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I am looking at the tag and its two questions. Please give me some guidance on the accepted reasons why entry in to CS is considered 'unfair', as in 'inequitable'?

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  • $\begingroup$ The upshot is that it is about bias instead of inequity. Completely different thing. $\endgroup$ – user737 Jul 2 '17 at 2:04
  • $\begingroup$ Aaaandd... after reading research, no diff. So, your call. $\endgroup$ – user737 Jul 6 '17 at 18:58
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Ben's answer focuses on whether or not questions about bias/difficulties entering the field due to personal features are on topic. Mine examines more the topic itself (it is derived from a now deleted comment conversation with nocomprende). I'd be glad to answer any further questions about this in the comments or in chat.


I just [want] to understand the problem.

I can tell you I have had one awkward conversation with someone on stack exchange in chat in terms of nerdy interests and gender; thankfully someone I know (from SE) stepped in and helped me out. And that was a minimally offensive sort of conversation. There's people out there that for some reason (background, personal belief, whatever) are of the mindset that gender does play a role in ability in certain fields. ::shrugs::

If the idea is that some people are biased, I can take that as an answer. But the tag says "... promoting fairness, especially in groups under-represented..." Sometimes I read wording too narrowly, but I didn't see what is unfair in starting to learn about computing? It is not unfair in the way that sports are, where people have built-in differences in strength, etc. What is the source of the unfairness? Programming tools are free and laptops are cheap, so it can't be that.

some groups of people are hired more than others. For example, those who are female, or are of a different color of skin, or who are older, have a harder time, at least in the united states, and in other countries too (as far as I know). Look up, for example, some of the statistics of silicon valley employees. Further, there are people who can't always afford a laptop, or who may not have the time (because they have a job, family obligations, gender roles, etc) to learn coding, so they are at a disadvantage by the time they start learning. Look at some of the articles in Ellen's question/answer. Another source of "unfairness" is the way managers may treat employees of different ages/genders/orientations/colors of skin (I'm trying not to exclude a group here; but hopefully my point is clear).

but that is inequity in the workplace, and we are talking about education. I will look at the articles, probably should have already [...] Maybe you could summarize your points in an answer? The answer above says nothing except why people don't want to talk about it. (Whatever it is.)

Well, the question with the equity tag is about preparation for entry into industry i.e., how to respond to that sort of attitude towards those of different gender/color of skin/etc. Further, the same sorts of things happen in college, or education - there are unfortunately professors out there who do not have the best attitude and to which the same points apply above. But yes, please do read the articles and the experiences of those in industry and education - there is plenty of bias and unfairness out there =)

As for the matter BenI. is talking about - he is saying that the issue of whether or not there is actually bias could divide this community very deeply and it is probably something that we shouldn't argue over too much. The point is that the questions are on-topic and the tag exists to provide a categorization to those questions.

I hope this helps!

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  • $\begingroup$ Looks like I made another "colorful metaphor", perhaps you could elide that from where you quoted me? Anyway, the tag is apparently about biases against our students, possibly in the future rather than actual inequity of the learning process in the present. I think it would be helpful if someone would correct the description. Thank you for your reply. $\endgroup$ – user737 Jul 2 '17 at 2:00
  • $\begingroup$ @nocomprende, nope, it's also about biases against students in the learning process in the present - it's about biases against students period. Also, what do you mean by "colorful metaphor"? $\endgroup$ – heather Jul 2 '17 at 14:11
  • $\begingroup$ Ok. To me, a 'bias' is something a person has, and so we reprimand and then dismiss the person if they don't change. 'Inequity' is systematic, and requires changing a system, not a person. "Colorful metaphor" is from Star Trek The Voyage Home. My comment included a joke in poor taste, which of course I did not mean literally. $\endgroup$ – user737 Jul 2 '17 at 16:34
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    $\begingroup$ @nocomprende I removed the section of the comment I think you were referencing; I apologize for not removing it when I copy-pasted over your comments; I didn't notice it. But yes, there is a general bias in industry and education (or, as you say, inequity). $\endgroup$ – heather Jul 2 '17 at 16:37
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First and foremost, I am answering here as a community member, not as a moderator. If others disagree, I hope they feel free to speak up.

I think that to seriously get into the weeds of this matter would be needlessly divisive in what is currently a tiny community, so I am providing an answer that is agnostic to whether or not the problem is real. I do this because I do not believe it actually changes whether or not the questions are within our scope.

Topicality: The discussions are clearly about and targeted towards CS education, so that aspect is a non-issue.

The problem itself: Some substantial portion of the community considers it a problem. Some other subset does not. The subset of the community that considers it a problem finds value in the discussion. Not every community member must find value in every question. If the line of questioning is both narrow-minded enough to produce thoughtful answers, about CS education, and has perceived value to a substantial portion of the population, then I believe it belongs here.

Those who do not find value in the question itself may down-vote the question, or simply ignore it (as we all do to questions that seem irrelevant to our practice).

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  • $\begingroup$ Maybe the unclarity is due to an incorrect use of terms? See my answer, I don't think anyone could disagree or say that those two circumstances do not exist. $\endgroup$ – user737 Jul 2 '17 at 16:51
  • $\begingroup$ Personally, I'm not a huge fan of the word choice itself either, tbh, but it is the word that society has come around to, and I just roll with it. $\endgroup$ – Ben I. Jul 2 '17 at 17:15
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe society can't solve the problem because the wrong word is being used? X-Y Problem? (no irony intended) $\endgroup$ – user737 Jul 2 '17 at 18:22
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The tag refers to 'fairness', yet people are talking about 'bias' which is as far as I know, a different concept.

Bias refers to a prejudice or belief, which by definition is held by a person. Fairness is about a system, such as laws or an admissions process. Laws can be 'unfair' such as for women being unable to drive or own property. This could be the case even when no one wants to uphold those laws, that is: when no one has a bias.

I suggest that these be treated as separate problems and that the tag be clarified. The solution when an individual has a prejudice is to take it up with that person. The solution when a system is unfair is to get the system changed. Conflating the two is incorrect.

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