Spring 2015 - Undergraduate Course Descriptions
Description of Course:
This course's topic touches on central and controversial issues in our lives and society, namely sex and gender, and particularly interaction between sex and gender and medicine, science, and technology. At one level, our explicit values related to sex and gender are not so controversial; few indeed would stand up and say that one sex is worth less than another, than one gender identity deserves less respect than the other, or that people with different sexes and genders shouldn't be treated with fairly. And yet, when these widely shared values come into contact with the processes and results of science, technology, and medicine, they tend to challenge long-held assumptions and traditions. Here are just a few of the problems:
This course will build on the lectures in this year's Center for Values in Medicine, Science, and Technology series, "Sexing Science, Gendering Technology: Rethinking Sex and Gender in Science, Technology and Medicine." Students will have opportunities to attend lectures and interact with experts in the field.
- There is a sizable underrepresentation of women in STEM fields, especially those fields connected with physical sciences, mathematics, computing, and engineering.
- There are no credible reasons to think that women are less able to succeed in STEM fields than men, nor reasons to think that they are innately less interested in STEM topics.
- Due to confirmation biases and other effects, poor quality research that conforms to traditional stereotypes of men and women continues to be published in great numbers, while rigorous research challenging those stereotypes is published less often.
- While there have been significant improvements in recent decades, there continue to be significant sex and gender disparities in medical research; only in the last three decades has the NIH required researchers to include female research subjects, and only in the last year have they required the use of female animal models in early-stage research.
- Technology cultures, not only in industry but, e.g., among Open Source Software contributors, Wikipedia editors, and video game consumers are not only plagued with underrepresentation of women, but also with tolerating a vocal subset of the culture that is outright misogynistic and sexist, that bandies about particularly harmful stereotypes of men and women, and which are particularly disparaging towards transgender and intersex members of those communities.
TBD - Mainly readings distributed as PDFs, probably a few books.
Course Requirements/Evaluation Criteria:
- Attendance at some or all of the Center for Values in Medicine, Science, and Technology evening lectures. Key dates are Wednesdays 1/28, 2/11, 3/11, 3/25, and Thursday 4/9.
- Research paper
- Group project on ethics and engineering