Honor-Shame dynamics enter the STEMs

By Donald Sensing  |  Sense of Events

I have posted before of how the Left’s social dynamic, its basic way of relationships with other persons, is one of honor-shame. Honor-shame is the basic dynamic that human beings evolved with and is still found in Arab and other cultures around the world.

The Middle East Quarterly explains the essence of the honor/shame culture:

[I[n traditional Arab society … a distinction is made between two kinds of honor: sharaf and ‘ird. Sharaf relates to the honor of a social unit, such as the Arab tribe or family, as well as individuals, and it can fluctuate up or down. A failure by an individual to follow what is defined as adequate moral conduct weakens the social status of the family or tribal unit. On the other hand, the family’s sharaf may be increased by model behavior such as hospitality, generosity, courage in battle, etc. In sum, sharaf translates roughly as the Western concept of “dignity.”

Honor, then, is what is granted by the community, by the social units of society. Likewise, shame or disgrace is also so given. The psychologist who used the nom de blog of Dr. Sanity explained in Shame, the Arab Psyche, and Islam, that in Arab cultures, the principal concern over conduct is not that which is guilty or innocent, but that which brings honor or shame.

[W]hat other people believe has a far more powerful impact on behavior than even what the individual believes. [T]he desire to preserve honor and avoid shame to the exclusion of all else is one of the primary foundations of the culture. This desire has the side-effect of giving the individual carte blanche to engage in wrong-doing as long as no-one knows about it, or knows he is involved

In contrast, she says, the West has a Guilt/Innocence culture. “The guilt culture is typically and primarily concerned with truth, justice, and the preservation of individual rights.”

Now we come to this, which I present as another exhibit in my premise: “Profs say female STEM grades don’t reflect ‘perceived effort’.”

Four professors from Otterbein University argue in a recent academic journal article that “grading practices” may be at least partly responsible for the lack of women in STEM fields.

Based on surveys of 828 STEM students, the professors conclude that female students believe they work harder than their male classmates for similar grades, indicating that “women’s higher perceived effort levels are not rewarded.”

 [The] Otterbein University professors suggest that women may be averse to STEM fields because they feel they work harder than male students without earning higher grades.

After conducting a study of 828 students in STEM classes, the professors discovered that while women felt they put more effort into their classes than men, they received approximately equivalent grades, which “indicates that women’s higher perceived effort levels are not rewarded.”

“Science educators could redistribute grades more akin to non-STEM disciplines to increase STEM retention.”    Tweet This

“This, in turn, returns us to questions of grading practices,” the professors write. “Does a course grade primarily reward conceptual understanding and problem-solving ability, or does it primarily reward hard work, reflected in course attendance, submission of assignments on time, etc., or some mixture of the two?”

Let’s consider this sentence fragment: “… while women felt they put more effort into their classes than men, they received approximately equivalent grades… ”

This is literally a Marxist view, the labor theory of value. The women worked harder, so they should get better grades. That the women may not have worked better seems not to have crossed their minds.

In my college days, my friends were envious that I rarely typed (as in, with a typewriter; I am a fossil) a draft of my term papers. I just sat down, banged the keys for awhile, and voila! A term paper came forth, for which my usual grade was an A. My buddies, meanwhile, would labor over draft after draft before going final, and maybe they got an A and maybe they didn’t.

I was simply a better writer than they were; it just came naturally to me. But I could labor hours over math assignments and still not finish them, while my friends had long finished theirs and were out dancing with the cheerleaders. However, the professors apparently think that effort counts more than results, even in engineering, and for term papers I should have received only a C or so, and my friends an A because they worked harder than I did, and the reverse for math, right?

Labor is in itself valueless. Example: I hire a local young man to cut my grass and edge the walks and driveway. It’s his business. He arrives with a large riding mower and knocks out my half-acre of green in probably not more than 15 minutes, maybe 20; I have never timed him. Now, I could buy a lawn mower, although not one as expensive as his, and I could cut my own grass. But it would take me much longer and require more effort from me than it does from him.

But would my yard be better maintained or look nicer just because I worked harder at it than he did?

But that is not even the real point of the professors’ study. The real key point is this: “women felt they put more effort” than the men. How would they know? They can’t know. The whole thing is not really about what actually happened, it’s about how they felt about what happened. This is foolish, of course, and indicates another step down the road of what I have maintained for many years: led by the Left, America is adopting an honor-shame social ordering and dynamic.

Think of it this way — these women students feel shamed by their perception of their inferior academic performance. The answer is not to work harder or smarter. It is to recover their honor. And that means that grading must be preferentially curved to do that:

Citing research by Kevin Rask, now a professor at Colorado College, they propose that “science educators could redistribute grades more akin to non-STEM disciplines to increase STEM retention.”

Yeah, the bridge you will be driving across the chasm a 10 years from now will have been designed by an engineer who was literally given a pass in order to keep her “motivated.” Good luck with that.

Update: As someone commented elsewhere, “Grades should reflect knowledge and ability, not effort. I don’t want my brake system designed by somebody who’s degree is basically a participation trophy.

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