Assessing the problem, in preparation of our first campaign - A call to positive action
How many we are!
One person is an isolated monad, but nine begin to be a community!
We also are from many places in the World, different ages and backgrounds: a very positive thing, with so many different observation, and action, points!
May we, together, try doing a difference? As little as it will be, it will be for good.
I have an idea, for we all to check and, for all willing to do, to act. In full freedom, and compatibly with our times.
Today's World is global, and deeply interconnected to an extent never occurred in history.
One of the key points in this interconnection is, information exchange. And a large part of this information, from commodity prices to GDPs to (even!) databases of natural resource availability, has a mathematical nature and roots in economy, engineering, physics, biology, agricolture, and a myriad other disciplines.
To date, mathematical, physical and scientific knowledge has become an essential part of what it means to be a responsible citizen. Deprive anyone of numeric literacy, or scientific knowledge, and they will be, at best, docile consumers.
This isn't acceptable!
We all see the huge problems burgeoning in the world, often surprising in their unknown, "first time" nature.
Among them, climate warming, the faster and faster recurring and spread of financial crises, diffusion of poverty, emerging scarcity of water. With almost no exception, these global threats demand understanding, global awareness, and once again, "literacy", if we want our species to solve them and not being eventually "solved".
All that said, and acknowledged that mathematical / scientifical / physical culture is an essential tool to survive and give contribution in a globalized, technological World, I've another important thing to add the equation: women - and the girls.
It is acknowledged they are the key to possible, viable solution.
This means, they should be included in diffusion of scientific literacy, to give them tools to evaluate critically, and then decide, in their personal autonomy.
This tends to not happen. Girls, for cultural reasons rooted in old habits and founded over nothing, are discouraged to develop an independent, quantitative thinking.
Discouragement may be harsh, or subtle. It may be the consequence of a feeling that mathematics / physics / science is "unfeminine". Or of more or less overt pressure by parents, teachers and other authoritative figures to dedicate their attention to other things more worth good girls (like caring professions). It may be overt of implicit discrimination, like giving more attention to boys in math classes.
Whatever the form, a diffused perception is that girls are under-represented in the "hard" sciences and engineering - and this surely is a big problem, as some of these excluded brains might have been the one finding a cure for cancer, or the definitely secure encryption scheme for bank transactions. Or, more humbly but maybe with larger impact on a global scale, the one who could have questioned claims by some food multinational that using just that very special seed was a huge advantage, or the government stating all goes well in front of crazy expense logs, or estimating correctly the water need of her community...
First step: Awareness - quantitatively!
How large, and what type the problem is?
I'm imagining a report, giving a first idea about girl pushed away of hard sciences, which (in addition of being available in the sister site) can be sent to institutions, other associations with similar will, and governments.
A report simple to read, like an executive summary, but with compelling data: some "whats", and some "how many's".
There are statistics, readily available on the Internet, but they relate to single or few countries (and most often in the "developed" World, whatever "developed" means). It is very difficult to figure out a global picture from these initiatives.
A point making comparisons difficult is that different countries have diverse school programs in respect to math, physics and sciences. Data are welcome, starting maybe from anyone willing to unite this effort own experience.
So: at which age is basic numerical literacy teach? In Italy, for example, counting, integer arithmetics (within 100) and basic ideas of geometry are made in the first two years of primary school. The following three years build on this, introducing rational numbers (fractions), ordering, computing lengths/perimeters/areas/volumes of simple figures, and developing a "language" allowing to express relations among objects (parallel / perpendicular / ...).
In secondary school, more abstract concepts are introduced: negative integers, irrational numbers, simple geometric constructions, expressions.
Variables have to wait until the first year at high school ("Liceo Scientifico"). In first and second year, algebra is introduces. In third year, trigonometry is developed quite at depth. On fourth and fifth year, the rudiments of calculus are introduced and used in the context of "function study". However, different types of high schools exist, and a considerable diversity among these occurs.
This, just as an example. I imagine programs from other countries could be quite similar, but it is very important to collect them all in a single place, to allow comparison.
Teaching programs are only a part of the story. The other side is, "access".
How many children do actually enter primary school? Of them, how many arrive at end? What about secondary school? Are gender-disaggregated data available?
Another point is: which are the barrier to access? Cost? (With recent cuts to public school financing, even in Italy this problem is beginning to make apparent - for example, in some municipalities and schools food is given to children only if their parent can pay a fare, something not all can do in these economical crisis times; an ugly, insensitive, hard hearted and frankly idiotic decision witnessing a huge social degrade - but this is another story, hope only of Italy) Or, travel time? Other?
The further step
After having collected, compared, and understood our shared data - and written the report synthesizing them (for which I volunteer - glad of the help by anyone of you), we may begin the real action.
As I imagine it, initially it will be connecting, extending, and finding "channels". People who may help, of similar will. Allies.
I'll search for them starting, Italian style, among my friends :-) Of the many I have, some may be in a position of helping, or giving additional information. They are very committed, and I trust in their support.
Then, we may address institutions and the governments of our countries. Again, I imagine an open letter, a sort of petition, written in very positive tone, and addressed to people in the parliament. Its main aim will be, developing further awareness and proposing to support some specific, grass-root actions.
It will be important to arrive at the letter only "after" connections have been developed.
And the "specific, grass-root actions" have to be defined as a consequence of the first, awareness development phase (I described a possibility for in in the preceding section). These action will be realizable, as low-cost as possible, and "cooperative" (that is, a Country may participate in initiatives in other Countries).
As you see, as we go on along time span, ideas become more and more fuzzy and indefinite. I trust in the first phase, however: gaining explainable awareness and building connections.
What do you think, dear?
I'd like to have your opinion, or even alternative ideas we can build on!
In the moment, let my hug arrive to you!