Outrage of the day

While searching for the origin of the expression “biggest and baddest” (long story — by the way, I wasn’t able to find it), I came across the following books:

The titles seem already the imagined setup of a Simpsons episode in which Lisa is riled up against corporate sexism. (Remember the episode with the Malibu Stacy doll that says “math is hard, let’s go shopping,” which was based on a real Barbie doll?) The contents do not disappoint.

The biggest and baddest book (the table of contents can be read on Amazon) is all, more or less, encouraging interest in science, engineering, and even math: there are dinosaurs, DNA, how a cell phone works, how an MP3 player works, what is the biggest bridge, what is the weirdest dinosaur, what is the fastest production car, and so on, including math-based card tricks.

The girls book is mostly about make-up, manicure, ponies (no, really, there are two sections on horses and one on ponies!), and superstition. The book includes a tarot card, and it dwells on astrology, palm reading, and miscellaneous fortune telling.

What is most galling, however, is the review of the girls book on the National Geographic blog for kids. Not only it is a positive review, but it has excerpts such as

“It is also a JUST for girls book because it talks about girl stuff which is really fun. (…) Did you know that if you are dreaming about a door than there are opportunities ahead? (…) Another chapter that stuck out to me was Palmistry. The book told you which line on your hand is your lifeline and what it meant. It said that since my lifeline was long and curved that I will have a long and healthy life!”

This is on the website of the National Geographic, one of the largest non-profit scientific and educational institutions in the world.

p.s. To be fair, the girls book has a section on “overcoming math phobia,” a section describing the difference between astrology and astronomy, and a section on “women in technology,” which includes a reference to Ada Lovelace and from which I learned that actress Hedy Lamarr (whom I knew as the first actress to appear nude in a mainstream movie) co-invented a technique for information transmission wherein the frequency of transmission is continuously varied (requiring more bandwidth but improving throughput).

6 thoughts on “Outrage of the day

  1. And unfortunately, framing math education within a section called “overcoming math phobia” enforces the stereotype that girls should be afraid of math.

    It’s a common theme. Walk down any toy aisle and you’ll see an explosion of pink and baby dolls and play kitchens.

    I’m not even sure efforts such as directing Barbie to a something other than a pink-collar job will work. Help, maybe. But then, Barbie isn’t a very healthy role model for young women.

  2. It’s clear from the writing that it’s a girl writing that blog entry, but surely the kids blog has editors. It’s not like the kids could be writing about gossip on their classmates and it would go up on the National Geographic site.

  3. It wasn’t clear to me at first. I thought it was a very energetic grown-up. :)

    If you haven’t already, why not write to kids@nationalgeographic.com ? It says they have people who monitor the site, probably they didn’t realize what they just waved through and its implications.

  4. In the spirit of duality, I propose that we should also be outraged that boys aren’t encouraged to spend more time on grooming and manners. I think we often overlook the fact that while learning about DNA or cell phones works is important for our technological society, it’s also important for boys to learn about cooperation, social skills, and presentation. Just as many people look at what we do and (mistakenly) think its abstract nonsense, I think others, especially people with a scientific bent, (mistakenly) think that those fuzzier skills are superficial nonsense. Disclaimer: I didn’t read the descriptions of the books very carefully, and I certainly don’t support teaching kids superstitions like palm reading as facts, but I’m just suggesting that maybe some of the fuzzy stuff in the girl’s book is not as vapid as it might seem at first glance.

  5. Pingback: Sexismo persistente en el siglo XXI « Teorema de existencia y unicidad.

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