Why Is This Woman Teaching Something She Is Not?

I want to know why she is teaching engineering?  She is obviously insulted for having teach things that she doesn’t believe in.  I truly pity her students, especially any white male with high creative skills.

Walk through a museum. Look around a city. Almost all the artifacts that we value as a society were made by or at the order of men. But behind every one is an invisible infrastructure of labor—primarily caregiving, in its various aspects—that is mostly performed by women. As a teenager, I read Ayn Rand on how any work that needed to be done day after day was meaningless, and that only creating new things was a worthwhile endeavor. My response to this was to stop making my bed every day, to the distress of my mother. (While I admit the possibility of a misinterpretation, as I haven’t read Rand’s writing since I was so young that my mother oversaw my housekeeping, I have no plans to revisit it anytime soon.) The cultural primacy of making, especially in tech culture—that it is intrinsically superior to not-making, to repair, analysis, and especially caregiving—is informed by the gendered history of who made things, and in particular, who made things that were shared with the world, not merely for hearth and home.


I can’t understand how anybody who teaches engineering can say something like this.  The act of creation is the essence of engineering.  All the math skills, the science are only tools that allow we engineers to create more efficiently and design better things.  Creating things is what we do.  We make stuff. This woman devalues that.

Making is not a rebel movement, scrappy individuals going up against the system. While the shift might be from the corporate to the individual (supported, mind, by a different set of companies selling a different set of things), it mostly re-inscribes familiar values, in slightly different form: that artifacts are important, and people are not.

It’s not, of course, that there’s anything wrong with making (although it’s not all that clear that the world needs more stuff). The problem is the idea that the alternative to making is usually not doing nothing—it’s almost always doing things for and with other people, from the barista to the Facebook community moderator to the social worker to the surgeon. Describing oneself as a maker—regardless of what one actually or mostly does—is a way of accruing to oneself the gendered, capitalist benefits of being a person who makes products.

It’s obvious that she has never been out in the real world.  If she had she would know that being a creative or a maker has never been more devalued.  Certainly engineering isn’t paid as well as legal or financial in most to the place I’ve worked.  Maybe she hasn’t been paying attention, but by and large it’s become a “you didn’t build that” society.

In Silicon Valley, this divide is often explicit: As Kate Losse has noted, coders get high salary, prestige, and stock options. The people who do community management—on which the success of many tech companies is based—get none of those. It’s unsurprising that coding has been folded into “making.” Consider the instant gratification of seeing “hello, world” on the screen; it’s nearly the easiest possible way to “make” things, and certainly one where failure has a very low cost. Code is “making” because we’ve figured out how to package it up into discrete units and sell it, and because it is widely perceived to be done by men.

But you can also think about coding as eliciting a specific, desired set of behaviors from computing devices. It’s the Searle’s “Chinese room” take on the deeper, richer, messier, less reproducible, immeasurably more difficult version of this that we do with people—change their cognition, abilities, and behaviors. We call the latter “education,” and it’s mostly done by underpaid, undervalued women.

Education, like woman’s studies or any of  the syllabuses of drivel that seemingly have as there only function, the draining of our wallets, the miseducation of children and the total indoctrination of the populace to think like she does.  Unfortunately, when it comes to “education” taught by women, the results are starting to speak for themselves.

I am not a maker. In a framing and value system is about creating artifacts, specifically ones you can sell, I am a less valuable human. As an educator, the work I do is superficially the same, year on year. That’s because all of the actual change, the actual effects, are at the interface between me as an educator, my students, and the learning experiences I design for them. People have happily informed me that I am a maker because I use phrases like “design learning experiences,” which is mistaking what I do (teaching) for what I’m actually trying to help elicit (learning). To characterize what I do as “making” is to mistake the methods—courses, workshops, editorials—for the effects. Or, worse, if you say that I “make” other people, you are diminishing their agency and role in sense-making, as if their learning is something I do to them.



If she is not a maker then why should she be in  a position to influence the next generation of the people we are going to need to make the futures that we will need. The kids in her class are there because  they want to make things. If any of them have never touched tools, then that’s a sad testimony to the consequences of putting people like her in places of responsibility. Perhaps it’s time that we stopped trying to make boys into girls and girls into boys.  Let’s no make judgments on some narrative created by sexist and racist bigots like Gloria Steinam and let people be themselves and pay what they want for what they want.



  1. MadRocketSci · April 24, 2016

    If she had she would know that being a creative or a maker has never been more devalued.

    Funny that this writer mentions Ayn Rand: Whatever her other flaws as a novelist, you have to ask why she was nevertheless so compelling. IMO, it’s because our society, by and large, is actually extremely hostile to creative maker types. To engineers, to (real) scientists, to machinists and artisans and hackers, to people who solve real problems. I’d say Ayn Rand novels, and maybe some of the science fiction set are the only places you can find affirmation for wanting to pursue these things. For wanting to make and build. It’s an oasis, however small, in the vast desert of how our society actually treats people who want to interact with the world, not play petty and viscous social games. Where else in the popular imagination are we not villains?

    Note that those same science fiction novels are frowned on, derided, hidden, and those who read them shunned, in almost the same way Ayn Rand novels are: They give the more dangerous peasants ideas – primarily, ideas about their own value and the value of what they do.

    The money/fame/whatever is pretty remote when you are in highschool/undergrad. In fact, the way our companies are treating their engineers right now, it might be entirely illusory.


    • MadRocketSci · April 24, 2016

      PS: It may be that our prevailing is less hostile, relatively speaking, than many other cultures around the world. But it’s still pretty bad, and it might be getting worse, not better, for the makers out there.


  2. MadRocketSci · April 24, 2016

    I wonder if the social opprobrium for science fiction escapism has a common source with the social opprobrium for other things that (typically men) are hectored for: For planes and ships and overpowered vehicles, for fast cars, for stunts, for crazy machines doing interesting jobs in dangerous places. For messy workshops. It seems that the things that we find beautiful and inspirational (and empowering) are always “immature” and “childish” to the prevailing culture.


  3. penneyvanderbilt · April 24, 2016

    Reblogged this on Ancien Hippie.


  4. OF · April 24, 2016

    I write code for a living (and for fun), I build things occasionally, I tinker. But I won’t call myself a “maker” … the whole “movement” has gotten too ideological for me. I know of several long-time craftsmen (and women) who want nothing to do with it, for the same reason … they just want to create, not be lauded because of their gender/nationality/sexual orientation.


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