Museum’s ‘Sparkly Science’ For Girls Is Dumb, But This Is A Way Bigger Problem Than One Workshop

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The Carnegie Science Center has come under fire for offering a “Science of Sparkle” workshop for visiting Girl Scout troops. But based on the explanation offered by a statement from the museum, I have to say that I can’t hold them entirely to blame here. Of course ‘sparkly science’ didn’t come about because the museum thinks Girl Scouts are too dumb to learn about chemistry unless the Bunsen burner has been Bedazzled. The reality is that by the time the Carnegie Science Center is offering them classes like these, young girls have already long since absorbed the toxic idea that straight-up science isn’t for them.

science of sparkle carnegie science centerIn their statement, the Carnegie Science Center admits to struggling with getting Girl Scouts enrolled in their science workshops, and I’m sure they aren’t the only ones:

Regarding Girl Scout-specific programming, we have struggled when it comes to enrollments for our Girl Scout programs. In the past, we have offered engineering, chemistry, and robotics programming for Girl Scouts. We created programming to go along with the new Journeys that Girl Scouts use. Unfortunately, no troops signed up for these. The programs that consistently get enrollments are “Science with a Sparkle” and our Sleepovers at the museum.

I definitely think that the Carnegie Science Center made a misstep here. There’s nothing inherently wrong with sparkliness, but by offering only one class for Girl Scouts, and making it about make-up, they’re reinforcing the message that science isn’t for girls unless it’s science that deals with the subject matter of Cosmo. (It also tells kids that sparkliness isn’t for boys.) But I also want to point out that the museum offers a number of STEM programs for girls in general – the Science of Sparkle is just their only Girl Scout-specific offering. They’re trying. And they’re not the real problem.

The real problem is that newspapers and news programs are still willing to entertain questions like, “Are girls biologically worse at math and science?” The real problem is a lack of visibility for female role models in STEM fields. The real problem is teachers and parents who, even subconsciously or implicitly, discourage an interest in technology, math, and science. The real problem is, “You don’t think Algebra II is too hard for you?” and “But are any of your friends going to be in Biology with you?” The real problem is the pink ghetto of girls toys that is desperately wanting for strong role models in science and technology.

The real problem is that society as a whole is still not sold on the concept that girls are just as capable of excelling at math and science as boys are. A “just for Girl Scouts” science workshop about the chemistry of cosmetics is just the latest symptom of this much bigger societal disorder. And I’m not willing to throw the Carnegie Science Center and their earnest efforts to get girls on board under the wheels of my Anti-Sexism Bus.

(Photo: AVAVA/Shutterstock; image: Carnegie Science Center)