A wee tale of interesting findings by academics in Scotland and Australia.
The proverbial residents of Social Media Land have ignited a firestorm of indignity over new “research” (quotation marks added to question the validity of the study) that claims boys are better at physics for one very mundane and highly disgusting reason: they tend to pee standing up.
Yes, the study conducted by Anna Wilson of Abertay University and Kate Wilson and David Low of the University of New South Wales Canberra theorizes that boys fare better on physics placement exams than girls because of the significant number of questions that pertain to “projection,” which is a skill that is fostered in boys for hygiene reasons. Girls, on the other hand, have no obvious need to develop this mindset, according to the researchers, and therefore automatically score lower on physics exams.
While multiple news outlets have carried this story this week, the Telegraph’s version of the situation does at least offer up some suggestions, namely that the physics placement tests stop placing so much emphasis on projection – which is a significant part of the study of physics, especially as it pertains to objects in motion, arcs, and ballistics applications – and focus instead on computational questions.
It might seem obvious, but the problem isn’t in the bathroom. It’s in the classroom, or more precisely, in the determination by some academics that certain aspects of physics are not only more useful in terms of predicting future ability. It also speaks to the upbringing that children of both genders receive, even from infancy.
If there is any truth to the research, then there are serious deficiencies in the way motor skills are encouraged in both boys and girls. Let’s fund research into what happens if parents spend a little more time throwing a ball through a hoop in order to see if some of the rampant gender divide in STEM fields starts to close.