Bridging the STEM Divide Youth Conference & White Atheist STEM Hypocrites


Do atheists care about STEM literacy and education as anything other than a gotcha debate point for religionists? In numerous articles about racism in STEM I’ve made the following point: “While Neil D.G. Tyson is widely revered as an icon of science literacy in humanist and atheist circles, there has been little to no humanist or atheist critique of the legacy of segregation that informs STEM inequities” nor are there any major atheist organizations that seek to address these issues through STEM programming or youth leadership development.  In fact, last year Black Skeptics approached one of the leading “science n’ reason” spewing atheist organizations about sponsoring a STEM immersion program and scholarship opportunities for youth of color interested in STEM but it was no dice.

Interestingly, now we have (yet another)  virtually lily white secular science organization, the humbly titled “Global Secular Council”, comprised of the “the world’s great minds” who place “precedence on science and reason”, who will lead us third world-in-the-first-world barbarians to the frontiers of enlightenment.

On September 13, the Level Playing Field Institute, the Women’s Leadership Project (sponsored by BS) and several other organizations will hold a youth conference on STEM fields, careers and academic disciplines at the University of Southern California. The conference is specifically designed to introduce youth of color to STEM careers, professionals and academics as well as address some of the following egregious stats:

  • According to the Washington D.C.-based Stem Connector group, overall interest in STEM has declined among African American high school students and female students of all ethnicities. This decline is especially pronounced in engineering and technology majors and careers
  • According to the National Center for Education Statistics, “The percentage of African-Americans earning STEM degrees has fallen during the last decade. In 2009, they received just 7 percent of all STEM bachelor’s degrees, 4 percent of master’s degrees, and 2 percent of PhDs”
  • In a typical year, only 13 African-Americans and 20 Latinos of (of all genders) receive Ph.D.’s in physics
  • High poverty schools in predominantly African American and Latino communities have fewer “elite” Advanced Placement science courses than do schools in affluent communities
  • African Americans are less than 1% of the faculty at Cal Tech and 4% of the faculty at MIT
  • Silicon Valley giant Google’s 46,000 plus workforce is 70% men, 30% women, 61% white, 30% Asian, 3% Latino and 2% black — reflecting the overall lack of diversity in SV

As Level Playing Field founder Freada Kapor Klein notes in a recent L.A. Times article on diversity in SV, “Silicon Valley’s obsession with meritocracy is delusional and aspirational and not a statement of how it really operates,” she said. “Unless someone wants to posit that intelligence is not evenly distributed across genders and race, there has to be some systematic explanation for what these numbers look like.”

Insert the Global Secular Institute, rinse, upchuck, repeat.

Bridging the STEM Divide Youth Conference & White Atheist STEM Hypocrites

12 thoughts on “Bridging the STEM Divide Youth Conference & White Atheist STEM Hypocrites

  1. 1

    Back when I was a STEM major, it was worth noting the fact that very few of the students were female. Even more obvious to me (I grew up in Chicago where most schools are going to have a decent % of Black students) was the fact that I could have probably counted all the Black students in any class using only 3 fingers. Gender parity is bad, but racial diversity is *terrible.*

    Part of the problem is that the people in the field tend to be privileged, and bring the usual blinders – they forget that *schools are unequal* meaning that not everybody was taking AP maths and science, that not everybody had college educated parents, the list is pretty long.

  2. 2

    Exactly. Virtually every major college/university requires (even it it isn’t explicit policy) AP classes for admission. The stats on AP access for black and Latino youth, much less AP testing, are abysmal. Moreover, time and again black and Latino youth simply aren’t considered to be intellectually skilled/capable enough to succeed in baseline STEM classes and are hence drummed out before they even begin. The situation at the college level (especially in elite fields like Physics) is even worse for women of color who often can’t find professors who will mentor, boost and encourage them to pursue graduate STEM degrees ala their white and Asian male peers.

  3. 3

    One small correction. The GSC is not “virtually” lily-white. It’s “literally” lily-white. There isn’t anyone in the organization who doesn’t burn after 15 minutes in weak sunlight. SPF70 for everyone!

    Funny, I was just at a major medical convention, and what struck me most was that there were a LOT of women. More than I expected.

    There were also a lot of people with non-white skin tones; but I think the preponderance of those were from places like India and Pakistan. It never occurred to me (and that’s my white privilege speaking) to look around and see if there were any African-Americans in the mix. I’m sure there were — but a small proportion of the overall, to be sure.

  4. 4

    Equal opportunity isn’t something you can “sprinkle” on someone at a certain age. It depends on equal education at earlier ages, equal nutrition, equal health care, equal psychosocial stressors, equal prenatal care, equal parental education, equal parental socioeconomic status.

    There is no evidence for differential genetics of intelligence. There is lots of evidence for differential socioeconomic opportunities affecting education outcomes (and every other type of outcome).

  5. 5

    The GSC isn’t just lily-white, it is apparently some kind of joke, as far as I can tell. I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for them to do anything, let alone fund workshops for Black students or push for better funding for their education. Organizations which really want to help in education and STEM-track opportunities for people of color have a hard enough time getting support.

    And no, it seems far too many atheists not only fail to critique the disparity between white men and everybody else in STEM fields, some of them are quire hellbent on denying there are any problems at all.

  6. 6

    […] and hypocrisy that plagues the movement in general), in her recently published article entitled “Bridging the STEM Divide Youth Conference & White Atheist STEM Hypocrites”. In it Dr. Hutchinson points out the lack of interest in and unwillingness engage with ongoing […]

    1. 7.1

      We’re still trying to solidify the agenda but it will consist of workshops on STEM careers, STEM college preparation, academic challenges and opportunities in the STEM field and networking with STEM professionals of color. What school does the student go to?

  7. 8

    She’s actually a Bay Area student, a junior on scholarship at Drew (private), very interested in science (she is a longtime volunteer at the California Academy of Sciences), and contemplating college and how to pay for it. I just don’t know of any conferences like this one in Northern California.

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