Saturday, June 28, 2014

Sun Tzu, STEM and DT

I recently came across an article that asked the (silly/troll) question of whether women were too emotional to be engineers. My initial response was that sort of feeling you get just before you spit out sour milk. Reflecting on this further, I realized that the national press furor over "gender equality" has risen to a fever pitch. As the court rulings continue to roll, the polarization continues to build. The answer won't come from legislation built on hyperbole and massaged statistics.

The answer will come from being truthful, honest and objective about the REAL differences between men and women, in and out of the workplace and home, and accommodating them.

One area that could benefit from this is the deliberate inclusion of Design Thinking methods in STEM education. We’ve done an excellent job of teaching and applying the deCartesian model of using reductive rational analysis and logic to solving problems and it has produced some truly amazing results. It has also produced some massive failures which were the result of overlooking the impact of human feelings and emotion in the design of systems and products.

True creativity and innovation springs from discovering and exploring the unknown and hidden connections between things and people - which includes both their thoughts and feelings - as well as a firm grasp of the laws and principles that govern the physical world studied by engineers, male or female.

Terri (my wife) developed and uses the STEM framework, teaching at a local elementary school.  As a result, I’ve had the opportunity to see the engagement in a room full of kids who are excited about developing a solution to a problem which they discovered and researched. In terms of intellectual capacity, it doesn’t matter if the child is a boy or a girl, unless gender differences also have an effect on someone's ability to have and apply empathy in their design process. In that regard, perhaps we should be encouraging at least some of our sons to think more emotionally. The educational system is already biased towards teaching both our sons and daughters to think critically and rationally.

Being equal does not imply begin the same, particularly when it comes to ignoring one of the core elements of our humanity; our emotional content. Doing so creates a cluttered world overflowing with things the majority of people neither need or want, bloating our garbage dumps with toxic waste, poisoning the air and water, and even fostering the massive destruction of war.

Sun Tzu may have said it best; War is about deception. Let’s stop treating gender equality like it’s a gender war and STEM like it has no heart. Our future ability to innovate is at stake.

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