Saturday, October 12, 2013

WOW, in every sense

Yesterday for International Day of the Girl I took part in a mentoring session on the London Eye with some teenage girls from Tower Hamlets. This was being organised by the Women of the World/WOW team at the South Bank Centre (in case you thought I had just hijacked the London Eye). And here's a lovely photo of the rainbow that showed up halfway through to remind us about the importance of gay rights or that God sometimes needs to drown people.

One of the conversations I had shocked me to the core. A thirteen year old girl told me that when she grows up she wants to be a physicist. Awesome, right? Then she asked me about GCSE choices. I said "do all the sciences". She explained that her school only lets a few students do all three sciences, and she doubted they'd pick her. So I suggested writing to her head teacher, talking to her science teachers, generally making a fuss, etc. At this point her teacher who was monitoring the mentoring stepped in and advised her to "pick which two sciences she liked best". The girl said physics and biology. The teacher advised dropping chemistry.

I jumped back in to the conversation and said if you want to be a physicist you need to do chemistry GCSE too. The girl said she wanted to do chemistry, but it was the science she found the hardest so they wouldn't let her do it.

Then I asked both of them, the girl and the teacher, what other GCSEs she would do. The teacher replied "everyone does English, everyone does Maths and everyone does R.E."!

A thirteen year old girl from a deprived inner city area who dreams of being a scientist is being forced to study religion instead of chemistry?

I am going to turn green and smash things.