The Urban Scientist recently posted a meme in honor of Latino Heritage Month (Sept. 16th – Oct. 16th). Here’s an excerpt:
“Can you name 5 Latin/Hispanic Scientists?
1. Be sure to name their discipline or field.
2. You can’t choose people from your own institution or company. (I may go soft on this one, this time)
3. You can’t Google or use the internet to aid in your search. (But if you know someone is a scientist, but not sure what disciple, you can look that up).
4. You can consult textbooks, journals, and class notes.
5. You can ask others to help you brainstorm, but they can’t use the internet just to get 5 names fast (see #2).
6. Living and deceased scientists are acceptable.
7. Links to or references about the named scientists are greatly appreciated. Let’s share the knowledge, and tell as many as you can, even if it isn’t five.”
Ladies, and gentlemen, I only knew one of the top of my head. Only one. Jamie Escalante, and he’s not known so much for his mathematical achievements as he is for his classroom achievements. In other words, I, along with thousands (if not millions) of Latinos out there as well as millions of Americans have been deprived of the contributions of these scientists, engineers, astronauts, mathematicians, and leaders in their respective technical fields. Granted, there’s a dearth of said individuals in the field (which is why organizations such as the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) was created), but Black innovators in the technical fields are a little easier to come by (George Washington Carver, Benjamin Banneker, and Madame C.J. Walker come to mind almost instantly).
Thus it behooves us to encourage students, especially those proficient in math and science to continue pursuing those careers. Many fellow teachers don’t encourage those occupations because, frankly, they don’t know enough about engineers and what they do in our society besides the stereotypical assemblance of machinery and messing with multi-colored potions. It also seems that, in Black and Latino communities, the lack of people actually working in the technical fields perpetuates this cycle of technical condemnation.
Of course, I’m coming off a meeting where we’re discussing education and how lack of funds and social inequalities promote the digital divide across demographics, wondering if, after some of my fellow technical people graduate, they go back to the hoods where they came from and inspire others to become more than just computer-literate. It’s one thing to know what a computer does and how to get on your cool social network and quite another to understand the computer’s inner workings.
This will take a concerted effort from those of us who have scientific backgrounds to concentrate our efforts into letting children know that there’s this whole industry that we’ve had such a pivotal role in, but have very few trailblazers in. I know I’m doing my part, but I’m sure I can do more.
And maybe the next time someone asks me how many I can name, I’ll have a scroll in my back pocket, waiting to be read aloud …
jose, who thanks Urban Scientist for reviving my computer science background …
p.s. – If you think starting off Latino Heritage Month by honoring J. Lo is the way to go, you’re out of your mind. As an astute administrator said in reply, “OK, so should we start Black History Month off with Diddy?” Well said, sir. Well said. J. Lo, like Diddy, are cool with me, but … really?