenured teacher has significantly higher job security and potential for other incomes. Yes, it's not a typical programmer pay, but if you are taking it upon yourself to teach children, you take on far more responsibility than any pay can justify and you should act like it.


That's easy to say but the world isn't so easy. being a teacher is hard and not paying well means you don't always attract the best people to do it.

programmers also have job security of knowing they are basically always employable right now unless completely hopeless. and programmers have ethical responsibilities which are frequently ignored too.


That's the path to mediocrity and failure...


Yup. The world is full of mediocrity and failure, though :(.


Exactly, that's why personal decisions and attitudes matter. It's a lot easier to not do the right thing if no one expects you to.


That's a very high expectation of teachers, full stop. What are they supposed to do? They only have influence over these people for an hour a day, which is the time they are supposed to be teaching the subject.


I had a similar high school teacher, minus the brother-in-law, teaching a high school Pascal class 1-2 years out of college, being barely a chapter ahead. She would often state things like "you should always/never xxx". I happened to have been very comfortable with pascal at the time, and raised points with exceptions to the rule, and was told its "always/never". This lasted till next week when she would read the next chapter.

She also demanded that every line be commented, however would only take a small percentage away (I think 5 or so), if one or all comments were missing. As I couldn't bring myself to comment everything, I would just use inline asm, which pascal supported at the time, with absolutely no comments. Since the rest of the grade relied on the program functioning, I did well. I thought it was cool at the time. Now I realize I didn't make her life easy, and probably should have.


That's pretty much exactly the same as the programming classes I took in high school (New Zealand). After that I mainly kept to programming on the side as a hobby rather than for work, I'd be lying if I said my school experience didn't have some influence over it.


How does he get through the course certification? Shouldn't he has to demonstrate he has the qualification to teach CS class? Is this a high school from a small town? I'd imagine in NYC this could mean firing the school's principal if New York Daily finds out.


From what I understand (gf just finished her education degree, michigan secondary ed), there isn't really a teachers certification for computer programming/CS classes in secondary. It is generally taught by someone who shows interest in teaching it AND if there is an opening for the class in the schedule AND if there is a budget to allow that elective AND it doesn't get in the way of whatever the school's administration deems to be important. The state of it is quite sad really...I know at the high school I graduated from, there was a programming course that was taught by the typing teacher, at one point (was no longer available by the time I would have been able to take it).


Its not just a prep issue (and yes, there are only a handful of CS Education programs in the US) but a state certification and curriculum issue. Education in the US is a State/local funded and regulated (only like 10% of public school funding is from the Federal Government). Teaching requirements for CS vary wildly from state to state, but in most places CS courses actually fall in the Business dept.

The course most likely used VB because that is what the district mandated.


My high school programming course, in 1977---IBM 1130 FORTRAN 'IV'---was taught by a coach. Who, without referring to notes, nor was it in the book, one day taught us 2s compliment representation on the blackboard (and boy was it useful to get a peek under the hood!).

I suspect, like in the real world, programming ability still sometimes counts more than credentials. Pity that unlike my teacher he wasn't so good at the teaching part of it.


Heh, Louden's book? Still got it here somewhere. For an hour of nostalgic fun and an excuse to burn a Bass Ale while your wife watches DWTS, take a look at the 1130 emulator at http://ibm1130.org/sim


Wow, you really managed to do that in a thread pertaining to sexism in tech.


I thought the most hilarious thing about the HN comments was the 100% sexism oriented response WRT general HN culture, and nothing about hetronormativity or whatever its called, I currently work with a great tech, who happens to be female, and she also happens to have a wife, and I've worked with other women with the same family life as that in the past, so I was LOL the whole way about the HN "belief system" that apparently in 1950's HN world, only men can have wives.

Another epic HN failure was confusing an obviously single word substitution issue like using the word wife instead of spouse as if it changes anything in the discussion other than the political correctness level, with actual intentional hate speech. You have to prioritize your problems and this is like "cut yourself shaving and also have a broken leg" one should be prioritized above the other.

Something never discussed about sexism in tech, at least on HN, is its an almost purely coastie "brogrammer" phenomena. I am not part of the apparently locally dominant dirtbag coastie culture, so I literally do not understand how it perpetuates itself. To explain myself, locally, behavior that is rewarded tends to be repeated and behavior that is punished tends to be suppressed, and simultaneously a highly effective way for a guy to make sure all females will never be in contact with any of his precious bodily fluids is to go all "make me a sandwich" on any other female. Even a false accusation is fairly effective at enforcing celibacy. So I'm fairly mystified why this problem perpetuates. Like are all men on the coasts 40 year old virgins or gay, so they don't care about lack of "fun time" with women, or perhaps the women on the coasts refuse to stand up for each other and this is the inevitable result, or maybe secretly most women really love that kind of treatment and its only a small vocal minority who complain (although I find this last theory unlikely)

The only real problem seems to be the lack of tech jobs in the midwest. Tech women, if you want to be treated with respect as human beings by professional gentlemen, move to where the gentlemen are if you want things to change. I'm off the market, but speaking for the local single gentlemen, I'm sure they'd greatly enjoy your presence here, unless you really secretly like how the brogrammers are treating you...


Wow, you could be very right. I grew up and retired to SW Missouri (Joplin), which is actually part of the cultural South, although with plenty of Midwestern and Western influences since they're so very close. At least in my time way back when such degradation of women (not at all to be confused with the "mating game" or whatever you want to call it) was just not tolerated, including by the sub-group social leaders I was around (which included me in some groups). We were a little past the era of standing up when a woman enter a room (never taught to me by my parents), but e.g. holding the door open for a women was expected (or anyone with their hands full), and getting castigated for that unthinkable.

And, yeah, the concept of a gentleman was, and I think still is, very much in play. However much feminists complain about it, it sure seems to result in women getting treated a whole lot better. And at least where I came from, there was enough Midwestern and Western pragmatism that female ability in things you might typically think as male was not such a big thing, or threatening. E.g by some distance the best shot on my high school rifle team was a girl, an old friend from kindergarten. The rest of us were boys, and her example (not to mention help) pushed us to strive harder vs. tear her down. Maybe it was in part the genre (yeah, right, harasses the school's best shot???), but I read all this high school harassment stuff of the demean the woman type and wonder if it swept the nation later, or is in part a regional phenomena.


Your comment about threatening was interesting, and I had not considered it. For example, some guys are pretty tough on tall women although most don't care, and from a lifetime of locker room observation, those with the worst attitude toward the tall ladies statistically tend to be correspondingly unusually short in one particular physical attribute.

Given that, I would not be entirely surprised if the root cause of some anti-woman brogrammer behavior could be statistically highly correlated with one anatomical part being unusually small. Aka if the girls are going to laugh at him anyway, may as well pre-emptively strike against them first, not much to lose. Although why this behavior is seen more on the coasts than the midwest and the other civilized areas, is still unclear under this theory. We may simply grow 'em larger here thus less root cause for the anti-social behavior. I do not have enough observational data, and frankly I've gathered it all inadvertently rather than intentionally. A suitably geo-located chatroulette image analysis program might help. Although a theory that seems to "explain it all" is highly appealing, it none the less may or may not be proven out by actual statistical research. I would assume some sociologist with a ruler could probably figure it out for us, along with a questionnaire about brogrammers opinions about their physical self image (in other words they may not actually be shrunken mutants, but inaccurately think they are...). I don't think population migration necessarily disproves this theory; consider if hormone contamination in the water causes shrinkage or perhaps some other environmental toxins; the coasts certainly have plenty of environmental toxins compared to other areas.


I actually considered the hetronormativity thing when I wrote my response (my response was "the hga is female" one).

Initially my response was much longer and included a discussion about female-female partnerships. In the end I cut it right back, because as far as I know "wife" is always a term used for a spouse who identifies as female.


while your wife watches DWTS

You're part of the problem.


I regretted that as soon as I hit the "reply" button... but really, that's the way it is in my house and I meant it innocently. Bernice was literally watching that show a couple of years ago while I installed the Hercules S/370 emulator and the MVT 21.8F Turnkey system on my Nokia N900. Mainframe on a handheld! I was laughing like a maniac while she wondered what in the world I was doing in my office.


Well, no harm done. but I'd point out that my wife watches talent shows at the same time as doing stuff in Code Academy. I can't figure this out but she grew up in a household where television was almost always on and likes having some background noise (or likes having it focused through the TV, or something).


I guess it would be politically incorrect to point out the actual ratings demographics of DWTS are about 2/3 women?


So much wrong with this comment.

First of all, you need to go do some remedial math. The percentage of DWTS watchers who are women is no predictor of what women do. This fallacy is called confusion of the inverse, and it's a probabilistic variant of the better-known converse error.

Second, even if 99% of women were to be DWTS fans, it has no bearing on anigbrowl's comment. The reason that "while your wife watches DWTS" is part of the problem (as anigbrowl identified) is that it implies that (watching DWTS) is to women as (checking out 1130 sims) is to men. It implies that in situations where men do interesting tech things, women watch TV (I assume "DWTS" is some kind of TV?). It's basically a put-down against women collectively. Note that if someone were to be putting down humanity collectively, I wouldn't complain.

Third, "politically correct" is a label principally used by reactionary dullards to dismiss arguments or objections that they see as excessively leftist. It's equivalent to calling someone a commie. Mind you, some people are communists, some people are knee-jerk excessive leftists, etc... but if that's true in a particular situation, you can just explain why it's true. Calling it "political correctness" is just a lowbrow dismissal.

That's a lot of incorrectness for one 20-word sentence.


First, Dancing with the Stars is one of the highest rated shows on TV; the fact that it has a 2/3 women audience indicates that very many women will make the time to watch it.

Second, setting aside households with two TV's, only one spouse can enjoy passive entertainment at a time. Presumably while we watch football, women can do something fascinating and productive.

Third, political correctness is a phenomenon of white liberal prigs who go out of their way to take offense because they have nothing useful or productive to contribute to the public discourse. Of course they would react unkindly to being called out on it but I would advise you not to take their defensive lashing out at face value.


To the first, IF as you say it's 2/3 women, and IF as one short Google search suggested to me it has around 13M viewers, and IF we agree that those are all in the US and the US has around, what, 100M adult women?... then that's 8% of those adult women watching it. If those 13M include people outside the US, then it's lower than 8%. Apparently 92% of women do not watch DWTS.

In response to the second, I don't understand your point at all. Help me out here?

As to the third, I agree that there certainly exist some fools, most of them white and liberal (and maybe prigs?), who have a mental pattern wherein they make knee-jerk complaints about certain behaviour being offensive, without having a well-considered ethical system that justifies this complaint, instead using these complaints to signal their belonging to a certain social clique. If that's what you mean by political correctness, I agree that it exists, and is odious. Whether or not such fools object to your remarks should be entirely beneath you, however. So raising the potential political incorrectness of your remark appears, to me, to be saying "I'm going to use this straw-man argument to attack those who disagree with me". And this is why I brought up the fact that it's a lowbrow dismissal, and suggested that on those rare occasions when the label does fit, you can instead construct an independent explanation of what's wrong with the political correctness.


I don't want to defend a sexist comment, but I think the point the opposing comment was making was that of the viewership of DWTS, 2/3 are women - so, 2/3 of 13M, not that 2/3 of the US population watch DWTS. I think that thread of your comment is looking for a fight where one probably doesn't exist. It's also not sexist to identify a specific TV show with a female demographic.

Second point was pretty easy to understand - if a household has 2 adults and 1 TV, only one Adult at a time can watch their preferred TV shows. If there is a second TV, possibly more, the Adults stand a fair chance that they will be able to watch their shows.


> I don't want to defend a sexist comment

Okay, fair enough, understood, and I'll direct my response to my disagreement about the math of it.

Why would it matter that 2/3 of DWTS viewers are female? Suppose that I publish a fanzine called "jh's dumb stuff", for which 100% of the readers are female (that's right, my mom is the only reader). Would it make sense to say "you can look at this awesome thing while your wife reads 'jh's dumb stuff'"? No.

The relevance, here, is that original oafish-seeming comment was "while your wife watches DWTS", which appears to imply that it's typical for wives to do that. And, based on the stats I could find, it is NOT typical for wives to do that. Over 90% of American women do not watch the show, right?

Mathematically, the fact that 2/3 of DWTS viewers are female is just not relevant.


A specific event doesn't have to have >50% probability to work as an evocative example. For Christ's sake, you're missing the forest for a quarter square inch of bark on one particular tree.


Likewise, you can probably construct a more sophisticated argument than calling people "reactionary dullards", but you curiously choose not to. Somehow that isn't a lowbrow dismissal.


Actually, I did construct a more sophisticated argument, at least in brief. That's what that whole paragraph was about.

Also, I didn't call you a reactionary dullard. I see that your literacy is as poor as your numeracy. What I said was that such was the principle use of referencing political correctness, and advised that you could do better yourself. If I was sure, at that time, that you were a dullard, I wouldn't have bothered getting into it.

So it wasn't, at that time, a lowbrow dismissal. By now, you're getting a dismissal. I guess that the collective audience can judge for themselves whether it's lowbrow or not.


> Also, I didn't call you a reactionary dullard.

I didn't say that you did.


First, Dancing with the Stars is one of the highest rated shows on TV; the fact that it has a 2/3 women audience indicates that very many women will make the time to watch it.

Indeed so, but it doesn't follow that they are watching it instead of writing code, which implication was what I objected to in the first place; although it wasn't malicious, it was a lazy piece of stereotyping that I didn't feel was appropriate in the context of a discussion about sexist stereotyping.

Second, setting aside households with two TV's, only one spouse can enjoy passive entertainment at a time.

???

Third, political correctness is a phenomenon of white liberal prigs who go out of their way to take offense because they have nothing useful or productive to contribute to the public discourse.

Oh noes, you have outed me! I shrivel up in the face of your freethinking ways. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_correctness


Well most TV shows air at a particular time of day, so if you watched it you presumably wouldn't be coding at that particular time of day, either. Women code while their husbands watch football.


> Second, setting aside households with two TV's, only one spouse can enjoy passive entertainment at a time. Presumably while we watch football, women can do something fascinating and productive.

I happen to enjoy watching the same shows and movies my wife watches on TV, and I somehow assumed it was true of the majority of couples.


Do neither of you ever watch anything the other doesn't care for, or do you just choose to put up with stuff you wouldn't otherwise watch for the sake of spending time together? With my wife I have maybe an 80-90% overlap in what we like to watch but the other 10-20% we can each generally do our own thing while the other one watches something.


> Third, political correctness is a phenomenon of white liberal prigs who go out of their way to take offense because they have nothing useful or productive to contribute to the public discourse.

If you've defined it that way, of course that'll be how you see it and nobody will shake your conviction. This makes conversations with you on the topic as dull as someone who doesn't grasp enough statistics to understand trivial errors, but so be it.

The rest of the world has a more nuanced take on it, which begins with the idea that being rude to people who lack relative power in a given situation is still morally wrong and tactically quite stupid.


hga is female.

(Actually I don't know hga's gender, but wow - I have never seen an example of gender stereotyping as explicit as that on HN, and in a discussion about sexism in programming too. I'm really hoping your comment was supposed to be ironic)


Harold Gerard Ancell is very much male, thank you.

I can't remember if there were any women in that high school class, but there were in the summer programs I took after it, and as far as I can remember they didn't get treated any differently than the men. Of course, back then, computers, especially serious ones, were scarce and getting lots of time on them wasn't trivial. I also wasn't the sort of person who would put up with harassment or bullying in my presence, nor were the instructors, but as I recall it was never a problem (all the local stuff was in the cultural South...).

Long before the zero-tolerance bullshit, so my entirely serious threats of disproportionate including sometimes lethal force were taken as "don't do that crazy thing" vs. I was the problem for objecting. E.g. after the incident that went the furthest, to my drawing live steel in college, a counselor did pull me aside to make sure I wasn't the type to do that except when needed to prevent a felony. I gather a very different time, no cell phones and therefore no helicopter parenting, unsupervised play outdoors with a very few rules, the high school rifle teams used .22LR firearms instead of air guns, etc. etc. etc.

This was all new, neat stuff and perhaps we were having too much fun exploring and learning it, and helping each other (I did a lot of the latter, including joining the college computer "club" for which that was our mission). There was no doubt serious self-selection, including it being long before to the "do this for lots of money" concept and the pathologies that brings. And it sure sounds like my college bound peers and I were a lot more polite that the sort of things I'm hearing from more recently (I don't think "make me a sandwich" was even in the lexicon, one source I just found dates it from nearly two decades later). It was certainly a while before serious pushback to feminism inevitably developed in the communities I was in, the ethos was "women are good", not yet "and men are bad".


>I have never seen an example of gender stereotyping as explicit as that on HN

does gender stereotyping manifests an intellectual failure on the part of the one expressing the stereotypes? If yes, does such intellectual failure is localized, say to the area of percepting and understanding gender relations in the industry, or is it a system-wide failure of the intellect of the stereotyping (i.e. something like a habit/instinct of using stereotypes)?


These are actually good questions.


My high school CS class was taught by the softball coach (who also taught AP Calc), so yeah, credentials aren't everything, even though he probably had them. The only gripe I had was that spring semester suffered since his passion was definitely softball, and not so much the math or programming. Somewhere deep in the back of my head are the remnants of C++ thanks to him.


This was not part of the AP curriculum, but it was billed (by the school) as a pre-req for AP Computer Science.

It also wasn't really a CS class. It was more like a clumsy introduction to computer programming. The class never intended to cover data structures or algorithms.


Does NYC/NYS have certifications for programming/CS? It appears the only NYS certification for technology is a content specific one called "technology education" which I doubt has much of a focus on programming and probably more of a general "how to use computers" focus.


Although I am from NYC I have very little idea on how their certification works. What I do know is all my CS teachers back in HS are "qualified" (however you want to put it). They either have a degree in CS (one of them does), or have taken classes and passed some exams to demonstrate their ability prior to taking the job. I was really surprised to see our math teacher did a CS undergraduate.


I assume you went to either a private HS or Stuy? I know at my high school in PA, the programming teacher had an EE undergrad but was a math teacher who happened to be the most computer literate of the faculty. Our Cisco teacher was an accounting teacher, who I don't think had any sort of technical undergrad but was the most computer literate person they could find.


No. I went to Francis Lewis HS.


My programming teacher was a math teacher who'd never programmed before. This doesn't seem to be unusual.


This is like having a French instructor who only speaks English.


Why? On paper I can describe those lecture in glowing terms, if necessary. Just rewriting spamizbad's comment with the right buzzwords, and leaving out the student dissatisfaction.


Well same is true for any class right? haha. the question is, why would we want someone no experience with programming to teach programming class to our kids?


Because it's that, or nothing? It's not like high schools are rolling in money. Even if they could afford to hire an extra teacher just to teach programming, what programmer would want to teach for $20k when he can make (at least according to HN) $120k in the industry?


$20k? There is no full-time public school teacher making that. In Jersey City, teachers averaged in 2012 $67,412 with a contractually-limited 183 work days per year, that includes inservice/training days and excludes up to 8 personal days and additional sick days; with each day lasting a maximum of about 7 hours, including about a 40 minute lunch period. If a programmer gets 3 paid weeks of vacation per year, they work approximately 219 days per year. At an average salary of say $100,000 that's about $456 per work day. And often that includes no pension/retirement benefits. A teacher makes about $368 per day, however a teacher in New Jersey with 20 years service gets about 36% of the average of their three highest salary years as retirement income -- for life.

I'm not crying over teacher pay. That they don't get paid enough is propaganda from the teachers unions. Yes I realize that teachers work after hours grading papers, etc. However programmers often work late into the night as well without extra money too. Programmers often spend their own money (along with teachers) on extra software, tools and other things to help them do their job better without necessarily getting a reimbursement.

I'd rather be crying over administrators that continually make unenlughtened decisions about curriculum, methodology and creativity.


My starting pay as a high school teacher was $30k. I lived in a one room apartment, didn't have cable, had a cheap used car and a $30 a month "dumb" cell phone. I didn't go to the bars or buy new fancy gadgets. And I still had 6 months before I had to start repaying my student loan.

Including grading papers and planning lessons I was putting in 10 hours a day.

Add I had a second job at the mall movie theater to make up the difference between by income and my bills, so I worked 8+ hours on Saturday and Sunday as well.

You know what I did on my school vacations and personal days? I worked extra hours at the movie theater (the extra money almost always went to fixing my broken used car)

I make more money now than I would have made teaching with 20 years experience and a PhD (which I would have had to pay for myself) and my job now is far less difficult that the easiest day of teaching. And I can pay my bills without working on the weekends.


> with each day lasting a maximum of about 7 hours, including about a 40 minute lunch period.

HAHAHA

My girlfriend is a second year high school teacher. You are technically right that she is required to be on campus for the required 7 or 8 hours. But, there is nowhere near enough time to grade, plan, prepare, work individually with kids (makeup work mostly), etc, in that time. She puts in 12+ hour days. Everyday. Including weekends.

And over the summer, you are right that it is mostly free, except for several weeks you give up to do professional development, AP course training, and any schoolwork to move up the salary schedule a bit.

Her salary schedules are here [1]. With a masters degree, she would top out at $58k/year after 20 years on the job (assuming the masters track). Starting salaries are in the $35k range.

Meanwhile, I am a computer programmer, working a legit 8 hour a day job, making much more than she is now.

What annoys me more than just teacher pay though is the other spending in the school. She was pulled in to teach english this year. When the english department met to work out the plan, they had to blow their whole budget for the year on a single class-set of a paperback. (30ish copies). That's it. No more books, no miscellaneous DVDs / Documentaries purchased. That's it. Well, except for when she just goes and pays for it. Which she did last year to the tune of $350ish.

[1] http://thompsonschools.org/cms/lib07/CO01900772/Centricity/D...


If students are being harassed and driven away from a subject by their peers I don't think the out of date curriculum is the most significant problem in that classroom.


This is a high-school, so pubescent boys making disparaging remarks and teachers unable to control class are both expected and completely mundane. Certainly they wouldn't make it into a USENIX blog post, and I don't think anybody would infer from these events that "tech is sexist".

So the curriculum was the best reason I could figure why this is on USENIX.

(I certainly don't want to excuse the shortcomings of this particular teacher, and there are many, but I think the system is setup for failure)


A little off tangent but this year I started volunteering for an organization called TEALS (http://tealsk12.org/) that's trying to address this by having developers teach into and AP computer science in high school. I'm currently teaching AP CS remotely to a school in Kentucky - it's extremely challenging and a huge time commitment but being able to get students excited about computer science and seeing them succeed in their programs is worth it.

I suggest everyone to check it out - if you're near a local school you can actually teach a class in person.

Also - if you have any questions feel free to email me - username @ gmail


I don't think that's off-topic at all. Getting kids enthusiastic about computer science at a critical age, in an inclusive learning environment, with knowledgeable passionate mentors, is highly commendable and relevant.

Good on you.


Thanks! Just trying to get more people on HN involved in the program.


Our high school programming teacher was a math teacher who knew to keep the kids in the back -- the ones who finished reading the textbook in the first hour or so of class -- completely alone. We didn't cause trouble, and we were quite helpful to the other students in the labs.

At one point we were asked, politely, to stop crashing the county's mainframe (which was the platform we were using). So we stopped.

Girls? I don't recall girls. They must have been there; I don't think we noticed. We certainly didn't harass them, and we probably tried to help them. We were geeks and tools and had no idea how to interact with 'em, for the most part.

The OP's story saddens me.


That's not the problem described in the article though - it's an entirely non-technical issue about harassment, sexism, and general acceptable classroom behaviour. It's not about the level of computing knowledge at all.


I think you're missing the point of the parent comment. All teachers have to go through a degree/certificate program that would train them on how to deal with high school kids and what to do about harassment, etc. The guy teaching this class is probably just an IT guy at the school whom they recruited into 'teaching' this class.

That's how it was at my high school. It was the network/IT guy that taught the class. He was really cool and a pretty damn good teacher, but I don't know if he'd be able to spot harassment like this or do anything about it. We didn't have any girls in our class anyway, so I guess my anecdote can't add anything to that.

Edit: Actually reading the other comments by the parent shows me that you interpreted it correctly. Still I think what I said has some merit to it.


Here's the thing - I would love to teach computer science to young people, but in order to do so, I would have to pay for more education and certification for the privilege of participating in a much tougher job market for significantly lower wages. I just can't see any way that it makes sense, and that's a real shame.


When I took my first programming class in Junior High they chose the teacher because she was the typing instructor, and you know, how different can a computer be from a typewriter? After all, they both have keyboards.

Thankfully I had already taught myself one programming language so I was able to pick up another without much difficulty.


In this economy, someone with any worthwhile amount of knowledge and interest in programming has better opportunities than being a schoolteacher. And that's on top of the mediocrity-enforcing effects of the unionized teaching profession.


Maybe it's an age thing, but is it just me or is this phenomenon really new? When I was a kid, geeks were inclusive. Weird and horny and therefore prone to awkward creepiness, but not hostile.

Was it always like this and I just need to "check my privilege" as a dude or has the 4chanification of geek culture invaded real life?

And as for the VB, VB.Net is actually an okay language if you expose them to modern features. I mean, the boolean algebra syntax is weird, as are the array sizing, and the "Dim" keyword is just dumb... but other than those legacy issues the rest of the language is just "C# with words and a smaller community". Not great, but not that bad - there's modern closures/lambdas and full OOP and generics and all that great stuff.


The money probably has something to do with it. In the distant past (80s, 90s, earlier I'm sure) there perhaps wasn't quite the connection between computer programming and money in the eyes of the general population. Of course there were the Jobs-types and such, but the whole thing really moved into the public consciousness in the early 2000s I think. This has, perhaps (this whole comment should be read as speculation that seems reasonable to me) driven up the level of competition and general testosterone and brought in people who are less likely to see themselves as underdogs and more likely to look on their "competitors" (classmates) with disdain.


I highly doubt it's a new thing, unless it has evolved simultaneously in young and old people. Look at the constant debate on these forums on whether or not it's productive to treat coworkers like shit. I think the root cause is the same: people projecting their anger from their own mistreatment onto others and people looking to establish someone else as the runt of the pack in order to prevent themselves from being the weakest link.


Harassment is one of those things that I think a lot of men don't recognize as such because we generally aren't subjected to the kind of sexual harrasment in the letter. But once you've seen it in action and recognize it as such, you can't unsee it. All of sudden, things you never thought about before, like sandwich jokes, are suddenly seen in a worse light.

While recognizing it means it seems like a new problem, it actually improves the situation because people will be less likely to engage in such behaviors if they don't think of it as harmless fun.


Are geeks very likely to attend a Visual Basic class at school? I somehow doubt it. Also "sudo make me a sandwhich" isn't necessessarily that hostile. Having a an overzealous mum who blows things widely out of proportions could become a problem, though. That girl might even have been primed with some "gender attitudes" before class had even started.


I think part of it is new. Perhaps more exposure online to typical, brainless retorts?


Maybe it's regional, and as the internet makes people more connected, people in other places are more aware of it?


I think the key point is having a zero harassment policy. It should not matter if the victim/subject of the harassment appears to be tolerating it (or even enjoying the attention). Chances are he/she is just being a good sport and is socially intimidated.

The worst thing about harassment culture (even when it's largely good-natured) is that it creates and reinforces a power dynamic and subtle "law of the jungle" status hierarchy where the most inappropriate, brazen harasser becomes the dominant figure.

In my opinion, this is particularly dangerous in the way that it obstructs critical thought and group problem solving. Not necessarily relevant to high school but highly important if a team of coworkers evolve toward such a culture.


Nah. Nothing about this course was done well. No competent teacher needs a policy to notice or stop crap like this. Here you have some time-serving cypher filling a slot to help the administration check a box. With everything else done so thoughtlessly, why would we expect them to perk up and get intraclass dynamics right?

Even if you exerted enough political pressure to suppress _this_ stuff, it would still be a bad and poorly taught class. Fix the quality of the teaching and you fix a lot more besides.


You probably didn't go to public school(/end ad hominem). The teacher are so dense that you need rules like that so the parents have something to point to when their kids come home and tell them they are being harassed.


One, if the teacher is that dense, then the key problem isn't the rules, is it?

Two, yeah, I went to public school. I've seen all sorts of well meaning "policy announcements" that hack solutions to glaring embarrassments without doing anything about the underlying problems.


[deleted]


Yes, none of the teams you've worked on have needed any explicit bans on behavior that's considered unacceptable in society. That's because you've worked on teams with adult humans (maybe assuming here), who don't need to be told the rules. High school kids still need some reminders that there is a normal way of interacting with others, like not suggesting that the only girl in the class be relegated to the kitchen. A bit of extra regulation is absolutely called for among teenagers.

That being said, your general point is good -- absolutist policies like zero-tolerance rarely work well, simply because human behavior is complicated and difficult for the policy maker to predict in advance.


I have zero tolerance for zero tolerance policies. How many poor kids lifes' have been ruined by pointing their finger and saying, "Pew, pew" by idiot school administrators that are too stupid to think objectively?

That said, this teaches does need to be reprimanded at very least for laziness and not paying attention to what was going on in his class and possibly for creating the environment where it was allowed as well.


I spent a year as a high school computer science teacher back when the AP exam was in C++ and I had one young woman in my classroom. The OP's comments are reasonable as a parent, but like many she doesn't properly comprehend the difficulties encountered by a modern day teacher.

When I was teaching class, I had to contend with numerous learning obstacles and then had to leave after class for my other full-time programming job. The idea that I could preempt kids from saying a comment is something only a parent could believe. In the minds of high school students, policies were made to be tested.

The OP further wants to make young women into white elephants by reminding them how rare they are on the first day of class. I had a far more interesting and engaging introduction to algorithms on the first day of my class using paper airplane folding instructions as an example of how literally computers interpreted your instructions. The students loved it.

The one salient point of the piece was the fact the teacher did not respond properly after the harassment occurred. We can all agree on that.


The one salient point of the piece was the fact the teacher did not respond properly after the harassment occurred. We can all agree on that.

This is the key. People don't expect teachers to control what comes out of the mouths of their students. They can't stop the initial bullying from happening. What teachers can do is react once it happens.

Edited to remove: "It sounds like the OP went out of her way to help the teacher turn this into a "teaching moment". The teacher refused to go along." as this was based on my misreading the OP's "I consulted with friends — female developers — and talked to my daughter about how to handle the situation in class. I suggested that she talk to you. I offered to talk to you. I offered to come talk to the class. I offered to send one of my male friends, perhaps a well-known local programmer, to go talk to the class."


Wait, how did she help the teacher turn it into a 'teaching moment'? What I got from it is that neither of them contacted the teacher at all about any of this, and then expected him to be able to spot the issue and understand that it was a problem with his class rather than an issue of burnout or other normal teenager problems (I doubt the boys in the class harassed her in front of him). My guess is that he was actually less worried about her because she was actually doing well in the class and I imagine many of the students weren't. Sure, it is a real bummer that she was turned off of the programming industry because of her classmates, but if he had devoted most of his non-teaching time to just her, imagine the struggling students in the class who might have wanted to learn but couldn't get any of the teacher's time or help? Odds are they would be demoralized and unlikely to continue programming as well. It most likely could have been handled better, and it would have been great if the teacher had noticed the problem, but I don't think it is fair to place all the blame on him and suggest that they were helping him do the right thing.


I'm sorry - I misread the following quote as the OP offering suggestions to the teacher to turn it into a teaching moment. Upon a second reading I realize that your interpretation is correct, they didn't raise it to the teacher. I'll correct my prior note.

I consulted with friends — female developers — and talked to my daughter about how to handle the situation in class. I suggested that she talk to you. I offered to talk to you. I offered to come talk to the class. I offered to send one of my male friends, perhaps a well-known local programmer, to go talk to the class.


> The one salient point of the piece was the fact the teacher did not respond properly after the harassment occurred. We can all agree on that.

I agree with that if it is true, but the email is so sparse in details about the events so we have no idea if the teacher even was present when this happened.


I think that's a fair point. Maybe I read into the OP's e-mail that she informed the teacher about it soon after it happened.

I certainly dealt with having a student whose father had died that semester and his mother expected me to simply already know about the death and what he was dealing with and to warn her before his grades slipped. Sometimes parents expect teachers to have ESP. I don't blame parents for a reasonable emotional state.


According to the author she did nothing about the problem at the time ie did not talk to the teacher, but is now more than happy to create drama by the track.

The author's qualifications in teaching appears to be zero, and her qualifications in programming seem to be that she is a tech journalist and author of a work of fiction. Why should the teacher have any notice of her?

The extent of the problem is that some people said things like "go make me a sammich" etc to her daughter. I would suggest that this is actually not a huge problem. I recall my days in high school, when I was beaten up on a regular basis for the sin of being good at Math and Science. I mean hard punches to the head and body, possessions destroyed, etc. I spite of my complaints to parents and teachers alike, nothing was done until I managed to create some bad publicity for the school. But it seems it only hatters if it happens to a girl (TM).

Bear in mind also that the salary of the teacher is probably around 60% of the salary that a production programmer can earn. So unless the teacher is a very idealistic soul, it is likely the teacher is struggling and knows little about programming. Which makes the teacher's job all the more difficult.

Finally, there is no proof any of this actually happened. Given past feminist false claims, it is quite on the cards that it didn't happen or is exaggerated... particularly given the acknowledgement that she did nothing about the problem when it counted.


You were bullied viciously in high school, and the perverse result appears to be that you've become in adulthood a defender of bullying.


No I am saying that trivia is trivia. What happened is at worst micro-bullying.

Actually I suspect the daughter did not want to do the course, was pressured into it by her mother and pickup on on this minor incident as an excuse to stop the course.


Notice how nobody is questioning your experience of bullying, but you're casually questioning someone else's? Like I said: perverse.


It's not 'perverse' to have different standards on what qualifies as punishable bullying. You're using some kind of false equivalence here. Yes, both an insult and a beating qualify as 'bullying', but that does not mean we should categorize them similarly.


Given how common such bullying is, particularly in relation to such a male dominated field (and class), you are absolutely wrong. And having a group gang up on you is anything but "micro-bullying".


It's quite possible, many parents drive their kids up the wall to get them to achieve things or worse, want to live vicariously through their kids.

But such speculation is not valuable unless there is evidence to support it.


I think you skimmed the article too fast. Try reading most of the words.


"I spite of my complaints to parents and teachers alike, nothing was done until I managed to create some bad publicity for the school."

...

"Finally, there is no proof any of this actually happened. Given past feminist false claims, it is quite on the cards that it didn't happen or is exaggerated... particularly given the acknowledgement that she did nothing about the problem when it counted."

I truly feel for your experience, but it's sad that you can't empathize with analogous situations other people are going through. Creating bad publicity to draw attention to the situation is exactly what this mother is doing, since nothing was done about it going through private channels.


I wouldn't really want to get into speculating the teacher. But we do have to be conservative on this topic. There are two cases:

1. the daughter had hidden her saddness really really well when she was in her classroom (she still get A, ask why? she probably did all her homework and got 100s on her tests) 2. the daughter did show her sad face but the teacher did not catch it.

OP doesn't even address all these problems. She didn't talk to the teacher. So maybe we should just say both have problem. If #1 was true, then the mother is the real blame here. She takes the full blame.


Ugh...I saw the title and had positive expectations because usually, it seems, letters to high school teachers are positive, as in: "My teenage child was depressed but your class made her love school again, etc. etc."

A couple of takeaways:

1. The fact that the OP's daughter signed up for programming class because she wanted to impress her parent is truly a parenting win. Not just for programming, but anything, at that age.

2. I consider myself pretty open minded about gender diversity...but as I was reading the OP's post, I completely assumed it was written by a programmer-father, until I got to the part where the OP describes being harassed. Still, the mental stereotype was so strong that when writing this comment, I kept having to not refer to the OP as the father of the daughter. The trolling that the OP describes is troubling. But it's easy to be angry at the trolling, and raise awareness about it. Unfortunately, I think women in tech still have the much more difficult task of fighting pervasive, subconscious stereotyping and assumptions in the industry.

edit: 3. The OP treats the use of Visual Basic as an ancillary problem...and it is, compared to what her daughter had to put up. But yeah, VB, seriously? I respect people who do VB -- and do it well, because they have to maintain legacy software at a big company...but if you're a programming teacher, you should have a passion to make your subject as relevant to your students and their contemporary lives when possible...nevermind that using VB, in this day and age, has some considerable barriers to just "dive into" compared to, say, Javascript. It'd be like a physics teacher who didn't make a single reference to CERN, Elon Musk, or physics as it applies to modern athletic competitions.


Javascript has HUGE barriers compared to Visual Basic. Picture who you're teaching. These aren't generally kids who know anything about programming. They're kids who have never seen anything even similar to programming before. In fact, the vast majority of them probably don't even want to be there.

So you teach Visual Basic, because it has less "gotchas" than Javascript, it reads more like english, it has less intimidating symbols, it can be made to be strongly typed so that they'll receive feedback at compile time, it comes with a powerful WYSIWYG tool built into the IDE, and it has a vast, VAST suit of powerful first and third party libraries that can make the kids feel like they're performing magic.

Visual Basic gets shit on a lot by people, and perhaps justifiably in the business world - but in the teaching world (especially when you're teaching people who are ignorant of and generally apathetic to the subject matter), there are few languages that compare to it favorably.


With regards to your third point:

Is there a modern (or better suited for introductory courses) language that has the kind of curriculums built around it that VB and Java do?

Codecademy and the like are awesome for independent learning and exploration, but it doesn't work for classroom instruction. There don't seem to be many curriculums designed around modern, web-focused languages like Ruby or Javascript that your average teacher can use for high school CS classes.


I think JavaScript fits the bill.

I never took programming in high school, so maybe I'm setting my sights low...but even with a well developed curriculum, it's hard to imagine that the class gets very far.

Whereas with JavaScript, they can literally start executing code as soon as they open their browsers. I think that makes up, at least a little, of the time lost in not having as mature of a curriculum.

But I think the big win with JS is opportunity. Whatever crappy program they might come up with, they can immediately show it to their classmates and also to any friends or family with a simple link...it's not quite as easy to distribute a VB or other compiled executable. This kind of sharing makes programming...I would think...much more dynamic and lively.

And in addition to that, they get some web development experience...which is handy now and likely to be useful in 5 years. Whereas with VB, and most other programming languages...it's possible to learn them without gaining any hands-on experience with the Web.


I'd tend to agree with you. But the problem of teaching it still remains. While it'd be great for dedicated teachers at each school to create a flexible, Javascript-based curriculum built around online courses and projects, I think the reality is that very few would have the time, energy, or motivation to do so. So far as I know, there don't exist very many Javascript textbooks aimed at the high school, middle school, and (hopefully) elementary school levels. Without that kind of traditional material, it's difficult for even passionate teachers to get classes approved by administrators.


See https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6358970 for my previous comment about why I chose VB (I'm a teacher and was a developer)

The questions/problems that the exam board sets (considering the number of hours the students get to solve them in) are really suited to VB, or another Visual based language. What I'm trying to say is that the language chosen also has to fit the requirements of the exam board, as the students, school and myself are all judged by our results (GCSE grade etc).

Edited: changed wording for clarity


My 2004 CS class was Visual Basic. The instructor didn't know anything, but its hard to hold that against a guy making ~$40k/yr at midcareer. Instead of a competent teacher, we had textbooks that we were expected to work through one chapter at a time. I suspect the OP's daughter was brought in for a similar type of education, and the textbooks just haven't been updated since the early 2000s. That's really the only logical explanation for teaching a class in VB in 2013.


Is Visual Basic really any worse than what you'd be exposed to at a Drupal conference? I think you'd be hard-pressed to explain why you chose anything beyond a 4th generation scripting language if you were starting a new class with an unlimited budget.

Schools are often behind with this sort of technology, so depending on the development environment available, isn't one language as good as the next to explain concepts like assignment, boolean operations and program flow? (My high school computer classes were BASIC on a Burroughs B3300 mainframe and my first COMP SCI class at college was Fortran on an IBM s360 mainframe, so maybe I haven't got a clue!)


I don't disagree with you, strictly speaking, but I do understand how VB might not be the best way to get people interested in programming. While JavaScript is, in my very humble opinion, a rather poor "first language", I understand why so many people seem to want to use it as such, because it is easy to get "neat" results.

When I was a youngster, I thought the copy of VB 5 my dad got me was the coolest thing ever, because being able to create "real" computer programs like the ones I used every day was super-awesome-sweet. Today, kids are much more likely to interact with mobile apps and web sites. So teaching them to make those things is more likely to be exciting, the way Windows GUI apps were for me in the 90s.


Not only is it easier to get neat results in JS but it has a very low barrier to entry. Everyone uses the internet and is just a shortcut away from executing javascript code in console of their favorite browser on a live page. That and the language itself is very "loose" when it comes to rules and strictness. It just gets the work done. Nothing like cpp for example. Now it can be both good thing because the results are easy and instantaneous and a bad thing because this gives a false notion to newcomers of how programing is done (but then again js is pretty ubiquitous on any modern computer, so it is as "real world" as it gets.)


I'm a IT/Computing teacher in the UK. We've only just started to teach Computer Science recently and although I was a developer before retraining as a teacher I chose Visual Basic.

Why? Well, we don't have to pay to install it, our technicians are happy to install it, the GUI design stuff is easy for students to use, I think it is easy to learn quickly and most importantly it allows our students to get high marks easily. Also I'm the only person in my school who can program - others will have to pick it up as the number of classes increases - again VB is easy for a novice to learn.

The exam board dictates what programing assessment is to be done and the amount of time it is to be done in. As much as I'd be happy to teach another language VB is the best fit in this case.


This is exactly the scenario I was guessing led to the choice of VB. I'm also going to agree with many of the comments saying Javascript might not be a great first language for new CS students.


Didn't everyone grow up facing some kind of regular harassment in high school? I expected things to take a serious turn for the worse in this story and it actually doesn't seem all that bad. A mother is upset that her daughter was slightly harassed. In one class. In her entire high school experience. Obviously it doesn't make it okay just because many people have faced worse, but dragging the teacher through the mud for it seems unreasonable.

" Sadly, you only get one chance to make a first impression, and you, sir, created a horrible one for girls in computer programming. "

No, he didn't. Not by any reasonable definition of "horrible". Nor is it his responsibility to create any particular impression for any particular race, gender, or religion. Your own pet issue is not his concern.

While on the topic of things horrible, that seven point list is horribly patronizing. Complete with little insulting gems like this: "Good grief, man — how were you even able to make programming boring?".

So glad I'm not a teacher. Must be excruciating at times dealing with the entitled, self obsessed parents, let alone the students.


First off I would expect a parent who sees their children suffer to lash out at someone when they have no way of controlling it. That doesnt mean it goes without merit though.

If a child is bullied in PE to where every day he just tries to curl in a corner and try not be noticed not only does he not get anything out of the class it can alter the childs desire of becoming an active participant in sports. I think you can draw a lot of correlations between that and this.

If we want to avoid and undo segregation between the sexes in our field having them attacked for it at a young age and have the idea indoctrinated in them that computer science is not for them is something that needs to be prevented. The only people really with the ability to do so in this scenario is the teacher and parents of the other children. The teacher is the single =individual= with the most ability to affect the lives of the children and although he shouldn't be held accountable he should try to be more attentive to prevent the bullying or at least try to make the class more engaging and fun.

She was pretty patronizing and mean, but I associate that with her frustration and anger with her lack of control. In her shoes I would probably do the same.


This seems to be a vast overreaction. The only actual "harassment" is about making a sandwich, which is pretty low on the scale of insults.

In fact, the teacher was probably right to not intervene. For two reasons: 1) Regardless of your gender, being the person who caused adult intervention isn't likely to win you respect in high school. If he had intervened, she would likely have been further ostracized. 2) Growing up is about learning to interact with people. A big part of this is categorizing what matters and what does. If I made a fuss every time someone made a slightly off-color joke about my religion (I'm Jewish) I'd have both no friends and no job.


I experienced this kind of bullying not in school, but at work. I used to be very cheerful and helpful until in a particular work situation, I finally realized guys were randomly pinging me or stopping by to disturb me with how to write a quick unix command to do X or how to make some regex, just to see how cute I look when I'm stressed and how fast I can give them an answer. And I'm pretty good, and they joke with each other about it and keep doing it like you play with a dog. Its also the power thing, some people like demanding an answer from across the room. I totally relate to "quickly finish assignments and bury her nose in her book". Now I work in a less difficult environment, but this is basically how I deal with work now -- efficiently, then get out of there, offer nothing personal. I went to college that had a pretty good gender balance and was self-taught before that so I never experienced it before work. So in conclusion, this may be good preparation for your daughter good preparation for technical work in certain environments. There are many good workplaces but you can't be guaranteed that all your life, so dealing with this kind of thing is important to learn. You should tell her that this is a career that pays well. You may have to be smarter and a more hardworking than your peers to make up for the lack of networking, but actually the extra self-reliance that you need to exercise will make you a better and more confident programmer. Also as a woman, you need to be careful of accepting mentorship, especially male mentorship. Sometimes there's no reason for it other than the mentor wants to spend some time with a young woman.


A big problem with experiencing it as early as HS is that you really have little reason to stick with it anymore. Who cares if it pays well if you're going to be emotionally drained dealing with harassment? She can pursue many other degrees instead. Perhaps as far as she's concerned, she's saved herself a lot of hassle and can now choose a career where she feels accepted. Or maybe she'll be strong willed and push through. But I know in my mind I would just think, "Why bother when there are other cool things to study where people will respect me more?"

I don't really know what the right path is for her, but I hope whichever one she chooses brings her happiness. And I really hope in the not-too-distant future girls won't have to make this trade-off between programming and feeling respected.


Thanks for sharing. I'm sorry you've had such an awful experience. I gave you an upvote, but I want to emphasize that what you have experienced (and are experiencing?) is very wrong. I suggest either gathering evidence and reporting it to someone who will do something about it, or seeking a position at a better company that doesn't have such ridiculous behavior.


Background: Currently teaching Intro to Programming using VB (not even 2012... cause our lead instructor's textbook is for 2010). I created a stir when I suggested we move to C, which we are next semester.

Many of people have already commented on this, but from my understanding, this parent did NOTHING and it going a passive-aggressive route to complain. Going into the article, I was excited to read it initially because I was going to use it in a discussion piece in the class. When I got to the end... not so much.

Does IT attract socially inept male students who resort to real-life trolling? Yes. Quite honestly, it is my opinion THIS is the reason why we have so few women in the industry. Tons of guys get interested via video games, well what happens when a female gamer 'slips up' and reveals she's not a male? Creepy PMs and sexism.

People want to dance around the issue and say its from few role models and the like; no, spend 5 minutes acting like a female online (however you'd do it), you'll see it immediately. My Steam tag is an old MacHall webcomic joke ('Susan'). If I don't have my mic on and just do basic banter in chat, yes I get the occasional guy getting too friendly.

Getting back to the article, not to defend the instructor, but they saw the female was (at one point) positively responding to the jokes. Should something have been done? Depends on the class dynamic, in my opinion. I can't accurately tell how the class ran based on this blog (as it is a biased one side to the story).

Without getting into anymore of a rant, VB isn't bad, per say... it teaches variables, loops, and conditionals, the basics of any intro class. I'd only have a problem with this if it was a high-level college course.


>Many of people have already commented on this, but from my understanding, this parent did NOTHING and it going a passive-aggressive route to complain.

Did we read the same article?

>I consulted with friends — female developers — and talked to my daughter about how to handle the situation in class. I suggested that she talk to you. I offered to talk to you. I offered to come talk to the class. I offered to send one of my male friends, perhaps a well-known local programmer, to go talk to the class.

Unless I'm misunderstanding, the author claims to have spoken to the teacher and offer solutions... then writes a letter clearly outlining more solutions.

>Without getting into anymore of a rant, VB isn't bad, per say... it teaches variables, loops, and conditionals, the basics of any intro class. I'd only have a problem with this if it was a high-level college course.

Going to have to agree with you here. I think the teacher is going to have a much better impact than the language involved. For example, a friend and classmate took a Java course during high school. The teacher did nothing but force them to copy programs out of the book. I took a VB course and learned quite a bit. By the end of the class, I was writing games in my down time (pong, asteroids, a raycasting engine, etc.)


To me it sounds like she made those offers to everyone but the instructor. There is no mention to the instructor's reaction to this offer. Also, when she later mentions the instructor 'not noticing' the daughter's less eager attitude, it gives me the opinion she never brought this up to the instructor. I might be wrong, but that seemed to be a discussion point in this thread so far.


> Unless I'm misunderstanding, the author claims to have spoken to the teacher and offer solutions

The author spoke with her daughter about things she could do: talk to the class, have a friend talk to the class, etc and the daughter decided that she would rather "plow through" than have her mom come to her high school and talk to her class.


"Too-friendly" creepiness is one thing. It's hard to blame awkward lonely guys for being awkward lonely guys.

Outright misogyny is a whole other kettle of fish.


Actually, it is easy to blame them. If a bar had the reputation of crawling with sexist assholes and awkward lonely guys, how would the organization fair? The owner can't say 'Oh well, that's how our customers are' if they want to expand into different demographics. Bouncers and staff are put into place to quell that type of behavior.

In IT, can teachers help quell the behavior? Yes, but we can't be the sole guardians when the rest of the internet is still behaving that way.

How do you change that? I don't know, I just do the best I can.


I got a feeling that the OP was ranting due to her own hurt feelings rather than her daughter's. I failed to see anything out of the extraordinary that made the teacher deserve such harsh criticism. Yes she was harassed by some boys, I agree that sucks and the teacher should do something about it.

I have a baby daughter my self and can imagine the feelings if I heard she got harassed by her schoolmates, but then I would write a letter that focuses on THAT problem and not criticizing irrelevant points like the teacher's choice of programming language and overall teaching methods.

Also, if the girl truly has an interest in programming than years of encouragement is not even necessary, she will naturally be attracted by it and there is no parent who can stop her from it.


> I got a feeling that the OP was ranting due to her own hurt feelings rather than her daughter's. I failed to see anything out of the extraordinary that made the teacher deserve such harsh criticism.

The classroom culture is the teacher's responsibility. If a student is being harassed and has a hostile environment in this classroom, the teacher has failed in a serious way. Doubly-so when the harassment is driven by bigotry.


Then she should have kept the criticism relevant to that and not attacking the teacher's technical judgement:

"Visual Basic? Seriously?? Yes, I know I said I'm not writing to complain about your choice of programming languages, even though I'm still scratching my head on this one"

That only moves the focus from the real problem and creates a dispute that is not even relevant and necessary.


She provides almost zero details of the harassment and lot's of details on irrelevant things. How will that help the teacher to stop this from happening again if he is not told what went wrong?


My favorite comment...a tad subtle:

> During the first semester of my daughter's junior/senior year, she took her first programming class. She knew I'd be thrilled, but she did it anyway.

Edit: before anyone harangues me, I don't mean to take away from the shitty circumstances surrounding the core message in the post, just got a chuckle out of the subtle dad/daughter humor inserted.


Agreed it was a clever comment, but it's a mom/daughter thing (not dad/daughter).


> dad/daughter humor inserted.

Not to be a dick, but you may be guilty of a little benign sexism yourself there... the author is a woman.


> Not to be a dick

Not to be a dick, but doesn't saying Not to be a dick mean you're being a dick but saying it's okay?


Hehe, yeah... sorry for that.


sure, i assumed wrong..stand corrected, but benign sexism...i'm just going to respectfully disagree.


She first mentions such halfway through the article, and her writing style is masculine. Even I guessed (not assumed) male until that point. <shrug>


what does "her writing style is masculine" even MEAN?


Dunno, now that you mention it. There’s some research[1] that correlates word choice and grammatical structure with author gender, predicting gender with ~80% accuracy. Presumably I do something like that without thinking about it.

[1]: Shlomo Argamon, Moshe Koppel, Jonathan Fine, and Anat Rachel Shimoni: Gender, Genre, and Writing Style in Formal Written Texts


Mother/daughter. I also liked that.


Try mother/daughter.


I am sorry to say that I assumed the author was her father for most of the letter. Her arguments made much more sense to me after rereading it with that information, but I guess it's a statement in itself that with the discussion of her technical background and her strong assertive tone, I assumed her a man. Reality: checked.


I'm in the same boat, but I don't think there's anything wrong with me (or you) for making that assumption. It's a male dominated industry, and it makes sense to make that assumption without extra information, especially when the authors gender isn't really relevant to the story.


I assumed it was written by a man at first as well. Would you take the accusations of sexism stronger if it was coming from a dad? I would.. and there is something wrong with that.


Late reply, but no I don't think I would. I thought the message, a school kid having to tolerate sexism without the support of the school/teacher/class, more than shameful enough.

Willing to agree with you that the gender of the author having a greater impact, either way, is probably wrong.


I am wondering why author is not offering to volunteer to teach or help the teacher recruit students and do other things she is recommending. I guess it is easier to criticize than do something to make a difference.

When I was in college and a class that I wanted to take kept getting cancelled due to low enrollment, I went out recruited students for the class.

Did daughter report the bullying? Did the author report the bullying? Teachers and school admins are not mind readers and not tagging along with all students all the time.

The whole article displays nothing but the arrogance and superior ego of the author. If you have a problem, get off your butt and do something instead of whining.


These situations are always regrettable and awful. High school strikes me as the place to expect immaturity and shittiness the most, and because of that, I would expect teachers to be all the more committed to fighting that shitty, dumb sexism.

By not stopping the shitty, dumb sexism dead in its tracks, the teacher also did a huge disservice to the boys in the class. They've now had a chance to learn that treating women in CS this way is okay. I hope that in the <5 years it takes them to get to the professional world, they have realized how damaging they were. More importantly, I hope the author's daughter finds the personal strength to pursue CS.


As the father of daughters, one of which has an engineer's mind like her Daddy, this kills me inside. I really want my daughter to be able to express her meticulous deconstructing brilliant mind through software. I pray that her first experience with computer programming outside the home isn't like this.


This is a bit ridiculous. The problem here is not "male-dominated" class room but more likely the ordinary bully problem.

I had a friend who was bullied due to his clothing. He reported the bullies and they got suspended. Later they comeback to the school in an attempt for revenge. Fortunately a teacher witnessed the assault and they were later charged for their crimes.

Also, you can't expect high school teachers to know any other languages than BASIC. It's high school, you don't become a programmer there anyway. Either you are self-taught or you seek higher education. I got many friends who have taken programming classes in high school and in all cases the teacher wasn’t even a programmer but solely followed a book written for high schools.


>> Instead, they pull away, get depressed, or drop out completely, just like they do in IT careers.

Maybe it is just me, but this part came off as particularly sexist. Is the author claiming that women respond worse to negative social pressure then men?


EDIT

Seems like people generally are agreeing with my interpretation. I am rewriting my comment.

First, it seems to me that she simply told her daughters what she could do. When her daughter said no the mother just left it to her daughter to deal with. After the semester is over, she's publicly denouncing the teacher.

So this is a little bit wrong because she could correct the issue by letting the teacher know the problem when it first occurred.

Let's not really speculating whether the teacher is old, simply doesn't care, sexist or what not. The daughter still got A. According to the mother, she assumed this was due to her daughter's long-term involvement with technology. I am sure she is a bright girl too. '

So can we just say there are two possibilities:

(1) the girl had hidden her sad face when she was in her classroom and since she did her homework and continued to excel on her quizzes and exams, the teacher didn't notice much

(2) the girl did show her sad face but the teacher failed to acknowledge that sign

If #1 were to be true, then we should say the mother has a bigger responsibility here than the teacher. First of all, she did not take action. Kids are weak but they wanted to play strong so they often hide their true feelings. I think any parent should step up to help solving bully issue right away. Not in a public way to name a few kids, but work with the teacher in a very constructive way (such as bringing in more women to talk about tech industry. That's better than bringing a man in.... if you want to show women can do the job too).

We don't know much about how the kid actually behaved in the classroom so we really shouldn't blame the teacher too much at the moment. What we need to realize is poor communication among the kid, the mother and the teacher. It's tough because half of the parents don't use email or they don't have time to talk to the kids or speak with the teacher reguarly. PTA is usually dead with a couple parents from time to time.

So the mother should learn her mistake, help reconstruct her daughter's confident and stop making her rants public now. It's not helping. It is sort of one-side if I had to be really harsh (you can downvote me if you want), but that's how I feel as I read through the post again and again.

Also, please, please, be careful when your daughter adds people she is still not very familiar with to her FB.


From TFA

I suggested that she talk to you. I offered to talk to you. I offered to come talk to the class. I offered to send one of my male friends, perhaps a well-known local programmer, to go talk to the class.


None of that said she actually did. The previous sentence said she was suggesting all these options to her daughter.

edit here: "I consulted with friends — female developers — and talked to my daughter about how to handle the situation in class. I suggested that she talk to you. I offered to talk to you. I offered to come talk to the class. I offered to send one of my male friends, perhaps a well-known local programmer, to go talk to the class. Finally, my daughter decided to plow through, finish the class, and avoid all her classmates. I hate to think what less-confident girls would have done in the same situation. "


Oh interesting, I did not interpret it that way but you may be right.


It sounds like the author offered these choices to the child and not to the teacher.


Yep. If a teacher were offered to have a well known software engineer come into their class, I can promise you they'd jump on it - if for no other reason than that it'd give them a break for an hour in their otherwise insane workdays. That was the biggest hint to me that she never actually said this to the teacher himself. What public school teacher wouldn't take her up on that, ever?


I'm confused by the general scenario here - the daughter graduated high school last year, probably at age 16 - and is now repeating high school in India? The letter is to an Indian teacher in India? Is she going to a public school for Indian students there? It's the students in India asking her to make sandwiches? Is this some sort of student exchange program?


The letter is directed to the teacher who taught the daughter's programming class during her last year in the US, and all the incidents that the mother mentions occurred in this US class:

"During the first semester of my daughter's junior/senior year, she took her first programming class." -- We are told she finished early; therefore, we can assume that the "junior/senior" usage denotes the last year she was in the US.

The daughter is currently attending high school in India not because she necessarily needs to but rather because it is a learning experience before college:

"My daughter ... is now attending high school in India as her 'gap year' before heading off to college."


The author's main point is well-stated and deplorable.

As for the ancillary issue of the class material itself being crap: yeah, duh. And it's not just computer programming. You only notice how bad that class is because you have relevant expertise.

It's a safe bet that the other courses are similarly terrible. Send a biologist or physicist or mathematician or historian to observe a randomly selected high school class and they will find that their subjects too are being taught by people without the slightest appreciation or aptitude.


You can't be different than other kids and visibly better than them without becoming a target of harassment. I've been better than other kids in anything computer, math, physics or chemistry related and I remember I had to tread very carefully even while I was helping them. Same way as when you give a good ideas to your boss, your concern should be not only about him accepting your idea but also about him not hating you for it afterwards.

And I don't even have any discerning features that could be used as a trigger. Being only fat, short, tall, ginger, 4-eyed, girl can get you seriously in trouble if you don't pay attention to social dynamics.

The thing is such targeting should be noticed and properly countered by the teacher and almost no teacher knows how to do that. I have no idea what's the proper response to usual lord of the flies school environment.


Victim-blaming. Just because abuse happens commonly, and has happened to all of us at one time or another (to varying degrees; and I was certainly on the receiving end of plenty of abuse and bullying, as a kid), does not make it OK.

So many responses here are of the form, "Toughen up! I did!" Would you not have rather had a safe, non-abusive, school experience? I certainly would have. Would you not rather girls (and boys) in school today have a better experience than you? I would.

There are techniques teachers can use to address these kinds of behavioral problems in their classrooms. And, there are ways for schools to help prevent them in the first place. Smaller class sizes consistently reduces behavioral problems and increases success among students, for instance. I don't think it's useful to merely blame the teacher...the system as a whole is culpable (and, society as a whole is culpable on some level, if our budgetary priorities place making war over education). But, the teacher could certainly be better educated in his job and more responsive to a child who is being singled out.


> Victim-blaming.

Sorry. It was unintended. I was just describing my own experience as almost-victim. Personally I mostly place blame on lack of teacher training in detecting and properly reacting to harassment. I hate "Toughen up!" advice. I even hate term "bully". It sounds tolerant, even affectionate. I'd go with thug or hooligan. In my language there isn't even a word for bullying. It's called beating, name calling, stealing, breaking someones stuff, persecution.

> Smaller class sizes consistently reduces behavioral problems

That's because it's easier for the teacher to pay attention and react. Above some limit it's no longer leading the class, it's crowd control.

> I don't think it's useful to merely blame the teacher

I'm far from blaming teachers personally. For me it's mostly about what teachers don't get. Like psychological training, smaller classes, framework.


I'm feeling sorry for the daughter.

The poster is hard to take seriously, one mention of the harassment ("sandwiches"), at least three times he mentions "Visual Basic? Seriously??". He seems more concerned about language wars actually.

So many people confusing programming and programming languages - the act and the medium.

On top the "(violence and rape references)" that had nothing to do with the incident of the headline "To my daughter's high school programming teacher".

This is a disservice to all people who work on more gender equality in tech.

[Edit: As pointed out, it's a she. Thanks for pointing this out. Sorry for over reading this, I usually don't care about the gender of a person. Yes I've read the article very fast as it is 90% not about the headline]


Your post is the one that's hard to take seriously given that you continuously to refer to the poster as "he".

Near the end of the article, she writes: "I'm a single mother working in tech publishing — believe me, I get it".

My guess is you barely read it.


> at least three times he mentions

SHE.


Thanks. The gender of a poster seems very important to you. It's not important to me.


I actually missed the fact that the poster was a woman for the majority of the article.


> I'm no teacher, so forgive me if you think I'm out of place when it comes to telling you how to do your job.

And yet, here we are.

> But I am a mother, and I've spent years encouraging girls and women in IT, so perhaps my perspective will help you.

Being a parent does not qualify you to discuss anything other than being a parent. It's no different than saying "As a mother, I feel that we need to bomb Syria." It's just patently ridiculous.

> Here are seven suggestions for teaching high school computer programming:

I'm not a teacher either, but at least I know enough not to pretend that I can rattle off ways to "fix" the teaching of high school computer programming.


Isnt this kinda ad hominem? in fact the first 3 paragraphs explain she has more expertise in the topic than most. She more then has a right to an opinion and her points make sense it was not "dont foster an environment that belittled and harassed my daughter because I am her mother" even though that alone is perfectly reasonable.


It's too bad the teacher was too weak to protect your daughter's honor, and ensure decency in the classroom. High school can be a cruel place. I hope she realizes those hurtful comments didn't represent her at all. It was just scared boys searching for some semblance of masculinity they may never find.


>It was just scared boys searching for some semblance of masculinity they may never find.

Is this kind of shit any better?


well?


Johnny, you did great in my class. You did well in the assignments and were heading for a nice B. But you know what? I'm knocking that down to a C for one simple reason -- you acted like a sexist fool towards Susan and created a hostile environment. You're not the only one. Karl and Larry and getting downgraded too. This isn't on your permanent record...yet. Don't do it again. Grow up. What made you think this behavior was acceptable?


That is also terrible teaching. A good teacher sets up a productive classroom environment from the beginning, with expectations set out in words and also modeled in behavior (calling on a wide variety of students, modeling how to ask questions about a student's thoughts, modeling how to give praise and criticism, giving a continual example of how to work through problems). When issues like negative interaction between students come up it's easy enough to set up a group work lesson that separates problem personalities, put people in groups with supportive folks, leave alone students who want to be left alone and try to channel energy in the right direction. I've worked with nerdy teenage boys and socially awkward types of all genders, and it's a matter of skill to deal with this but that is after all the job!

For instance, I had a student (13 yrs old?) in an advanced math class that was all male (I'm female) and he had a habit of starting to blurt out mildly veiled sexual comments to me. I said a few things to him about what was appropriate in class, in a kind way and privately, and I also arranged for a male administrator to chat with him. It stopped. Grades have nothing to do with this -- they're not effective in any way in setting classroom tone, especially as they're feedback far after the semester ends.

I'm sorry for all these Hacker News readers who had shitty high school experiences, but you do need to grow up and realize they were shitty. Turning around to dump the shit downhill -- or indulging in some sort of Stockholm syndrome -- is not going to make the world a better place and it does not make you a better person.

I don't always do things perfectly; I remember one female student who was being aggressively and unwillingly courted by a football player in one of my classes and I wasn't able to prevent all the distraction. But I noticed and did what I could, and commented to them separately about what is and isn't alright in the classroom. Seriously, folks, it's not that hard to have expectations for appropriate behavior and enforce them.


Believe it or not, most teachers can't do this in the real world anymore. Grades are supposed to be objective and based on a student's demonstrated work. In the schools where I've worked, a teacher would find him/herself in a world of pain for knocking down a kid's score by an entire letter grade for being a jerk.

These days, school policies generally insist on separating disciplinary and academic issues.


And for the next 6 month Susan get bullied even more by all the class for being teacher's pet.

I don't say the teacher should do nothing, but this just don't work.


I also had a teacher in HS that taught Visual Basic in a computer programming class. Not VB.Net, but VB6, and this was 4 years ago.

And they removed AP Computer Science that same year, when I was about to take it, that's why I had to settle with the class that taught VB. The state of HS education in this country makes me sad.


Four years ago? Jesus...

Back in 10th grade (2007), I had the option of choosing a programming course, but I chose not to. But at least the class was teaching C++ and not VB6.


I went to high school from 2001 to 2005, and there wasn't any programming course. This was in the small-town US.

Any form of VB is still computer programming, and would have been a big step up.

> The state of HS education in this country makes me sad.

Yes, and that is not going to change unless we privatize education.


> Yes, and that is not going to change unless we privatize education.

Or start paying higher taxes so that public education is given the funding they need to implement these programs.


We spend the fourth most per pupil of any country in the world: http://www.businessinsider.com/us-education-spending-compare... Money is not the answer - in fact some of the states that spend the most, have the worst results.


That is a good point as well - beyond the monetary needs is the need to cut out the bullshit that has impeded our school systems. We've got a lot of people lining their pockets at the expense of quality education, and we've got a lot of terrible teaching strategies/ideologies that have hurt education more than it ever helped. Would a private system help that, or would it stratify who has access to education at all? I don't honestly know the answer to that. But something has got to give.


> Yes, and that is not going to change unless we privatize education.

Because poor people don't really need to learn how to read!

Yeah, go back to the glory days of the Forties. The Eighteen-Forties.


Poor people not learning to read does not follow from having privatized education.

If in 100 years the government provided clothing, and I advocated privatizing clothing, you'd say, "Becuase poor people don't need to wear clothes!"

Where I'm from (in the US), many poor people _don't_ achieve a basically acceptable level of education, because the public schools don't ultimately serve them well for various reasons, and they drop out (or just don't learn but keep getting passed on through the grades). We're talking like high schoolers at a 5th grade reading level, for example.

So it's not like the status quo is a panacea.


> Poor people not learning to read does not follow from having privatized education.

It has in the past. Which is my point.


I don't agree that it has in the past.


> I don't agree that it has in the past.

Good for you. The rest of us can look at history with less bias on this subject.


As far as I know, there has never been a society with a public education system that was privatized.

Which makes your claim factually incorrect.

Since you're making unfounded assumptions, maybe you need to check your whole mental model on this topic.


It used to be C++ for AP Computer Science, no? Anyhow. It used to be C++ for my high school and just a year or two before I was a freshman (that was 2006) it became Java.


C++ was a short run, something like '99-'03. It was Pascal beforehand and Java afterwards.

There's no AB course any more either. It's just one course, the equivalent of the old A.


When did the whole VB thing come to the table? Probably left over from the old days in intro to cs in undergraduate?


I imagine VB classes came for the most part in the mid to late 90s where it made GUI applications nice and easy. Compared to console applications and Logo, it was a nice way to give a first-time programmer a more fulfilling experience.

I taught at a school with a VB 6.0 curriculum at the end of the last decade. The (veteran) teacher just continued using his old materials; he was a math teacher with some CS experience. He kept it because budgets were tight, everything ran snappily, and new computers and textbooks are expensive.

As long as a teacher is teaching programming fundamentals, it really doesn't matter (in the long run, educationally) what a student's first language is. They'll get it. Better to go with something that the teacher's good at and that interests the students.


my theory is that there are not a lot of women in tech jobs because the men in tech jobs generally don't know how to interact with women. any woman that shows an interest in tech is not disuaded by the material, but rather by the inability of her male coworkers to treat her normally.

I would not want to work or study in an environment surrounded by social akwardness and harassment either.

the problem lies with the men.


But that seems impossible. Most men I know that program have general social problems, not just relating to women. The field itself is of interest to the slightly colder, and more rational mindset.

I'm not saying we can't fix this problem. We can do that by hiring more well rounded people for programming positions. The same type of male techie who would mistreat a woman at the workplace, would mistreat a man too. I don't necessarily think being odd is wrong as long as you're not hurting someone.

Personally it's the tech industries fault in general, which continues to pander to the academic and elitist groupings to foster talent, which is in and of itself unequal. Add to the fact that these groupings contain their own patriarchal problems and the picture becomes even more complex. Personally I don't feel like we need 50% women in the tech industry. I feel like everyone should be given an equal chance at learning as many skills as possible in a fostering learning environment. The fact that schools, parents, etc don't accomplish this can't all be blamed on the industry itself. Many engineering subjects suffer from these larger societal problems that relate with entrenched social roles and patriarchal institutions.

Making the average Joe reading hacker news aware of these problems are important, but laying the blame on all men, or even a subset larger than a choice few who benefit from the systemic patriarchal tendencies in unfair however. The core issue is equality. And society isn't equal. This is more of an effect than a primary problem.


I just went through several interviews before accepting a position. At various companies the following was said to/asked of me.

"Why should I take on the liability of adding a women to my engineering team?"

"I've never had a women answer any hard math questions correctly so we can skip those." It was great when I insisted we walk through them together, he got one completely wrong and couldn't remember the basics.

"I normally delete any resumes from women applying for engineering positions without actually reading them." =recruiter who didn't know I was within earshot. I assume he was forced to bring me in by HR. Which is yet another annoyance. I don't accept token female positions. See below.

"I need a women on the engineering team so the guys don't have to deal with the women in marketing." - actual job offer.

"Do you plan on having children?"

I recently left a job, because I couldn't get my other team members to stop leaving commit messages like "fuck heroku in it's whore ass', 'fucking cunts'. The hilarious part is that my background is in porn, I wasn't offended, I just couldn't figure out what the fuck they were committing. When I asked them to write more descriptive messages they said I was too sensitive. The guy who took over for me constantly emails me and asks if I remember when x was done....

I'm very active in my local tech community and I spend my free time teaching, so I know that 99% of guys in tech are not like this. (at least on purpose) But the attitude is accepted and even defended, which is obvious just reading the comments on any article involving women in tech on HN. But, it doesn't happen to them so how are they to know that I hear the 'hilarious' Tits or GTFO joke hundreds of times. The only reason I've started to become vocal about it is because I hope that it gives someone a little insight into what we have to deal with. I'm not at all a SJW and hate the concept of check your privilege. I think SJW are actually making women in tech look like weak victims.


Was there ever any doubt that the problem lies with men?


Yes. Those classmates didn't invent that sandwich stereotypes on their own, they got it from the environment.

I think the problem is not with men or women in particular, but society in general, as it has a concept that genders are socially different while they're [mostly] not. I strongly suspect, neither men, nor women are prerogative carriers of such stereotypes - although, naturally, as those stereotypes are discriminating to women, they're primarily opposed by them, not men.


Was there ever any doubt that the problem lies with men? Not for the last 80 years.


I don't want to sound sexist but could be, just could be, is it possible that women are not as capable as when it comes to programming. waits for flames

I was a student assistant. I gave lab courses (lots of different types, cs 101, ai, graphics etc) and there wasn't a single girl that can actually do good. Sure there was some who can memorize a whole textbook and get A in grades thanks to exams but that was it. They were at best average for my case. And In my school, girl ratio is not that bad either. Even when I was a student, there was a single girl that applied and graduated as same year as males, all other females failed and prolonged their schools.

I am sure most of you met exceptional woman programmers, I am not denying that there might be exceptions. But from my personal experience women is not as capable as men in tech. That is pretty much my reasoning why there are so low interest in tech related courses/jobs for women


> I don't want to sound sexist but could be, just could be, is it possible that women are not as capable as when it comes to programming.

It's a flawed argument. In a group of male programmers, fully half of them are below average (yes, I'm sure). Should the less accomplished 50% be subject to ridicule as intellectually inferior? No, they should be given equality of opportunity, and let the cards fall there they may.

All women want is the same equality of opportunity that every male programmer gets without question.

> But from my personal experience women is not as capable as men in tech.

I'm sure you've heard of "confirmation bias", but, in case you haven't:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confirmation_bias

Quote: "... a tendency of people to favor information that confirms their beliefs or hypotheses."


>In a group of male programmers As I said, male-female ratio is not that bad. Maybe 25% of total class? I am not sure about the numbers though.

I am not trying to ridicule people, It is just some facts I encountered before.

"confirmation bias"

It is not like I can be biased now, because there is no longer a data set for me. There is like 2-3 women (out of ~50) in the department I am working and they are not directly related to my area, weird huh?


We could make that argument a decade ago. A decade ago, geeks were just weird, and prone to incompetent and awkward social advances that could scare a young lady. A group that's incapable of making her feel comfortable.

And in a sense, you can't really blame them much for that. Social clumsiness and normal loneliness and desire aren't exactly crimes.

But what the author describes isn't like that. He described an actively hostile and misogynistic classroom.

Maybe I missed it (and I could've missed it since I'm a dude), but the modern culture of full-out misogyny that's infected young programmers wasn't present when I was a student, and it scares the willies out of me.


>* He described an actively hostile and misogynistic classroom.* //

It may be misogyny but my experience of groups of youths makes me feel it's "just" verbal abuse. She's not being targeted because she's a girl she's being targeted because [almost] everyone is.

High-schoolers pick on others because those others have traits that make them stand out. There's probably a kid in the same class being picked on because he's short, another because he's stupid, another because he's poor. So, this one is being picked on because she's a girl - that's what stands out most about her against the common traits of the group. Is that really misogyny is it disproportionate because she's a girl.

In some ways that the only thing that they latched on to was her gender is positive - hear me out on this one - that suggests that she's good looking, she's not poor, not fat, not spotty, not known amongst the students for moral deficiency. In fact I feel it's basically a confession that they've got nothing else to pick on her for.

If the worst she got was a well recycled joke it sounds like she was probably having an easier time of it than most kids in the classroom, no.

None of that is to say nothing should be done about someone feeling the environment they're in isn't conducive to education of course. It just strikes me that sexism isn't the root problem - if instead she was picked on for being a swot [that's perhaps UK-ism, a conscientious and attentive student with a hint of toadying] would that have been better somehow?


I don't think this applies to anywhere near the number of men the stereotype would apply it to. I've worked in very successful mixed teams in a variety of companies.

What's more I think the stereotype is harmful in itself. It provides an excuse for some men to act like assholes and it affects the perception of the rest by the outside world.

I have also seen misogyny and incredibly awful behaviour in the workplace. This was invariably carried out by men who thought they were good at what they did but were sadly mistaken.


I agree with you, as someone that heard from a colleague "to go to the kitchen and do the dishes", instead of helping him with the problem he was facing. I was his superior at the time.


Hmmm ... with that theory you'd also have to explain the odd concentration of socially inept males in tech. Why are they pooling there? Is it a "low spot" where gravity leaves a puddle? (street cred based on brain-cells instead of muscle and the ability to completely avoid physical interaction sure sounds like a win to a severe introvert).


Why are they pooling there? Is it a "low spot" where gravity leaves a puddle?

Kind of, yes. Programming is a decidedly anti-social job in many ways, and suits the socially inept.

That's not all a negative thing- it's possible to be successful through your skills alone, and few other jobs provide that path.


Unless you are a minority in the field in which case your success apparently requires tolerating disproportionate abuse from your socially inept peers. Hardly the meritocratic environment we like to imagine here.


My experience in the professional world is that its full of assertive, aggressive individuals men and women included. There are only so many slots at the top and the ones not occupied by the CEO's nephew belong to thick skinned individuals who have endured a careers worth of mental/emotional abuse. How many times have your heard someone utter the words "My boss/colleague/lead is an idiot." Is it a disservice to create these mushy teeball environments where everyone gets to be an astronaut?


I understand that you're advocating for helping people develop a thick skin. Where I take objection is when you start talking about abuse. There's enough other kinds of adversity out there to be resilient against.

> My experience in the professional world is that its full of assertive, aggressive individuals men and women included.

It's possible to be assertive and aggressive without being abusive.

> There are only so many slots at the top

Not everyone wants to get to the "top".

> Is it a disservice to create these mushy teeball environments

They certainly sound better than environments full of mental/emotional abuse. Why can't we create abuse-free environments in the real world, too?


Obviously I use the term "abuse" facetiously. However, no one buys the memiore about the individual that coasted into prosperity with the love and support of everyone around them.

> Not everyone wants to get to the "top" sure, but how about you let them make that decision rather than taking the liberty of handicapping them in advance.

>They certainly sound better than environments full of mental/emotional abuse. Why can't we create abuse-free environments in the real world, too?

Sure but they will need to compete against the environments filled with vicious, agogi-bred cutthroats who are there by choice.


I think this has bugger all to do with women in IT and everything to do with abhorrent high schoolers and a lack of discipline. This kind of harassment should be strictly punished and for some reason the article only discusses the culture and not why it wasn't dealt with.

At university my computer science classes are about 1/4 females and I've never seen anything close to disrespect over gender. This is just a bunch of high school guys picking on the only girl.


Wow. Feeling pretty good about my HS Pascal class (yeah, I'm old, so what) now. I was only ignored and dismissed, not harassed and told to make sandwiches (!).

The OP's daughter sounds awesome. The OP's daughter's teacher sounds like a real idiot.


Nothing wrong with Pascal though, it's probably much better to learn with than say C++ or Java.


Was this letter really written with the intention of giving the high school teacher a message? Or was this just a way to showcase her daughter's (as well as her own) accomplishments?

What was the purpose of writing this as an "open letter".


Passive aggressive preaching. If she REALLY wants to change things, offer to assist the computer department with digging up funding for a C based curriculum. It costs a lot of money for public schools to shift curriculum's.


At my daughter's school I offered to run a computer club, speak in class, redo their website, all for free. I said I would pay for all teaching materials. The head of technology rejected all offers. His response, "We use technology to teach, not teach technology". "A computer club would only teach kids to hack". "Besides, Cisco sponsored one years ago to teach about routers and it was poorly attended". I wish it was just a matter of funding.


Offering to assist with digging up funding is a lot harder than writing a blog post on your tech website.

Besides, the hits taste sooo good.


If a kid being bullied/harassed doesn't speak up and it doesn't happen right in front of the teacher, how is the teacher supposed to know what's happening? Kids lose interest and get depressed all the time, it could be bullying, they could be having problems at home. Teachers are not therapists. They are not trained to recognize warning signs of anything. That's why schools have guidance counselors and principals for kids to talk to. Yes, there could be some preemptive measures taken at the beginning of the class but that often gives the little bastards doing the bullying more ideas. If the OP had been more involved (not just interested in bragging about, but really involved) in her child's life and recognized the warnings signs (that she easily picked up on months later) then she could have done her job as a parent an intervened. It's your job as a parent to watch out for your children. You should know them better than anyone. If you didn't see the signs, how could a teacher who barely knows your child pick up on them?


I would of posted this in her comment section, but the requirements for signing up are beyond the pale of acceptable.

  "Thanks to my career, my daughter's Facebook friends list
   includes Linux conference organizers, an ARM developer 
   and Linux kernel contributor, open source advocates, and 
   other tech journalists."
I, am so jealous right now.

  "but I was unprepared for the harassment to start in 
   high school, in her programming class."
but her mother seems to have an interesting idea of what High School actually is.

  "Did you not see her enthusiasm turn into a dark cloud
   during the semester? Did you not notice when she quit 
   laughing with and helping her classmates, and instead 
   quickly finished her assignments and buried her nose in 
   a book? What exactly were you doing when you were 
   supposed to be supervising the class and teaching our 
   future programmers? "
That's hard to notice for a specific student when that's happening to 30% of the class, don't you think? That your god child should be spared, because she's female? I wasn't spared, why should yours be? She didn't get subjected to anything that I haven't gone through. At least from your description.

  "I'm no teacher, so forgive me if you think I'm out of 
   place when it comes to telling you how to do your job. 
   But I am a mother, and I've spent years encouraging 
   girls and women in IT"
and he will have to forgive you, up to him though.

  "Recruit students to take your class. Why was my 
   daughter the only girl in your class? According to her, 
   she only took the class because I encouraged it."
Because women are free to do what they want, and they're choosing not to. This discrepancy manifests everywhere. More deeply in countries with a focus on personal liberty. There are few male orderlies in hospitals.

  "My daughter said she [didn't know] about the programming 
   class ... Have you considered hanging up signs ... asked 
   the school counselors to reach out ... spoken to other 
   classes, clubs, or fellow teachers ... asked the 
   journalism students to write a feature ... asked current 
   students to spread the word"
It was a full class. Wasn't it?

  "Set the tone. On the first day of class, talk about the 
   low numbers of women and lack of diversity in IT"
You do not understand teenagers. Evidenced by that the teacher should single someone out to lessen harassment.

  "Don't be boring and out-of-date. Visual Basic? 
   Seriously??"
You also might not understand schools. I can tell you four things that have a high probability of being true:

1. The professor doesn't have a choice.

2. The professor doesn't care.

3. This is all the professor knows.

4. There is no one to replace him.

  "Check In ... Follow Up" 
How many students? ~30? In one class? In the ~5 classes he teaches every day?

  "my daughter learned why there are so few women in IT"
They choose not to be, and because they are so few, the ones that remain are singled out. There are few male orderlies in hospitals too, despite the fact that there's an "objective" demand for them (I was furious when I was confronted for the reason. It's to help lift patients, and help deal with patients experiencing an episode.


> That's hard to notice for a specific student when that's happening to 30% of the class, don't you think?

Not to mention 70% of the teachers.

I took a mandatory class (keyboarding) from a friend of my grandparents', the first year he taught. I saw first hand how much the apathy of the class wore him down. He started the year hoping he could get people at least vaguely interested, but no one cared, and there was no way he could force them to.

He quit after a year.


So, high school sucks in general. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't care.


Sure, but care about the right things, and not construct a gednder issue where thete isn't one. Do you think gender issues are the most important problem schools are facing?


There's a gender issue in the balances of sexes as reported in the article.

I don't know how American schools work, so I can't comment on your question.


What about an all-girls school? It will be interesting to see how many students there opt for Programming subjects.

Obviously there can't be male domination there, because boys are absent.


Try organizing a seminar on programming in some womens only college. Not more than a handful would land up.

Bangalore/Chennai/India, same story throughout.


Just because not every subject has gender parity does not imply that there is an issue.


Yes. Complete domination might be an issue, though.


Minorities(race/color/religion/gender etc) definitely suffer harassment and discrimination of all kinds.

But your point on liberty is spot on.

I have a feeling if you were to get rid of this harassment and discrimination thing overnight. It would make negligible impact to ratio of representation which existed before.

>>Because women are free to do what they want, and they're choosing not to. This discrepancy manifests everywhere. More deeply in countries with a focus on personal liberty.

In countries with personal liberty you will suddenly have new sets of problems. You can't blame anybody or anything for your failures, and that's a bad situation to be in. You are no longer the victim or the under dog and no one sympathizes with you anymore.


>I was furious when I was confronted for the reason.

Can you reword this sentence? I can't figure out what you mean.


He's upset that men are naturally stronger than women and female orderlies would delegate the heavy lifting to male co-workers as their preferred tool. At least that's what I gathered.


My parser treated it like this: "There is an objective need for more male orderlies (because they can lift heavy patients), but I was furious that [someone] confronted me on this obvious fact".


Sorry, what I was trying to convey:

There is a larger desire for male orderlies, the reason for that desire are for the "obvious fact" that males are stronger, and can be used for heavy lifting, and protection for and from disorderly patients.

It makes me furious that they can so blatantly state these reasons without fear, where as statements to any effect about the female gender would consistently create backlash. I don't disagree with their reasons, what made me furious was the asymmetry.


>I wasn't spared, why should yours be?

I stopped reading here. This mentality is pathetic. We can and should expect better than we ourselves had it.


I can appreciate that, but I really don't see a way to change human nature, particularly the nature of children. A percentage of people are going to be picked on and singled out.

How do you propose we fix it? Do you think this article was even partially close to a solution?


I've been a programmer/analyst for 17 years, and I have never experienced anything like what's being discussed by these women. I am older than they are (I'm a Gen-Xer), but still.

I've worked in web development shops, and I currently work for a regional grocery store chain, but most of my time was spent working for companies that own an internet backbone doing statistical reporting for the web. I can assure you, those places were heavily male and heavily geeky. No one ever suggests that I should be getting them coffee, much less making them a sandwich.

If anything, the younger, nerdier guys find me a little intimidating.

I wonder if some of the women in question are simply getting their ass handed to them in a code review and they think it's sexism. It's the opposite, actually. That's equal treatment!


I had a pretty bad experience in highschool (and elementary school) because of a small deformity on my face that I was born with. That didn't make me hate programming because I was getting bullied on programming classes. In fact it made me love it more because it doesn't have to be a stupid social activity. It did make me hate school up to the point that I got "expelled" from college for skipping classes. If the author is so concerned with her daughter being pulled away from a profession that she claims to like then work harder at home. Or you know, not assume that her daughter is an impressionable idiot and let her choose whatever she wants.


That's absolutely, absolutely, absolutely true!!!

When I was in the first semester I knew that we had lots of women in there 20 in 200. What I also knew was that some damn idiots, (who I'd punch up, if I knew) would cause them to quit. Honestly just 6-8 girls stayed, the other girls left CompSci to study something "better". Those who stayed stopped having contact with anyone in class. They told me that the people are weird, which is mostly true, but they also got treated badly and excluded from anything which would help to make them look stupid.

A year later or so, I wanted to redo a course from the first semester that I didn't pass back then. To my surprise there were even more girls and admittedly hotter ones, like a gf that I knew from before univerity and some of her gf's. However I tell you, all of them, with only a few exceptions left CompSci after the first semester again!

I still have a good relationship with them, but it annoys me that some idiots managed to make almost all girls leave this time. They had so much potential. If you ask me, that's nothing else, but pure mobbing. Hey don't think that only the students were at fault!! The Profs made such ugly and shocking jokes about women (and gays), that I wondered if they ever had sex with a women in their life...

Things like: If the last man on earth would be gay, it would still be better than a women, but also not be a (hu)man. (Only a handful people boo'ed, that's courage huh?)


I see a lot of posts here simply making excuses for the teacher, proclaiming why it wasn't really his fault or responsibility. So what? The situation presented is unacceptable, and we're kidding ourselves if we think that whether the details of this particular instance are sufficiently condemning or not makes a difference as to the fact this this kind of thing goes on all the time in our high schools. It's not okay. This woman at least made an effort to do something about it.


When it comes down to it, I have to agree with you. I think dealing with situations like this is part of growing up, and while I disagree with a lot of the points of this blog post, the main issue, harassment (of any kind) should not be tolerated anywhere (including and especially schools).

On that same note, I think OP would be hard pressed to find an industry that isn't like this, if not towards women, towards some "different" group of people, possibly even men or Anglo Saxons. One of the things I have the hardest times with is when people say a specific form of harassment isn't tolerable (can't segregate based on color, can't discriminate against race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, etc.), but don't get at the root issue, singling out anyone for being different. It doesn't matter that she was a girl or that the comment was sexist, what matters is someone was singled out for the sole purpose to make them feel bad and shameful for who they are.


The start of this article started off very similar to my experiences with programming class, we also used vb6. Going into the course I already had several years of programming various languages including vb6 so I wasn't really learning anything new.

Just like her, I only took the class to make my parents happy and maybe, just maybe get something out of it. I didn't.

Just like her, when I finished my assignments I would go around and help struggling kids with their stuff. I wouldn't ever do their work for them, more like guide them into the right direction, helping them figure it out on their own but with a little nudge from me.

Just like her I was bullied, except I wasn't bullied by other students. I was bullied by our teacher, a female.

The teacher was the only female in our class. I would venture to say she was pretty intelligent. I mean she could write the day's lesson on the board in backwards cursive.

I nearly failed the class because she insisted I was cheating. There was no way I could know what I knew at that age. I had to prove to the principal that I wasn't cheating in order to get an entire semester of zero's reversed.

I'm pretty sure that was about the time I went from wanting to be a professional programmer when I grew up to never taking a paying programming job. Here I am, 30 years old, doing IT support instead of what I really enjoyed doing.


ITT: overprotective mother tries to shield daughter from the cruelty of high school. Link is posted on a site where a large percentage of the audience were nerds in high school when computers and an interest in science was considered uncool and grounds for getting dragged through shit.

I'm all for gender equality in IT and the like, but again, high school. Put a girl in a classroom full of hormone-ridden teenage boys that probably don't see much of that kind very often, see what happens.


The setting is irrelevant to the situation IMO. It could have been any environment that was heavily teen male with a teen female outclassing them, the animosity is sexist in nature. The tragedy is someone that had a passion seemingly lost it because of bullying. As a society what we can and should do is teach that this behavior is wrong and harmful. This has a lot less to do with the tech industry and a lot more to do with high school and lack of maturity.

From an individualist perspective we can only encourage her not to give up on her interests because of the cruelty of others, and that she may receive this treatment often because she is above average. This is an unfortunately common scenario anywhere for anyone.

If this was a white girl in a black history class or a guy in a women's studies class the tone to this thread may be a little more compassionate I would imagine. It just so happens that the anecdote of female encountering sexism in tech is so often repeated and posted here, it's made a number of us callous to it.

As for the author: If she has a problem with 'get back in the kitchen' I suppose I can legitimately raise a concern with her characterization of all the boys in that class as brogrammers... which is just as sexist. Takes one to know one I suppose.


I think VB is a good choice for high school programming. As well as being closer to spoken English than most languages, it has excellent GUI development tools and also the by useful IDE features like Intellisense and auto formatting. But the best thing about it IMO is that it's the only programming language that most people might find useful later in their careers - via Excel's VBA. That shouldn't be underestimated.


VBA is almost universally the wrong tool for the job. MS-Office applications are COM servers, so you can interface with them from almost any programming language and throw useful frameworks into the mix such as Qt or wxWidgets. The sort of things that make a programmers life easier, in stark contrast to the abomination called VBA.


From a purely utilitarian, game theoretic pov, harassing and chasing girls out of your personal and professional social circles and networks is a very poor reproductive strategy. I would have thought programmers would be more logical, even if initially unthinking about it. If you love sausage fests, by all means, continue. Otherwise, think twice before disparaging girls and women, even jokingly (it's never a joke).


high school students taking CS class != programmers. I would have thought person talking about logic would be more logical.


Parents telling teachers how and what to teach from only their childs perspective and thinking that's 100% ok.

This is what's wrong with education today.


It's fantastic that this article has stayed on the front page so long. Regardless of your thoughts on the author's claims, I don't think anyone can deny that this was a thoughtful, reasoned take on sexism in tech. We need more of these if anyone wants to take the discussion back from the Gawker's/Valleywag's of the world. There is an intelligent discussion to be had here. Personally, I lean towards advising women to take the Booker T. Washington approach of focusing on becoming as competent as you possibly can, but also working to change the culture as much as possible. I know it sounds like a contradiction, but I just think that teaching girls and women to learn to love programming over encouraging them to fight a culture war will bring more women into tech than the opposite, which will bring more into activism (not a bad thing, but I am approaching this with a goal bringing women into tech). I found this author's approach to be one of the best attempts at what I described I've ever seen.


"I don't think anyone can deny that this was a thoughtful, reasoned take on sexism in tech"

I can. It was a reasoned, thoughtful take on a single teacher's inability to effectively discipline a male dominated classroom, and how this lack of discipline severly impacted a woman's hopes for her child. Nothing more.

To say that this is "sexism in tech" is an extreme reach. I dare say dishonest.

Back when I was in grade 9, my friend and I were the only two boys in 'home ec.' It was always only us two in the cooking groups because the girls wouldn't ask us to join their groups. Should I take this to show the inherent Misandry in the entire culinary arts field? Of course not.


"Deal with it," is about the worst advice I've ever heard.

I've never had to deal with sexism. When I was bullied in high school my car was vandalized, I had to take time off from exams because my face was a wreck and I was being monitored for brain injuries. I skipped class because I didn't want to hear, "fag," for the thousandth time. I didn't want to deal with the food being thrown at me in the cafeteria or the snickers as a I walked past the gossiping kids in class. I've never had to deal with being discriminated against because of my gender but I cannot imagine that it hurts any less.

I was lucky. A friend of mine was beaten into a coma. The bullies showed up to his benefit concert to throw pennies and harass the attendees. He has been living the rest of his life with the effects of severe neurological trauma. Yeah, kids are mean.

It has been more than a decade since I escaped that hell-hole. I've since read articles about other unlucky kids who've died being stabbed to death by a mob. I've read about girls who have committed suicide because they couldn't deal with the slut shaming. Sure these cases are beyond the norm but I wonder if they are not indicators that things are just getting worse for kids these days.

It doesn't have to be this way. We can single people out who make sexist jokes and correct them, loudly and publicly, and try to help them understand that they're not funny, clever, or cool. I agree with the author that teachers can be a part of the solution. But I don't think that is the final word (and it never is when trying to change prevailing attitudes and norms): parents need to tell their kids to stick up for people who are being bullied, that it's not funny, and that it's dangerous to not say anything when they hear someone spout off something hateful.


"how were you even able to make programming boring?"

Puts into words the question I've been trying to ask some of my teachers for so long, but haven't been able to.

I know programming isn't intrinsically interesting to everyone, but I think there is still magic to be found in seeing your instructions (in VB, Pascal, C, Logo, whatever) translated to something on the screen.


The basics are not always interesting, especially when you 'get them'. But its through this repetition you build upon the knowledge. Eventually every fancy thing falls back to the basics.

Think about Chemistry; the instructor can show all these cool reactions but you eventually have to sit down and mindlessly run through on paper the chemical reaction.

Now think programming-wise; I can show you wireless communication between two Arduinos and some XBee radios, but eventually you have to explain how variables are stored in memory, or how the communication is made, or some other basic.

Intro classes can be boring because there doesn't seem to be an endpoint, but that's why everyone encourages open source communities, they offer that real life feel to everything you learn.


Only girls have a bad time at schools. For boys it is just fun and games all the time. They also never target jokes at each other. Imagine if there hadn't been a girl in that class. Who would those boys have directed jokes at? It would have been a very dreary affair.

Can you imagine a boy losing interest in a subject because school is so awful? I can't.


> discussed illegal gender discrimination in tech

Can't we just call it "bullying"? Illegal bullying.

I experienced an awful lot of similar things when at school, in 50-50 gender split English classes and others. Sure, the wording was different, not mentioning my gender, but the effect was the same. I remember a particular group of girls picking on me consistently because I was so quiet and shy. Physical as well as verbal harassment. The bullies will choose anything that is different about a person: be the lone female, and they obviously choose gender.

I really see the problem in all "discrimination" type cases, whether gender, race, sexuality, being: unpleasant people. Cure these people of gender discrimination, and they'll just be bullying the quiet kid instead. Or the poor kid with the cheap clothes.

We need to be teaching kids to simply be nice and to accept everyone else for who they are. But like that's gonna work.


> And then the threats of violence started: "The author of this article is a whiny bitch and needs a good beating to be put in her place." Ten minutes later, the rape threats began, and I shut down our comments site-wide. And then the emails started...

Seriously? I am thinking a little exaggeration. I don't think trolls would send e-mails, what is the point if noone reads your trolling.

And what is the fault of the teacher (other than visual basic). "Guys, please don't harass this girl", yeah tell that to a bunch of boys and see how that works. I don't think students would just openly harass her. He might be a bad teacher but harassments is not his fault.

If there is one to blame, I would blame the parents. Didn't he researched the school before applying her daughter? Doesn't her daughter already above high school programming?


" don't think trolls would send e-mails, what is the point if noone reads your trolling."

Then evidently you don't go on the internet very often.

And at least trying to stop the boys would have been a point in his honor. It's called doing his job as a teacher to protect a student from misogynistic bullying.

You see, attacking someone BECAUSE of their gender ("fix me a sandwich") is the very definition of sexual harassment. If someone said, "hey (nword)! shine my shoes!" would the teacher also then be expected to do nothing?

Questioning the author's veracity is a standard derailing tactic in discussions about this type of situation. Since you engaged with the article, you must assume the author is telling the truth, otherwise why bother discussing it?


When I read articles like these I often get the impression that we don't have the full story.

How do we go from "After she finished, she'd help classmates who were behind or struggling in class" to "my daughter emailed to tell me that the boys in her class were harassing her"? Those two statements are one sentence apart.

I was in a technical cursus in high school, there was exactly one (1) girl in the class. And not for a single course, for all the classes. I don't remember her being harassed, but I can't speak for her obviously.

I'm not saying that "she asked for it" or anything equally terrible, I'm just curious to know how things degraded seemingly very quickly? It seems important to understand what's the core issue here.

I'm obviously not very familiar with US education, maybe the culture is just different over here.


I was at a girls' school. As a straight-A student in a rough school, helping fellow students was a tactic for not being bullied. But all it takes is one kid to decide to take an exception to you and it can all go horribly wrong. And you might have done absolutely nothing (I know I didn't, many years later the bully apologised and admitted exactly that) but it's the one wave that can turn a tide. And that was with all girls!


It is completely unclear from this rant what the daughter knew before entering the class. I don't care if she had used Linux, that doesn't mean she knew jack squat about programming.

I taught an intro to computer programming course at a local community college for a semester. The curriculum was set, so I couldn't really venture off to my own thing. What I learned is that what we have to teach simply is boring. Sorry, but you have to learn about loops, conditionals, variables, and all those other mundane things before you can move on to more interesting things. And let's get real, how interesting are things ever going to be in a class? Not very. It gets exciting when you know enough to create a project on your own. An intro to computer course is not that course - I wish it were.


Shame is really hard to assign and even more difficult to self apply. So while society (let alone our small, sometimes dark programming/tech back lot) is a long way from where we should be, each of us does have a responsibility to more than our own self-entertainment. Trolls are not unique to HN and blogs, they exist in real life too - they're called bullies. And with regards to this story, there's not really a 'both sides' here. There are females and males. And of the males, there are men and boys. Deep down and up close in your own personal mirror, you know which one you are. Instead, why not be awesome and redirect negative, petty energy and do something productive. Change the World, it's clearly needed


When I first read that, my blood boiled. Regardless of the tech nature of the class, it's that kind of blatant negligence that really underscores the problems of many an education system. The myriad of excuses made for the incompetent teacher are even more maddening.

If you do not hold people to a higher standard, but instead make excuses for them, their conduct will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

An educator was once one of the most revered professions. Whether or not they earned a comfortable living, educators of all walks of life were respected and took pride in their teachings. Today... not so much and by making constant excuses, we make it worse.

I would hope the school board would be interested in why such clear harassment went unpunished/corrected.


Do any men have any experience in classes where they were the only man amongst many women?


>Talk to your students in private to see how class is going for them

This shows that the author doesn't really know anything about modern teaching. Talking to students in private is probably a breach of the school's child protection framework.


I would pay to know if that teacher read it and what his answer would have been.


Common, seriously? Blaming teacher (and even tell him how he should do HIS work) just because other kid said something to your daughter? That's just hilarious and wrong in so many ways.. Kids are rude and cruel - always have been and will be - it has nothing to do with programming or teachers or schools. If you really want to make a difference, go to that school and teach them yourself (if you are such a talent, I'm sure school board will gladly accept). Then you can even choose the programming language to teach!

P.S. Haven't read such bullshit for a long time..


Ok harassing is out of line and as a teacher he should have intervened. WE all agree on that.

Pointing out that the reason the other students were saying that is because of envy that she is so far ahead of them should have been enough.

But talking about the low numbers of women and lack of diversity in IT is like saying we should treat women special because there's not many in our field.

We should treat the like a fellow human being and colleague but stop making us idolize women, that rubs me the wrong way.

Bottom line the teacher had no passion for programming and shouldn't have been teaching in the first place.


I can speak for this, my daughter has already shunned programming in any capacity. While my wife and I have spent our time encouraging our children to excel at math and sciences, where my two older boys sailed through, my daughter (who used to love math) feels so isolated that half-way through high-school she now is talking about how she sees no value in the knowledge because of the social repercussions of showing math aptitude as a young woman.

This seriously pisses me off.


This is less a "women in tech" issue than it is a standard bullying issue. You think the "go back to the kitchen" comment is limited to just programming class?

So this mom never brings this up with the teacher, presumes if she does it won't help, and then writes a letter at the end of the year detailing all the problems? Mother of the year, right here.

Also, "VB? Seriously??" got funnier every time I read it too. Jokes never get old.


I really wish the mother would have contacted the teacher, even if her daughter had decided "to plow through."

I'd like to give the teacher the benefit of the doubt and assume that he didn't knowingly let a student endure a semester of harassment. He probably didn't see or recognize the issue.

Open communication from the mother could have helped the teacher recognize the problem and deal with it.


My girl friend and some of her friends had some bad experiences with their CS teacher too. Leading up to the point that one of her friends didn't dare to work with computers throughout her studies. She would even go so far to dictate texts and had her boyfriend type them for her when needed.

It's hard to understate the impact a bad teacher can have on a persons life.


She dictated texts to her boyfriend to type up? In my view, this is far more degrading than a "get me a sandwich" joke.


> I suggested that she talk to you. I offered to talk to you. I offered to come talk to the class. I offered to send one of my male friends, perhaps a well-known local programmer, to go talk to the class. Finally, my daughter decided to plow through, finish the class, and avoid all her classmates.

Why oh why did they not bring it up with the school?


I find this very weird. I wasn't even aware of such a situation until I started reading about it online. Back here in India, Computer Engineering is one of the branches of engineering with a high amount of female students. Thanks to that, I wasn't even aware until some point that there was a scarcity of women in tech.


What's really sad: most of the comments here either say “Teachers don't need to be good, that's OK, we should never change it or complain about it or even worry about it” or “We need more vivid descriptions of bullying until we can agree there's some problem”.


I went to school in a third-world country. We had girls in our CS classes - because CS was mandatory in high school. No one made fun of the girls. Most girls weren't interested in CS, but the few that were, kicked so much butt at coding, no one would dare make fun of them.


Hey author or daughter, if you're reading this, try a hackerspace! Far more convivial environments for intelligent experimentation and learning than a classroom. Mother: Seriously? It was your fault to clinging to out of date notions of formalistic teaching.


I think that programming in highschool should be left to R.O.P (Regional Occupational Program) courses. The people who teach them are usually much more modern than the teachers who teach english / math in the H.S. courses.


This shit has got to stop. Seriously.

As MEN in our industry we need to take a stand against this sort of behaviour which is truly endemic and all pervasive in our industry.

This is not a women in tech issue, it's a problem with MEN.


Is the situation/problem in our industry special? If yes, does is mean the MEN in our industry are special or the industry is special?


After reading this, I will make sure and constantly remind myself that I will respect everyone.

Doing any more will make one more of an activist than before,

doing any less will make one less of a decent human being.


This article is very sexist. What happens is that there is someone 'bullying' and you assume that it is just because they have a penis and your daughter doesn't.


I definitely see why he chose Visual Basic - you get to drag and drop windows and little buttons around and can take periodic breaks in btw churning out code to play with UI.


Sad.

Her suggestions to her daughter's teacher seem reasonable and useful for other teachers.

I hope sending her daughter to India (of all places!) for her final year of high school wasn't a mistake.


this is depressing ... but i can't help but wonder if this analysis isn't sexist itself.

if the sexes were reversed i think it would be a case of saying "well son, women are just like that - you'll have to learn to live with it" and be on your way.

is that sexist?

i'm pretty sure there are natural and cultural tendendcies for men and women to behave certain ways. the behaviour described is not unique to programming, when there is one girl in a group or even school... its just people.


You are absolutely right!

Turbo Pascal or Cobol AND Coding on Paper are the right places to start and learn programming.

If students know the basics, they were able to learn other languages.


Thats a shame. Some of the best developers i've worked with and worked for are women


not sure why your criticizing Visual Basic, it is a good language for Intro HS courses


Not in the US, where Java is required for the Advanced Placement exam in computer science.


Are you serious? You want a HS teacher to teach Java?


Java's no more complicated than VB.Net, imho the only barrier for new users is its use of C-style Boolean operators instead of using words. Oh, and the danged checked exceptions.

The problem with Java is mostly its enterprise-y frameworks. If you have a nice user-friendly GUI library that measures up to Windows.Forms for ease-of-use? Java's fine.


Bigger Point: It is already being done.


sure I live in the US and most of my college classes are based around Java but there is plenty of options to pick from including Visual Basic for an intro course, not saying that's the right option (it's not) but at the end of the day, it is the teachers preference and what they feel comfortable in, the person criticizing VB doesn't even have the merit to do so it seems


I've got a couple of problems with the tone and where the finger is pointed in this article, though I sympathize with her plight.

1) I feel like attacking the teacher is unfair. There is a much more significant root cause that should be addressed, and the teacher's inability to detect her bullying is merely a symptom of that root cause.

Bullying is terrible - I experienced that myself for alternative reasons in Middle/High School - and indeed, inexcusable. Little kids can be assholes, and I do hope that teachers get better at recognizing when kids are getting picked on... but it's a lot to ask when they're strained with multiple classrooms of students that they have to teach. With classroom sizes getting larger, it becomes a laughable proposal to tell them to "pay attention" or "check in" with individual students. These teachers are dealing with potentially hundreds of students every day.

If you want to attack the real problem, attack the fact that teaching is considered and compensated as a "second class career," and thus causes the best and brightest to avoid it. Attack the low pay that teachers receive, the low respect in their community, and in particular the low budgets for public schools brought about by the continual demand for lower taxes. If schools got the budgets to hire good teachers and (most importantly) give them significantly smaller classroom sizes, they could do the kind of one-on-one mentoring proposed: and that would diminish the core problem significantly.

Let's kill the root of the problem rather than blaming the already stressed out teacher at the tail end of said problem. This is a problem we can FIX as a society, if we can recognize that it's worth putting money into our community to solve the problem. This is a solvable problem, made difficult only by the fact that we refuse to give public school systems the funding that they need to sufficiently address it.

2) Far less important in the grand scheme of things, but I feel like people (including this author) belittle Visual Basic unfairly.

It's a great teaching language, and the simplicity of its syntax is helpful for situations like high school where the majority of students don't even want to be there, much less programming. The author's daughter is enthusiastic, and that's great - I'd be willing to bet that the vast majority of that class had absolutely no interest in being there. It's unfortunate, but true - and teaching a straightforward language can at least make the barrier to entry and the remote chance of getting through to some of these students just a bit less remote.

Yeah, it's not going to be something that she'll likely run into in the real world - well, maybe, depending on the industry - but teaching programming in high school is about attempting to break through the oversized wall that is general student apathy. You want to teach an apathetic kid Objective-C so that they can make iPhone apps? Nope. You need something simple - something that will hopefully be simple enough that they won't feel like they're struggling against it. Is it sad that kids are so apathetic? Sure, but wishing they weren't isn't going to make it better. So you give them a softball intro, and hope they feel empowered enough with it to start actually caring about it. Or for that matter, about something, anything.

This teacher also may have been teaching it because it's all they know. High Schools seldom (ever in the public system in America?) have the budget to hire a Computer Science teacher. This person was probably recruited as the only teacher in a related department who happened to know some kind of programming offhand.

Lastly in the defense of Visual Basic, it provides a vast wealth of easy-to-use, easy-to-install, well-documented libraries that perform what (to lay people) seem to be magic. Not only is it easy to learn, but these libraries can be leveraged to very quickly make programs that feel like they're doing something interesting with minimal resistance or struggling against the tools. Learning how to struggle against tools without giving up IS an important skill - but when you're just trying to start by teaching kids to care AT ALL, it's more important that they feel like they're winning. They can learn how to properly struggle once they've learned that it's worth the effort. When they can throw the use of some advanced libraries together and come up with something fun in a single classroom session, they're more likely to also view programming as fun - and thus hopefully just a LITTLE more likely to actually care about it.

In short, Visual Basic is a gateway drug - and a pretty effective one at that.

Anyways, that's my two cents.


Teachers are the leaders of the classrooms.

Same as with all leaders anywhere, in addition to their main goals (teaching the material, sailing a ship, etc.), they must maintain discipline and right any wrongs.

If anything goes wrong, they are the ones ultimately responsible.

It is not fair, but being a good teacher requires more than just the ability to teach a specific subject.

These qualities can be taught, and this woman's letter contains some good insights for the teacher.


Her suggestions are good, but the vast majority of them are unrealistic in a world where we have 30+ kids in a classroom. We have a problem here, and I feel strongly that the problem is class sizes. Blaming the teacher is akin to a tile falling from a shoddily constructed roof and killing someone, and then blaming the tile for the death.

If this teacher saw what was happening and refused to stop it... sure, blame the teacher in that situation. I'd join you in blaming them. But I can't in good conscience blame a teacher for not noticing bullying inside - or outside - of a classroom with the overloaded nature of our school system. Give teachers a 10:1 - or hell, even a 15:1 - student to teacher ratio if you want the kind of one-on-one support she suggests. That would be a fantastic world, and I would love to see that come to pass.


Wonder what the response from the teacher was...


>learns linux >wants a macbook pro


Whose to say she didn't install linux on the MBP?


trigger alert: Linux user at 11 asks for MacBook Pro at 16


Also, is it common for 16 year olds to ask for a car in the US? I asked my mum to make my favourite food, and some money so i could go out with friends. Compared to "a car" or a Macbook Pro, it sounds like i had a deprived life.


Yes, very common, at least in the wealthier regions. Many kids have a car available as soon as they can legally drive.

That said, I've noticed a trend among my son's peers. Many of them delayed driving until they left for college. Not sure why. When I was that age, everybody skipped school on their 16th birthday to go take the driving test.


NPR did a piece examining this phenomenon: http://www.npr.org/2013/08/21/209579037/why-millennials-are-...


If you're in a community where driving is common/necessary, and most family incomes are high enough for teen drivers to have a car – that is to say, lots of US middle-class suburbia – then yes, it's common.

There are some indications that denser-development, economics, safety-concerns, and the rise of alternative attention-demanding status-objects like mobile phones are now shifting the norms. See for example:

http://www.theatlanticcities.com/technology/2012/08/young-pe...


Yes, it is common for them to ask. (It doesn't mean they get it, though).

A large part of the US is not practically walkable and has insufficient public transportation. In order to "go out with friends", sometimes to even see said friends, to hold down a job, to go to the store, transportation in a car may be necessary. Teenagers prefer to not rely on their parents to take them places. Thus, car ownership represents freedom and autonomy to US teenagers.


Maybe she wants to run linux on it? They have nice hardware...


Many people run Linux on MacBook Pro.


High school kids can be mean. Film at eleven.


Parts of this article I can relate to. When I was growing up I had a mother that was constantly involved in what I was supposed to be taught at school: What are they teaching you? Why are they behind? Why are you behind? Why is the teacher so incompetent? This led to me changing schools quite often and each time that happened I lost friends.

It didn't matter that the classes were beginning easy for the sake of revision, the classes were never good enough for her and I had to switch school. Note: not good enough for her, not me. I lost friends and only managed to learn to handle people in my 20's. Her destruction of my childhood ensures that I will never forgive her.

The article does bring up several other things that I dislike: the child being herded into an elite echelon of society by a bossy mother, being surrounded by successful people, the high expectations of the mother upon the young child, the child's [forced] willingness to please the bossy parent, probably also a feeling of helplessness of not being able to say "no, I'm not interested in that extra course".

But wait, there's more...

I see the whole article as a bossy, sexist, entitled mother wanting to raise an entitled child: "my DAUGHTER deserves a better teacher", "my ANGELIC DAUGHTER should not have to face adversity", "my LIGHT OF MY LIFE DAUGHTER is so perfect, just like I want her to be, and is better than the rest of the class combined".

The kid here is innocent. The mother needs to be put in her place. I will try and do so with a bullet list.

* Fuck you and your snobby, antisocial attitude.

* Fuck you and your criticism of teachers. If you think you can do a better job you're welcome to try.

* Fuck you and your feminist entitlement. Your daughter is going to face far, far harder shit in her life than a couple of people making sandwich jokes. In Sweden we call your kind "curling parents". You're fucking up your kid for the sake of your own insecurity.

* Fuck you and your "journalism". I see you ain't much of a programmer yourself, but you'll criticize others? Oh wait, that's what "tech journalism" is: complaining about other people's work and not having a public git repo yourself.

* Fuck you and your egotistical "tech" blog. If you wanted some hits you could have just asked.

You know what happens to people who are good in tech? They get hired because they're good at what they do. You don't have to be a white, american male to show well-written code to people. You know what happens to people who are mediocre in tech but are noisy as fuck because they want to be pampered and be treated all special? They write blog posts and hope thier kids are hired because mom's public shaming of everyone the kid comes into contact with intimidates people into not being able to say "no" when interviewing.

When was the last time you asked your kid if she wanted to just go outside and fucking play with the other kids? Just ride a non-feminist bike with non-feminist neighborhood kids or sit on the non-feminist curb and talk non-feminist shit like normal people? You're too busy signing your kid up for extra-curricular activities and having her influences by successful WOMEN (not people mind you, because people includes men and I suspect that's a gender you're not quite hip with) that you aren't noticing that her childhood is passing by without her having the time to enjoy it.


I agree with what you wrote. This person is so wrong to write that letter and this type of "nannying" will ensure the child grows up to be the same. So unfortunate.


Yes, life is hard for girls and women and everyone else too with adversity.... but, I think some of the point of the article was that the teacher could have taught the boys something about how to treat girls and women. Set the tone right for them before they continue to engage in this behavior throughout college and adulthood so we can break this sexist cycle which is not present in many other technical fields.


This whole situation is such a huge WTF to me. I've been in the programming industry for more than a decade, and I have never seen this happen. It's the lack of women that always sucked, and most of my dev coworkers agreed.

Any time we had a girl interview for a programmer position, it was like a breath of fresh air.

I'm not saying it didn't happen or doesn't happen in general, I believe this story. I just find it strange. We live in 2013, it's unbelievable this shit still happens.




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