The focus of this month's blog is really about what happened last month. My May was bookended by two graduations. My oldest daughter graduated from Shippensburg University, my Alma Mater, with a degree in Geoenvironmental Studies. Her senior project (click on the image to see the full poster) is based on a love of geology that started as a little girl with piles of rocks accumulated in her room. She is looking for job if anyone is hiring.
My youngest daughter graduated from high school with a 4.02 GPA, and a balance between the arts and sciences that is rare- a real STEAM prodigy! She will be attending the University of Maryland-College Park this fall where she was accepted into their architecture program (a picture she was thoroughly embarrassed by, which is why I posted it).
While I am doubtlessly proud of both girls, I have been asked on countless occasions how I got two girls into STEM related careers. I will be the first to say that it had as much to do with my wife as myself. The sad thing is that a two parent household is increasingly a rare occurrence. This is not to diminish the work single parents do everyday raising their kids, but I recognize the advantage it brought to my girls.
Second, my children were marinated in science from an early age. I am reminded of the last year's Verizon commercial (shown below). My wife and I did not deter our daughters from engaging in science, getting outside, or getting dirty. My wife and I have the means to provide experiences. Another advantage my children had.
That also meant not allowing either to back down when things got tough. Whether that was AP Calculus or hydrology, perseverance is alive and well in both girls. Notice I did not say grit. Recent research points to luck or cultural advantages as the likely the roots of success.
Lastly, my wife and I model the value of lifelong learning. For as long as my children can remember, either my wife or I have been taking classes, teaching, or graduating from college with our own degrees. This value of learning is not shared by all families. Not because they don't want to, but because they need to provide food on the table, pay bills, and hope the funds make it through the month or week. In this case, it is the advantage of having time to consider additional schooling instead of finding basic needs on a daily basis (that is until the college loan bills start pouring in).
So where am I going with this post? Part of it is to brag on my daughters. How often does a father get two graduations at a time! The other part is focused on the advantages my children have because of the privileges my culture and country provide.
Over the last several years, my system has been grappling with the achievement gaps that continue to grow. These gaps are present within races and low soci-economic classes. I participate in monthly sessions were we've been breaking down the causes and solutions to these issues. The last session was personally difficult for me as it made me painfully aware of the advantages I have. While I could dwell in my "white guilt", I've realized the work I've done with the NGSS curriculum will at least help marinate more students in science and engineering at an early age. It is a start, but the work must continue until we can achieve "all standards for all students". It is hard for me now not to focus on the inequities that exist. As one of my trainers put it "You can't un-see once you have seen",