At D's end of the kindergarten year ceremony, the kids performed a little song about all the things they had learned during the year, and were each called upon to say what they want to be when they grow up.
D wants to be a scientist who builds rovers. He explained that a rover is a kind of robot that goes to other planets and if anything bad happens to the rover, it means you can't send people. (Yes, the Mars imax movie did make an impression on him, why do you ask?)
Of the other kids in the class who didn't totally mumble their answers, the choices were:
- a soldier who drives a truck (said with truck driving action)
- a football player
- air force (said with plane flying action, which looks a lot like truck driving action)
- nurse (said with a simpering "Doctor, here are your instruments")
- ballerina (said with a pirouette)
- a cheerleader (said with a jump)
- a cheerleader (also said with a jump).
I found this intensely depressing. Yes, I know they're 6 years old, and "when I grow up" is further away than "once upon a time." But it felt like they're pulling from an awfully limited deck. I don't know; maybe I wouldn't have felt so strongly about the exact same answers coming from a middle-class group of kids.
I think my dad still has hanging in his office the drawing I did when I was about that age of the different tools that a doctor uses, labeled in an adult hand, but clearly to my dictation (it says things like "this is the pointy part that shoots out.") And no, I'm not a doctor. But it was within the realm of what I could imagine.
Laura at Geeky Mom has a series of posts up about why she's not a scientist. There's a lot of good evidence that girls tend not to take the prerequisite courses math and science in high school, shutting off options before they've really considered them. That wasn't me.
In high school, I took calculus, Honors Bio, AP Chemistry (you had to dissect a cat in AP Bio, and that really wasn't something I wanted to do.) And then I went to college, and took the minimum 3 classes in hard math and science needed to graduate. I was still interested in the topics, but where in HS I could take math and history and English and French and a science and economics and still have room for pottery, in college, you couldn't take more than 4 or 5 classes a term. And the introductory level science classes were notorious for being both boring and difficult. And up a hill a 15 minute walk from the rest of campus. By then I was pretty sure I didn't want to be a doctor. So I signed up for the "great books" set of humanities classes and never looked back.