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Having Famous Scientists As Role Models Could Discourage Students, Educators Say

Having Famous Scientists As Role Models Could Discourage Students, Educators Say

Every student should have role models, but should famous scientists be among them?

Scientific heroes can be positive role models for aspiring scientists, but educators and policy makers "have thought a lot about what makes a field uninviting or intimidating to newcomers" according to an article on TheAtlantic.com.

"Part of this was the realization that science, technology, engineering and math—or STEM fields—are less diverse than many other subject areas," the article said. "There are lots of reasons for this, including limited access to solid education and a lack of mentorship, but one of the most effective ways to make STEM more welcoming is to reduce stereotype threat, or the feeling that one person has to be representative of his minority demographic."

The article looks at scientists including Albert Einstein and Marie Curie and said that "exposing students to the stories of scientists with backgrounds like their own can help reduce stereotype threat."

Highlighted earlier in the article, although Marie Curie became the first woman to run the physicals laboratory at the Sorbonne, she was "coming under fire for her personal life."

Einstein, the article said, "was later known to have at least six mistresses throughout his career, never received the same sort of media criticism for his extracurricular activities."

"Dozens of people who paved the way to discovery dissolve into the background, failed experiments are forgotten, select personal details provide only relevant context," the article said. "As a result, the picture that students get is incomplete, giving them an unrealistic, sometimes intimidating picture of what doing science is really like."

Read the full story and comment below. 

Article by Kassondra Granata, Education World Contributor

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