About a decade ago, I volunteered to judge a Silicon Valley science and engineering fair for middle school and high school students. An organization to which I belong, the prestigious Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), was to give out awards, and I was one member of a team who would select the award winners. We divided up the projects and awards amongst ourselves and rushed around in the limited time to interview students about their projects. We didn’t have enough time and, unfortunately, many students were never even considered, which bothered me. At the end of this particular day, two IEEE women came back frustrated. They had the particular job of giving out an award to a “minority” student or team. They were frustrated by the lack of “minority” entrants. This was surprising since most of the students were of Indian or Asian descent, but as we know, today’s liberals don’t consider those groups to be minorities because even though they represent only a fraction of the American population, they have very high rates of success in many different areas.
Finally, while everyone was leaving the event—students, teachers, parents, and judges—these women returned to the IEEE table, out of breath, and frantically scribbled out a form. “We found a team for the award,” they exclaimed happily. “We found a team from Guatemala.”
I looked at them for a moment. “You realize,” I said, “that in Guatemala, these students are not minorities.”
After this incident, I went on to create my own award, the Zeidman Award, to “recognize middle school students in the fields of electrical engineering or computer science who demonstrate an advanced knowledge of electronics or computer programming to solve challenges in a unique and efficient manner.” This year was the seventh year of the Zeidman Award.
I recruited friends and colleagues who worked in science and engineering. I’m proud to say that I was able to engage some world-renowned engineers and scientists as judges. I’m also proud to say that I had the largest number of judges of any national and international organization at the fair. The science fair committee always showed my team and me the greatest deference, but eventually I was asked to scale back my team because we were crowding out the other organizations, and they also couldn’t afford to feed us all lunch.
For my award I give certificates, cash prizes, a signed copy of my book Just Enough Electronics to Impress Your Friends and Colleagues! and a personal brunch with me at the Computer History museum. My award has become one of the most sought after among the students. I believe that’s for two reasons. First, the award is associated with an actual person. People are easier to admire and act as role models than organizations. In America, despite many attempts by progressives to downplay individual achievements (and liberties), people admire successful people. That’s why many large corporations emphasize their founders: Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Walt Disney, Steve Jobs, and even Elizabeth Holmes and Elon Musk (for better or worse).
The second reason is that the criterion for winning my award is singularly and solely merit. I have no desire to promote some artificial concept of diversity. However, for purposes of discussion, the table below shows statistics about the Zeidman Award winners for each year since its inception.
Figure 1. Zeidman Award statistics
The award winners are categorized by my personal observations, which may not be 100% accurate because I won’t ask a student about their “race, religion, gender, disability, age, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.” None of that matters for the award. I only ask them about how their project works and the engineering and scientific principles that they employed. Interestingly, the statistics show that non-white winners have outnumbered white winners by 3 to 1. The awards have been dominated by Indian Americans. And while boys outnumbered girls 2 to 1, this year girls won 4 out of the 6 awards including first, second, and third places.
In Nazi Germany in the 1930s, university physics professors began defining “Aryan Physics” and “Jewish Physics.” Einstein’s ridiculous conjectures were, of course, Jewish Physics. Two German Nobel Prize winning physicists, Philipp Lenard and Johannes Stark, led this movement and encouraged the burning of books by Einstein as well as those by Sigmund Freud, Bertolt Brecht, and Karl Marx. Sound familiar? It sounds suspiciously like the “white math” and “anti-racist math” proposed for California schools. So much for “trust the science.” Even world-renowned scientists can be not only wrong but evil.
The world desperately needs great thinkers and great problem solvers, regardless of whether that person fits a “preferred” demographic. It always has. It always will. Scientific achievements, engineering achievements, and achievements in all areas of human endeavor require skills, not skin color. At the end of my brunch with the students I always articulate some prepared thoughts. I make a point of including this particular point in some fashion: you’re here because you’re a great scientist or engineer. You’ve won the Zeidman Award solely because of your skill and your achievement. Don’t let anyone tell you that you are the best girl scientist or best minority engineer or best fill-in-the-blank award winner. Everyone here is the best. Period. Take pride in that and offer no apologies or excuses. The world needs people like you.
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