Science is linguistic as well as numerical

O'Reilly's Nat Torkington has some good commentary on a Scientific American article on gender bias in science and math, in which he makes a great suggestion for getting more girls involved in science in school:

And we do select "the best at math"--the article talks about kids choosing disciplines based on what they're best at. In general, boys and girls look at their abilities and if they're better at numbers go into sciences and if they're better at words go into arts. So there are girls going into the arts that have better math skills than the boys going into sciences (the girls just happened to have even better verbal skills). This will always be true in individual cases, but the studies show this is an overall tendency rather than anecdotal evidence from specific cases.

What does this mean? I think it shows we need to do a better job of emphasizing that science and technology can be verbal as well as numerical: Larry Wall, the creator of Perl, is a linguist by training, and there's a similar elegance in great code as in great poetry. If we finally acknowledged that science and technology are fields where words are critical and a keen mind for meaning can go far, rather than pretending it's all math with syntactic sugar, we might get better computer programmers not to mention a better gender balance. And finally, first year classes should have catch-up skills-building options for those boys and girls who weren't at the top of the curve.

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