Sally Ride, astronaut and teacher

Sally Ride, America’s first woman in space, died yesterday of pancreatic cancer at the age of 61. A physicist, Ride devoted her post-NASA career as an educator to making science “cool” for young people, writes RiShawn Biddle on Dropout Nation.

With her life partner, Tam O’Shaughnessy, Ride founded Sally Ride Science, which trained science teachers and organized summer science camps and festivals.

. . . as a board member of one ExxonMobil spinoff, the National Science and Math Initiative, … she made her greatest contribution. Through her role, NMSI has worked to give more young men and women, especially from poor and minority backgrounds, access to the strong, comprehensive college-preparatory education they need to get into the science and math fields that are the drivers of prosperity in an increasingly knowledge-based global economy. This includes its Advanced Placement recruitment initiative, which now works with 228 high schools in seven states to improve the success of black and Latino teens in math and science.

She was a very cool person.

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  1. I applaud the intent of her efforts to widen the pool of potential STEM students, but I wish someone would work to strengthen the ES curriculum and instruction. There are serious flaws in many of the math curricula/instructional methods and the fundamentals of science seems to be pretty much ignored. Without a strong foundation, which must include strong reading skills, worrying about (HS level) college prep coursework is too little and very much too late. Kids who enter MS with significantly below- (real)-grade-level preparation don’t tend to catch up.

    There’s also some data that suggests that affirmative action in college STEM programs has had some negatives, in that kids entering competitive programs with significantly weaker background than their peers tend to change to easier majors at a significantly higher rate. In better-fit situations, they might avoid this. In any case, the problem, with any group, still starts in ES. Interest isn’t enough; the preparation is critical.

  2. I would like to highlight the fact that she was a lesbian, in a 27-year relationship with her life partner. Why does this matter? Well, really, in an ideal world, it of course would not matter. But we do not yet live in that ideal world. Until then, until there is full equality, I think it is important to highlight the important contributions of LGBT people.

    • Jab, I could not disagree with you more. Sally didn’t make an issue of it because she didn’t want to, and I think it’s highly inappropriate of *others* to make a point of it for their own purposes.

      She’s an example of someone who was awesome and who happened to be homosexual, not a homosexual who happened to be awesome. There’s a world of difference in the order of those two words, and I respect the choice Sally Ride made in ordering them with her example.

      • Respectfully, I disagree. You may praise her for her accomplishments, but frankly, it is hollow when those on your side of the political spectrum choose to deny her equality. They were denied equal treatment. That is FACT. She chose to keep that a lower profile (though she was NOT in the closet) because it could have jeopardized her career as an astronaut. Even though she was with her partner for 27 years, she could NOT get married! Heck, if she were more open back in the early 80’s, chances are she would have been denied the opportunity to even be an astronaut in the first place, and that would be a-okay to most conservative republicans (not all, of course… some republicans are not anti-gay, but the party as a whole is very anti-gay).

        Seriously, rather than whine that you hate that liberals bash your side for being anti-gay, you could just as easily just STOP being anti-gay… I would like to see more conservatives/republicans just quit this aspect of the culture war.

      • Furthermore, Darren, why do you think she was relatively private on this issue? Because she knew it would seriously jeopardize her career. Seems bizarre to praise her relative discreetness when the result of her being more open would potentially her being denied to even pursue her dreams in the first place. She was relatively private not because she was ashamed, but because of the politics of people on your side, she felt it was the only way.

  3. Or maybe, just maybe, she didn’t think it was anybody else’s business. Do you have *any* evidence at all for your last sentence?

    You can blame Republicans for anti-gay beliefs, but the facts are *not* on your side. I don’t think anyone truly believes that California is a conservative state by any stretch–and yet gay marriage fails here every time it’s voted on. Here, in California!

    Sorry, I don’t accept the victimhood of people who want to trumpet Ride’s sexuality for their own purposes–which is *exactly* what you said you were doing in your opening sentence.

    • “Victimhood”??? Seriously dude, just stop. No one is claiming victimhood, just REALITY. She and her partner are treated as second class citizens. Her partner, despite the fact they were together 27 years, is denied federal benefits. That is fact. Stop denying it. You may believe that it should be so, but don’t deny what you are doing. You would have us believe that there was no reason she was private other than that was just her nature. Nonsense. Back in the early 80’s, at the start of the AIDS menace and the ascendency of Ronald Reagan, are you saying that she had NOTHING to fear about being openly lesbian? That it wouldn’t have prematurely ended her career? Of course it would have.

      You have it in you. Just let go of this part of the culture war.

    • Given that you LIVE in California, I would expect you to know better that it is overly simplistic to call California a liberal state. It is not. It is, frankly, schizophrenic. It has regions that are VERY conservative economically and socially, other parts that are conservative economically and liberal socially, other areas that are socially conservative and economically liberal, and other areas liberal on both fronts. A state this size is quite complicated… stop with the silly “California is liberal, so if they oppose gay marriage, it means it must really be extreme” nonsense.

  4. Sally Ride’s sister speaks out on those who want to “have it both ways” and praise her accomplishments while at the same time denying equality:

    • This isn’t about her sister, this is about her.

      She could have gone public at any time but chose not to. Do you think there’d have been any repercussions had she come out a year ago? No.

      And California is overwhelmingly a liberal state. Quit trying to deny it, and then accept that it’s not just those evil Republicans who are all against gays. Democrats ran both houses of Congress and the presidency for 2 years, and I didn’t see any effort to move the “federal benefits” bar. Get over your victimhood and bigotry and accept that some people don’t think their personal life is anyone’s business but their own.

  5. How did her name get in the song, Dance To The Music?

  6. Richard Aubrey says:

    If you know you have nothing, absolutely nothing, going for you, you can always console yourself by insisting the entire rest of the population is bigoted. Makes you feel better.