Friday, February 27, 2015

On Polymaths and Gender

On Wednesday's post, I mentioned the "Existential Depression in Gifted Individuals, and connected it to STEM and gender expectations. The data shows that boys and girls are equally gifted in mathematics and science. It is culture that influences our expectations... for performance, for grades, for abilities, and for careers.

Culture that often encourages girls to be "perfect:" perfect grades, perfect looks, perfect activities, perfect homes, perfect careers. In a Psychology Today post, Dara Chadwick suggests that confronting perfectionism begins with admitting that we ourselves are not perfect. This is one of the reasons I try to write about the harder times in my life, about failing an elective. The writing's not always good, no post is ever perfect... it is what it is.

Boys may be allowed to slack off in school, especially if they are athletic. When I had my Day on Campus to register for my first classes at Purdue, a speaker told the parents and students gathered that they had observed when students struggle with classes, the young men tended to blame the teacher, for not teaching well. The young women... tended to blame themselves.

In 2011, the New York Times wrote an article suggesting that Science Majors change their minds, because they get better grades elsewhere. Combine the grading with a push for perfect GPAs... and more women will be directed to "follow their strengths."

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Mysticism, Existentialism, and Atheism

In my survey of the major world religions, I failed to mention that each religion has at least one strain of Mysticism to it, seeking direct connection to That Which Is (some call Deity or God):

  • Judaism has both the Hasidic movement and Kabbalah.
  • Christian mystics include San Juan de la Cruz and Santa Teresa de Avila.
  • Islam has the Sufi movement.
  • Hinduism has many practices and methods.
  • Buddhism also has several methods, but perhaps the most popularly known in Western culture is the Ch'an / Son / Zen tradition, which incorporates Taoist influences into Buddhism.

Some of the articles trace existentialism back to Kierkegaard, and my sister has recommended him... but I've never been able to get into his writings.  For me, I connect with Antonio Machado, in his existential poetry influenced by the mystics, particularly his poem, Cantares.

Here's a summary of Existentialism that fits my understanding of it.

[I'm not going to discuss Nietzsche today.]

While existentialism  gained currency in the years following World War II, I also want to bring up the article I shared three months ago, about "Existential Depression in Gifted Individuals." Many people in STEM careers seem to believe that one who pursues STEM should only pursue STEM, should pursue STEM in their every waking moment, and that any other subject (arts, humanities, social sciences...) is irrelevant. As the article points out, mono-focus can be difficult for polymaths, even to the point of crisis. Tomorrow, I want to write about how this crisis can push polymaths out of STEM fields and hurt innovation.

So existentialism, then, can be a bridge between theism and atheism, because existentialism itself is neutral on the topic of God or gods. Sartre is a major writer, perhaps the first, in atheistic Existentialism.

There are many different kinds of atheists. I tried looking up taxonomies, and here are two posts that seem to cover it well:

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Why does it matter?

A year ago, as a member of my employer's Diversity Council for the local site, I was invited to represent the company at the annual Martin Luther King Jr Unity Breakfast, an event that has been held for the past 30 years. It is sponsored by the Delta Theta Lambda Chapter of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc.

One of the honorees last year was Rev. Kerry Holder-Joffrion, and as I recall her work involved restorative justice, in which attempts are made to heal relations by developing a mutually agreed-to understanding of the shared history.

I'm not trained in pastoral care.  My experiences with social-justice minded Catholics, Unitarian Universalists, and the United Church of Christ have educated me on moderating small groups, non-violent communication, and conducting difficult conversations, and Global Negotiations taught me integrative negotiation.

The other thing I have to offer, is an understanding of history borne out of my M.A. in Humanities, focused on Space and Exploration Studies.  While I was most interested in the "looking forward to Space" aspect of the degree program... we cannot see where we are going until we know where we have been. Until we truly understand what this world has inherited from our history of exploration.

Monday, February 23, 2015

What does it all mean

Last week, I gave a very brief survey of five major world religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism). Perhaps at another time, if there is interest, I might survey the other seven listed in the InfoPlease article (Baha'i, Confucianism, Jainism, Shinto, Sikhism, Taoism, Zoroastrianism).

As I said in my introduction, I believe that religion is an important part of culture that we don't often discuss. HOW important, naturally, varies from person to person, family to family, and culture to culture.

We live in a pluralistic society, one where many different people of many different religions live in the same neighborhoods, go to school together, and work together. The Unitarian Universalists have a saying, "We need not think alike, to love alike." I think that is a key principal to raising citizens of the world. In fact, this weekend I was reminded of the Boy Scout Handbook explanation of the Scout Law:
A Scout is Friendly.
A Scout is a friend to all. He is a brother to other Scouts. He offers his friendship to people of all races and nations, and respects them even if their beliefs and customs are different from his own.
A Scout is Courteous.
A Scout is polite to everyone regardless of age or position. He knows that using good manners makes it easier for people to get along.
It seems to me as though there are a lot of grown up, former Boy Scouts, who need to be reminded of these things once in a while. To respect other people, even if their beliefs and customs are different from their own.

I hope that having presented the survey, it will encourage readers to learn more, and to be able to have conversations with their children. It is fine to say that "as <my religion / our family's religion>s, <I / our family> believes ______." It is good to be able to add "People who practice <other religion> may believe ____, which is a different way of seeing the world."