“Girls love practical work. They engage with everyday examples, but it depends on the context because topics such as cars might switch them off.”
Head of the Physics Department in a Girls school quoted in a document about encouraging girls to study physics at A Level and beyond.
I despair. Girls switched off by cars? Oh really? (Cue “O RLY?” snowy owl meme here LOL). What about the female trainee mechanics that I met? What about female racing drivers? What about women who watch TV programmes about cars? What about female relatives who check the oil and ferry themselves/their shopping/their families about in cars? Lots of women rely on cars as a mode of private transport! Lots of women have to get from point A to point B every day using a car. They have to buy fuel for said car and work out approximately how long the journey will take and what speed they can drive. Sometimes women travel by aeroplane, bus, train, hovercraft, taxi, boat, catamaran, bike, motorcycle, canoe, barge etc…all modes of transport involve physics, even walking!
I had toy cars as a girl that I played with. I pushed them along and made them run down ramps made out of hardback books. Oh how I unfeminine of me LOL!
While it is true that I as a female didn’t study pure Physics at A Level (due to lack of time and scheduling, I was considering at one point, but doing 4 A Levels including Maths was enough for me), it isn’t true that I never studied any mechanics at all. Some of Pure Maths at A Level overlaps with Physics and Mechanics. I remember my female Calculus Maths teacher (shocking that she was a woman I know) teach us (gasp!) rates of change and differential equations. You know, stuff that a lot of people find quite hard to learn. This may disturb you but she taught us the chain rule and differential calculus applied to graphs showing the motions of cars. Even racing cars. She did this all while wearing a floral dress and she had long flowing hair. She wore perfume and earrings. She was a Mum too. She drove a car. She was a brilliant teacher who made complex physical maths/science concepts crystal clear, she also made the lesson exciting and thanks to her, I got a A grade for the module she taught me. Oh the shock and the horror! (Sarcasm)
This may sound like a whacky idea on my part, but how about teaching everyone the same thing in Physics/Maths class?
So people that are male, female, intersex, gender-fluid, trans or other all learn the same stuff.
I am not a teacher so I admit that I have zero teaching experience, however, isn’t that what Miss Frizzle did on the magic school bus? She said:
She didn’t say:
“All boys move to the left side seats of the bus do this tailor made physics worksheet with cars and all of the girls move to the right side of the bus do this physics worksheet about ponies.”
She taught everyone together about the same stuff. I know that the concept of a magically transforming bus was rather unscientific and it was just a silly kids’ cartoon show, but do you get my point here?
Neglecting to teach girls about car physics is sexist because if a teacher assumes that the girls will be “switched off” by cars then is a disservice to young women who may want to become mechanics or Physicists in the future. It is also a disservice to women who want to get from point A to point B using a vehicle whether riding in one or driving.