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STEM and diversity

I read more and more laments lately about how few women and people of color are going into STEM fields. So much evidence has been compiled, I believe that we have a problem.

And it's a problem that can be solved right about in the same place where the Apollo 13 problem was solved. That's right: Houston.

Yesterday I attended the ceremonies marking my daughter's graduation from the University of Houston Clear Lake, which is just around the bend from Space Center Houston.

About 280 people graduated, and I'd say about half of them were getting degrees in computer science. Another half of those were getting master's degrees in computer science.

I did not do a count, but I would say that of all those 140 or so graduates, about half were women and fully 75 percent were people of color -- Hipanics, Indians, Pakistanis, African-Americans. It was truly gratifying to see.

I'm sure the picture was not the same at the Texas A&M graduation ceremonies and probably even the University of Texas ceremonies. Both universities are way too white and male.

 

Chopper listens

Chopper, a service dog, comes by every Monday afternoon to listen to children practice their reading.

As with most such critters, he is completely non-judgmental.

And that seems to be something some kids need when they open a book.

A mom who has two sons, one of whom is starting to read, told me this past Monday that the older one refused to read to her and husband -- until he got comfortable reading to Chopper.

Now, she said, he reads to them all the time.

A real success story.

All the signs are there

Free speech in almost all sectors is now under attack in Russia.

News media are the latest to be censored by Putin's regime.

Before that, a law came up that would ban the use of obscenity in art, cultural and entertainment events. So, what, exactly, is obscene to Putin's government?

In April, a measure passed banning swearing in the media. Not sure what swearing is, either. "Gosh!" "Egad!" "Dang!" "Darn!" "Damn!"

And so it goes. Remember the warnings of one of our country's most prominent jurists: Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Kidst must code?

When I was in the Army back in 1970, I took a correspondence course on computer programming (and much more), thinking that having some kind of intimate knowledge of computers should some day pay off.

The course was very technical, and the deeper I got into it, the more I wondered just how practical what I was learning would be in the long haul. Eventually, I concluded that, like so many other things in life, I didn't need a thorough understanding of how computers worked to make them work for me. I just had to buy the right one.

Over the weekend, I was reading about how important it is (or will be) for kids to know how to code computer programs.

And I see that the Chicago library is now offering to let patrons check out a robot called The Finch, developed by Carnegie Mellon University to teach kids about coding.

Really? How many kids will work in a job that requires them to know how to code? One out of 10? One of 100? One of 1,000?

I've tried coding. It's boring. It's tedious. It's not for everybody.

Would kids be better off reading a good book? Learning Latin? Practicing their multiplication tables?

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