Cedar Crest College newspaper since 1923
By Renee Tedder, Staff Writer
As I advance in my classes through the years, there has always been a foreboding undertone when talking about the topic of being a woman and also being a scientist. This year is the most poignant.
I’m a woman, so people will take advantage of me, maliciously or unconsciously, if I am not mindful. If I choose to work with animals, I may have to combat animal rights activists who would rather hurt me than listen to anything I have to say. If I go into vaccine research, I will have to refute the claims that vaccines cause autism and neurological damage.
Why? Why does the burden fall on my shoulders to correct people when I just want to stay in my lab and bring the most amounts of good I can from my research? It’s because we are stewards.
As we see pockets of vaccine-preventable diseases becoming more widespread throughout our nation, especially in communities of wealthy, educated people, we cannot let misinformation spread.
When we take up the mantle of a scientist, we also take up the mantle of a teacher. If the information that we rigorously test is not passed along in an appropriate manner, is it really worth doing at all if the layperson will just dismiss you?
I do not think it is.
It is all well and good if a group of your scientist peers agree with your work, but if the common man says you are wrong, they are the ones that carry weight through their votes and their voices. Change the mind of one person and they will advocate for you at times, if not always, when presented with misinformation.
Being a teacher also requires you to help people learn to sift through information without accepting everything or just the things that support their beliefs. The old adage “giving a man a fish feeds him for a day, but teaching him to fish feeds him for a lifetime” applies here.
That is why we are taught how to think critically here at Cedar Crest. Without that skill, we just devour everything placed in front of us without another thought. Then, we spread the misinformation to others.
After learning to think critically, you begin to consider everything around you, from information to people. Pass this skill along to help people come to logical conclusions on their own, rather than being afraid and following false hope.
Do not ask why this burden is placed on you. You took it up when you decided to be a scientist.
People are vivacious and they want to learn things deep down. This does not mean you will always get it right or that you will change many minds, but it does mean you give us a chance. That’s all we could ever ask for is a chance to make real and meaningful changes based on evidence rather than superstition or fear. I just want you to know that as you hear these things, it’s not to scare you or put pressure on you. It’s to prepare you for your stewardship. Every woman that emerges from our college is armed with the tools necessary to make her successful. What you do with those tools is up to you.