Montgomery Blair High School's Online Student Newspaper
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Oct. 29, 2006

Annual FIST conference to be held at Blair on Nov. 11

by Priyanka Gokhale, Online Editor-in-Chief
The annual Females in Science and Technology Conference (FIST) is scheduled for Nov. 11. Seventh grade girls from all around the county have been invited to attend the program. They will learn about science, math and technology at workshops taught by Blazers and teachers and hear from a female guest speaker.

According to magnet computer science teacher Lola Piper, the conference began in 1989 and was planned by a group of teachers, including Piper and magnet math teacher Nannette Dyas. Math teacher Judith Bishop ran the conference for many years, but since Bishop's transfer to a private school last year, biology teacher Patricia Miller and computer science teacher MaryAnn Dvorsky have been the co-coordinators of the event. Magnet secretary and coordinator Marguerite Berardi and Dennis Heidler, respectively, are also helping to organize this year.

Although this marks Heidler's first time organizing the event, he notes that there will be "no significant changes," except for the fact that he is no longer teaching a session and has instead assumed "more of a monitoring and assisting role."

While the group of teachers involved with FIST has changed over the years, the conference's goal of getting girls involved in science and technology has not, according to Dvorsky. "We hope that it exposes seventh grade girls to [the idea] that math and science are fun," she said.

Miller believes that programs like the FIST conference are important because they present science, math and technology as viable job fields for young girls. "I think we need to encourage young women to consider science as a career option," she said, adding that regardless of career choice, "every person needs to be science-literate," and that programs like FIST help this cause.

Blazers also play an integral role in the FIST conference, according to Dvorsky, who said that underclassmen Blazers can volunteer at to help out at the event and upperclassmen can teach sessions.

Senior Victoria Yao has worked at the FIST conference since she was in ninth grade. Last year, she presented the session "Life in a drop of water" with fellow senior Ann Sun, and she will be doing this session again this year. Last year, Yao found that the seventh graders were fascinated by their presentation, which entailed preparing slides of water-dwelling organisms and viewing them under a microscope. "We get to do stuff like look under a microscope all the time, but middle school students don't get a chance to do that," she said.

This year, other sessions include "Survival of the Eggiest," "Extreme Science" and "Candyland Bridges," all of which will be run by Blair students.

According to Heidler, the FIST coordinators are still looking for more volunteers to help out with the program. Heidler encourages female Blazers to participate because "it's good for girls to see girls" involved with math, science and technology. But Heidler also welcomes male volunteers. "The Mister Fisters of the world are also welcome," he said.

To volunteer for the FIST conference, contact Patricia Miller at All Blazers are invited to help out.

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  • Republican on October 29, 2006 at 10:14 AM
    Wouldn't the seventh-grade boys also be interested in such things?

    So, the target of this event is to make females who are thinking about their future realize that math/science is also an option. But wouldn't males also be interested to learn that math/science is an option as well?

    Say, you're a seventh grade boy who has a seventh grade sister. They are the exact same, just that the sister is a female and the boy is a male. Now, the sister has a chance to learn about the amazing field of math/science, whereas the seventh grade boy only gets to stay home and cry for missing such a great opportunity.

    Sure, the magnet has more boys than girls. I agree that there is some difference between the boys and girls in math/science. However, creating this event is extremely unfair because instead of the magnet having just a little bit more boys than girls, the event is only open to the girls. Therefore, this is fighting a small stove fire with a huge forest fire. Completely unreasonable.

    Open this event up to all boys and girls and the numbers will slowly even up. Open this event to only the girls and it would not be at all fair for that little boy who is the same as his sister except for being male.

    It's very sad when the only thing keeping the boy from going to FIST is that he was unfortunately born a male.
  • Someone you may know on October 29, 2006 at 3:39 PM
    To Republican:
    I doubt any 12 year old boy would cry because his sister did science for a few hours. If he was really that interested in science, there are numerous non gender specific math and science workshops and programs available. Have you ever found a boy that had a sister that went to FIST?

    Also, what does FIST being females only have to do with "magnet having just a little bit more boys than girls"? FIST isn't a "get into Magnet!" pass for girls.
  • blank on October 29, 2006 at 4:31 PM
    To Republican:

    If you have a problem with an event for female 7th graders interested in science, how can you live with affirmative action? The fact is that there are more boys in the magnet than girls, and this program is to help encourage girls to pursue their interest in science and math.

    And many girls need help when it comes to those fields, because of the male dominance. Go to almost any university and step into their engineering school... predominately male.

    You thinking this is controversial is basically "fighting a small stove fire with a huge forest fire. Completely unreasonable."
  • Libertarian (View Email) on October 29, 2006 at 7:45 PM
    Completely agree with Republican. What problem is FIST trying to combat? If females are naturally drawn towards liberal arts and such rather than math/science, shouldn't that be their choice? If that's not the case and it's to expose people to math/science because public schools may not typically expose them to all the opportunities (which I believe is the real purpose of FIST, a good purpose), why not expose the boys to this as well? In fact while we're at it let's do a BIST (for blacks) or WAIRM (Whites and Asians in Rap Music). If the problem is a fundamental difference between females and males, why are you trying to convince them to do something they don't want to do? If the problem is exposure to real math and science, why isn't this a gender-blind problem?
  • capn crunch (View Email) on October 29, 2006 at 8:56 PM

    i don't even know where to start....
  • give me a break on October 29, 2006 at 9:56 PM
    Republican, suck it up. Women have enough unfairness and inequality to deal with, we don't need you whining about being exempt from this.
  • X on October 29, 2006 at 11:01 PM
    How are women being treated unfairly, when there are so many academic programs, not just FIST, that are exclusively for females? Plus, affirmative action gives preference gives preference to girls. Assuming that males and females truly have equal abilities, there is no nedd for those things, because the amount of males and females in the magnet program, colleges, and jobs will even out on its own. Actually, it should'nt matter if there are more members of a certain gender in a particular field, as long as people of both genders have an equal oppurtunity to be involved in it. Gender should not even be considered by academic programs when they are deciding who to admit or allow to attend.
  • word on October 29, 2006 at 11:19 PM
    "give me a break :: 10/29/2006, 9:56 PM
    Republican, suck it up. Women have enough unfairness and inequality to deal with, we don't need you whining about being exempt from this. "


    Honestly whats all the whining about...if you want to get together with some other people and make MIST or WAACP or HETA to help males whites and humans no one is stopping you. Grow up.
  • Someone you may know on October 30, 2006 at 2:47 PM
    To Libertarian:
    Your argument about how FIST would "convince [females] to do something they don't want to do" is ridicluous. Females are not forced to go to FIST; it's a choice. If girls chooses to go to FIST, they must already have some interest in math/science. So how is looking into an interesting subject "convinc[ing] them to do something they don't want to do?"

    And I can already see someone pointing out a flaw in my argument: "Well, if a girl is already interested in math/science, why should she go to FIST? There are other workshops she can attend." It's true there are other workshops, but those workshops are predominantly male. Being the only girl in a room of thirty guys can be very akward for the girl. Girls can be turned away from those workshops because they do not have any other girls for them to talk to. FIST prevents that akwardness from happening and invites girls to do science/math, with other girls around them.

    And if BIST and WAIRM did exist, you would be one of the first people to complain about it. Why don't you stop posting here and start another petition, this time to stop FIST?
  • Apathetic (View Email) on October 30, 2006 at 5:08 PM
    I am a bit ambivalent on this issue. Although I understand why it's for females, I can also understand why males should be included as well.

    Firstly, I'd like to say that I completely agree with the idea. Exposing students early to science and technology is a great way to pique their interest, perhaps causing them to pursue a science or technology career.

    It sort of makes sense to make the conference only for females; historically, females have had much, much fewer opportunities than males in such fields. This is sound reasoning, and to expose females to science and such early is reasonable. However, a closer look shows that this is likely based on several stereotypes. One of which is the age-old one of females primarily being interested in the humanities as opposed to science, and another that males are automatically interested in science and thus don't need encouragement.

    However, I don't see any reason why the conference must be restricted to females only. It's a good purpose--to promote science to females--but to accomplish that purpose does not neccessitate excluding the males. Additionally, if the conference were to be to show all the females in science and technology, it would make much more sense to have an all female staff, to emphasize the point. What message does it send when males help out in this "female only" event?

    Anyway, I think I'm rambling a bit. But I'd like to address another point that Republican made. FIST has nothing to do with the Magnet. Going or not going to FIST does not affect getting or not getting into the Magnet. It just happens that it's the Magnet that runs the event, because the Magnet is a Math/Science/Computer Science program, and thus is promoting the subjects.

    Lastly, I would like to address one last issue, in general. Making up for past wrongs should not include giving a different group a disadvantage. This would merely pass on the discrimination, if you will, to a different group. Can everybody see the hypocrisy in that? If you want to "make it up" to somebody, go find whoever was wronged, and make it up to THEM. Don't make it up to someone who has not suffered from something at the expense of someone else who is equally innocent or unaffected.

    Though the idea of making up for past wrongs is noble, it is very impractical. The only way it is implicated right now potentially puts the same pressure on different groups. The best that can be done is to completely equalize the playing field, with no advantage anywhere. People with the motivation, and who are willing to make the necessary sacrifices, will be the ones to benefit, with no advantage to anybody. Only by starting with a completely blank slate can true equality be achieved; otherwise, some group will be slighted in some way, in order to promote another.

    How does this apply to FIST? FIST is a great idea, don't get me wrong. But if there is no reason not to open it to boys, then why not? Or if the reason is that girls may be intimidated by more boys, why not start a separate conference for boys?

    These are just my musings. No flames, please, I'm not trying to start a debate =) Otherwise, please respond.
  • Republican on October 30, 2006 at 6:55 PM
    How is opening up a great opportunity like FIST up to only girls fair to the boys at all? Boys deserve the same chances as girls. Boys and girls are not at all different. Why should girls have any more chances than boys in anything? Is that not sexism? One gender is put above the other.

    It only just happens to be true that there are more boys than girls in the magnet. Is that reason to create something that only opens up to the girls? That is using sexism to fight something that isn't sexist at all.

    If these people wish to start dividing people up using completely irrelevant differences, then letís start dividing people into more groups. "I spy" *gasp* only 3 blonde haired people in the magnet! Let's create a program called Blondes in Science and Technology! Is that not just silly? And in this case, Blondes in Science and Technology would actually be better than FIST because people can actually dye their hair blonde to take advantage of such a great opportunity.

    give me a break, I'm going to guess that you agree that Martin Luther King was right. Correct? Blacks are the same as Whites. Exactly, so why doesn't it follow to this as well? Boys are the same as Girls. Blondes are the same as Black-hairs. Why do people decide to segregate against boys whereas they support Martin Luther King? You guys got to realize that the problem here is the exact same thing. Blacks weren't given the same opportunities as Whites. With FIST, boys aren't given the same opportunities as girls. Blacks weren't given the same opportunities because a stupid difference in skin color whereas boys aren't given the same opportunities because of a stupid difference in gender. These things go hand in hand and those who support sexism also are supporting racism.

    It is also extremely ironic how FIST is supposed to eliminate sexism in the magnet where FIST uses sexism itself to attempt to eliminate the problem. An additional problem, is as I said before, the differences in the number of boys/girls in the magnet does not say anything about sexism whereas the FIST program is aimed specifically at females. Completely unfair!

    "i don't even know where to start...."
    I'm not surprised, there is nothing right about FIST. It is a completely unfair event.

    These boys who were unfortunately born male would not be allowed to attend such a great opportunity is just completely unfair. It is something these boys have no control over in their life. It reflects nothing on who these people are, just something that they are born as. This is nothing to just pass by and dismiss as something inconsequential. Such obvious sources of discrimination are completely unfair and do not at all reflect the ideals of equality that for generations we have fought to gain.

    Giving girls extra chances in life is not something set out to equal out the differences in gender. It is discrimination against the boys. The only fair approach would be to open the event to all students both male and female. Opening it only up to female where no males are allowed is just picking/choosing based on completely irrelevant details.

    Sure, as Someone you may know pointed out, FIST is not a get-into-the magnet pass. Even though this may be true, the sexism is still there in that this event is only open to these people two X chromosomes. Is that not completely unfair?

    So, Iíll reiterate, gender is not a difference between people. Hair color is as much a difference as gender. A certain physical difference is nothing to base a whole event/organization off of. There is nothing the same about two females other than that they are born female. There is nothing different between a male and a female other than that one is born a male and the other is born a female. Creating something for specifically one of these physical differences is downright silly.
  • Average Joe on October 30, 2006 at 6:59 PM
    Libertarian's ideas are valid, why not make organizations like this for other races and genders? The reason is, society as a whole seems to think that people who have not gotten the short end of the stick in the past, certainly wouldnt be getting the short end now.

    to Give me a break: So you feel that the exclusion of males from an event such as this is fair? The exclusion of males from this event is understandable (it is an organization for females, after all) but that doesnt make it fair. It is very similar to women not being allowed to vote, it wasn't fair but thats the way it was. Women were not allowed to vote until people gathered behind the cause, and something was done about. While I don't see FIST opening its sessions to males any time soon. I am sure I could count on you to hold your tongue if a group like FIST was formed for male students. Because, you know, we dont need you whining about being exempt from things.

    (although you may feel my comparison of something as trivial as a conferance to something as impactive as voting is a bit of an exagegration, I'm sure you can agree that the idea is the same, even if the supposed injustice is not)
  • Libertarian (View Email) on October 30, 2006 at 10:01 PM
    To someone you know. Just because you point out your flaw doesn't make it go away. If FIST is supposed to get them interested, why is it only for people who want to go? The people there are already interested in math/science. And other workshops are predominantly male? Welcome to the real world. The majority of engineers and people in math/science fields are male. There ARE however many females, if not the majority, interested in math/science and they are still allowed to pursue a career in math/science.

    And you can bet I'd be complaining about BIST and WAIRM, they are just as discriminatory as FIST is.

    A petition to stop FIST? It really doesn't do any harm, but I don't think it does much good. I didn't plan on getting into a big argument, but apparently some people want one. I was just pointing out that I agreed with Republican and all of a sudden I'm against females in math/science?

    My main complaint isn't the specific program, it's the mindset that sets the stage for this program.
  • Libertarian (View Email) on October 30, 2006 at 10:06 PM
    Apathetic makes a very good point.

    Also Republican you are a bit dramatic. Yes it's kind of stupid, but you act like FIST is a life-changing experience. I just think it's pretty pointless. Again, I don't care about the program, it seems to be pointless, but it's the mindset behind the logic that troubles me. It's the same logic that started Affirmative Action, and THAT is something I have a major problem with.
  • male on November 1, 2006 at 4:20 PM
    "The Mister Fisters of the world are also welcome"
  • annoyed by a zealot on November 1, 2006 at 4:39 PM
    First of all, I am 100% against affirmitive action. That being said, Republican, what you wrote about FIST being unfair to boys is really over the top. By the way, you should work on your tendency to rant. People are far more willing to listen to those who can voice an opinion without sounding like a rabid dog (especially when the opinion is over an issue that is not so incredibly life-changing, as perhaps college admissions may be)

    True, FIST is sexist. But it is reverse sexism, a tool to encourage math and science activity in a gender which normally has less interest in science and more interest in liberal arts (this is true!). FIST's design is orientated towards girls. But it's NOT orientated against guys. Boys without an interest in science/math, and boys that are interested, are not going to lose anything. In fact, boys are basically unaffected by the existence of FIST.

    We could think of an analogy. FIST is like a program that distributes free food to the homeless. Does this program "discriminate" against the rich? yeah. Are the rich hurt by such a program? No.
  • Senior on November 2, 2006 at 6:51 PM
    Hmm...if you want to make such a fuss about it- why don't you start your own program for boys? Find a science teacher who would be willing to plan it, and make it happen? That seems the best solution to me here.

    And speaking as a female...interested in science and technology...participating in FIST as a volunteer several times...being in an all girl-scenario does sometimes really help. Especially when you are only in 7th grade- many girls are unsure if they even like science/math/technology. It's slightly intimidating when all the guys are eager to shout out answers in class and you are a bit more shy about it. Although it may be unfair that FIST is just for females, it would destroy some of its educational power if it were made co-ed.

    It's like female-only colleges...there are co-ed colleges too (there are co-ed seminars too), and if people wanted there to be an all-male college I'm sure there would be.

    You've got to pick and choose your battles...this just doesn't seem like one of them? Also- I highly encourage you to volunteer to help out and see for yourself =)
  • Republican on November 5, 2006 at 9:14 AM
    "Hmm...if you want to make such a fuss about it- why don't you start your own program for boys? Find a science teacher who would be willing to plan it, and make it happen? That seems the best solution to me here." While we're at it, why not start a program just for people with brown eyes? Why not start a program just for people with black hair? Do you not see the silliness of creating a program just for a physical characteristic?!? "It's slightly intimidating when all the guys are eager to shout out answers in class and you are a bit more shy about it." Are you saying girls don't shout out answers during class as well? So just being born a girl would cause you to stop shouting out answers during class? "And speaking as a female...interested in science and technology...participating in FIST as a volunteer several times...being in an all girl-scenario does sometimes really help." There might be some differences between boys and girls because some _old_ societal values press for these differences. Take stay-home moms for an example. This has been true for many centuries before. However, now that this society smartened up, women aren't being forced to stay home. Being in an all girl scenario is just reflecting on the many previous centuries of women below men for the same silly reason of being born a female. However, now that women's rights have come, females and males are just humans who look different. Females acting differently without any males around are just reflecting those values of very very long ago and creating an organization embracing such old values before the time of women's rights is just silly. Sure, males treat females differently from how males treat males but that is still reflecting on those old values. It is just as silly as someone treating people with white skin better than black skin. They don't mean anything different yet you are treating people based on them. Silly Silly Silly. "It's like female-only colleges...there are co-ed colleges too (there are co-ed seminars too), and if people wanted there to be an all-male college I'm sure there would be." So, you show how something sexist is good and fair by point out something that is also sexist. How are female-only colleges reasonable at all? Also, I never said that all-male colleges are fair. Anything that is based off on a silly physical difference is just silly. "You've got to pick and choose your battles...this just doesn't seem like one of them? Also- I highly encourage you to volunteer to help out and see for yourself =)" You need to pick and choose your values. Have not millions of people supported women's rights a long time ago? They have shown how women are the same as men. How blacks are the same as whites. Now, you wish to say they're different. By volunteering for this organization, you are showing support for this organization. You believe there is a difference between boys and girls. The only reason why girls and boys act differently in some ways is that old societal values are still sort of pushed on them. By supporting organizations that embrace these old differences, you are letting them stay. And by letting them stay, you are supporting the sexist views that millions of people fought to eliminate some decades back.
  • Libertarian (View Email) on November 5, 2006 at 11:34 PM
    To senior, let's take this a step further. Would you mind if I started a program for black people? White people? (because unfortunately some people would be ok with doing that for black people). How about something for white and Asian males to increase interest in humanities? How about an all-white college? After all what if people feel comfortable around people who look like them? If that's the case for gender, why not for race? Or are you saying that females are different from males, besides the obvious physical differences?

    Also btw FIST is school-sponsored. I don't care if a private group wants to do it (as a protest against AA a group of people did a scholarship for white people, who had to send in a photograph to prove their whiteness. As you can guess there were protests but it's the same as scholarships for minorities), but this is sponsored by Blair High School. I'm pretty sure if I did a white and asian male thing for humanities it wouldn't be sponsored by the school. Hopefully I'm wrong, but FIST is discriminatory by definition, plain and simple. And Affirmative Action, using the same logic as FIST is even more disgusting.

    Ignore the fact that stastistically more minorities drop out of school. Ignore the fact that statistically minorities do worse on tests. The reason they don't get into as good colleges is racism. It has to be, right? They don't get in in proportional amounts. It can't be that statistically they don't care as much about school. If you were to mention that you would be a racist.

    Please note I did say statistically. I'm not saying being a minority means you don't care about school, that really would be racist. It's just that unfortunately, a higher percentage of minorities seem to think it's ok to blow off school. There are plenty of minorities who do fine in school, and plenty of whites who drop out because they don't care, I'm talking purely statistically.
  • Senior on November 7, 2006 at 10:41 AM
    I agree that there is racism...I agree that there is sexism. The thing about males and females is that there are non-physical differences. I encourage you to read articles about psychology. If you can talk about statistics, I can to. Do a google search f 24-000003.html

    I know I won't change your minds. But if you are so opposed to it, why don't you do something direct about it? Why don't you go and talk to the coordinators about it? I'd be extremely interested in their remarks to your comments.
  • Someone you may know on November 8, 2006 at 9:04 PM
    To Republican:
    You may it seem as if women are being treated the same as men in society and that the days of sexism have been done away with for a long time. Guess what? Women are not treated the same as men and those "old societal views" still exist today, just in a lesser form.

    Also, how does fighting for women's rights put women on the same level as men? I would say that women and men are on much closer levels now, but still not quite the same.

    "Anything that is based off on a silly physical difference is just silly."
    By your logic, a mentally retarded person should be judged on the same level as a "normal" person. Women and men are not just different in the obvious places; their brains work differently as well. Not that one is particularly better than the other, they are just different.

    To Libertarian:
    Read your comment. I understand where you are coming from.
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