Letter to the Editor: Dear Skyline View Staff

I am writing in response to the editorial entitled “Skyline Offers Course Just for Women*”, as well as the photo accompanying the piece and the “Artistic License” cartoon on the same subject. I am surprised at what amounts to an anonymous attack on a class that you’ve singled out of the entire catalog. I’m not surprised that the title generates controversy – it does and I am accustomed to defending it. I am surprised at the quality of your work and your professionalism.

I saw that this editorial was published without credit to the author and understand that it was written by “group consensus” among the paper’s staff writers. Since the piece was uncredited, this suggests that although you feel very strongly about your opinions (as evidenced by the article, photo and cartoon), you do not feel strongly enough to defend your position. If you are so bold to speak out, please do so with recognition! The cloak of anonymity does not protect you from criticism, it just makes it a little harder to address you directly.

Anonymity also does not absolve you of the burden of research – or “thinking before you speak”. I am curious how you arrived at this consensus without doing even the smallest amount of research? My office is 20 steps from your office (I know, because I did my research) and it would have been fairly easy for you to contact me with any questions about the class title or design. You did not. Nor did you speak with my department coordinator, my Dean, the Vice President or President of the college – all of whom support this class in its current design. You apparently did not speak to any students who have taken the class. You also do not seem to be acquainted with the “Learning Community” concept, which is strongly supported here on campus. And finally, you apparently are not familiar with approximately over 30 years of gender in education research.

The net result of this lack of effort is publishing an uninformed opinion and appearing ignorant or foolish to those who have made the effort to hold informed opinions. Generally speaking, people generally do not want to appear ignorant or foolish to others, so they make the effort to discover facts and bias before speaking out – especially on controversial subjects. With just a little effort, you could have easily discovered the answer to the question you posed – why is this a class for women?

Also, even though you did not credit the staff for their opinions (founded or unfounded), you are members of the paper’s staff. As journalists, you are held to a higher standard than the average student who might write to the editor. Surely you learned in your journalism classes about the concept of “journalistic integrity” and the importance of research, investigation and writing without bias? I realize this was an editorial and not an investigative piece, however since you are representatives of the college and this publication, you have a responsibility to uphold that the average student does not. As representatives of the paper, you are responsible for the publication’s reputation and the reputation of the college to the community it represents.

Your piece, the photo and the cartoon were mean-spirited and unfounded. You reserved your vitriol for this particular class and by extension it’s (female) instructor. You did not apply the same logic to similar learning experiences, such as ASTEP, Kababayan, Los Hermanos/Hermanas, etc. You singled out a class because it was “for women” and without making the effort to research it. And you used your publication as a vehicle for your collective “personal” opinion. I’m not faulting you for having an opinion, even a misguided one. I am faulting you for representing your school, your publication and yourselves so poorly.

Unfortunately, you didn’t make the effort to develop an informed opinion. Had you made the effort, you would have discovered that this class was a result of my own experience in automotive education and in the automotive industry, as well as grant funded research into recruiting and retaining women in non-traditional industries.

You might have discovered that the automotive industry is STILL 98% male, a statistic that has not changed much since the 1950’s.

Rather than accusing me and the college of thinking “female students… are too stupid to take a class for the betterment of themselves”, you would have discovered that quite a bit of thought went into creating this class and other automotive programs as well. I won the President’s Innovation Fund grant 3 years in a row to develop recruiting and retention programs for women which resulted in an exponential growth in female enrollment and success rates in automotive programs.

You might have learned that this is not a new class, but that I have been teaching it for almost a decade and that it was among the first in the nation. You also might have discovered that this class has helped earn Skyline College a national reputation for its efforts in recruiting and retaining women in non-traditional industries.

If you had asked, I might have showed you eight years’ worth of student evaluations, wherein they expressed gratitude that this class is available and is “just for women”. Statements like “I feel empowered” and “I’m so happy you offer this class” are repeated every semester.

In your article you state that this class should be labeled “for beginners”, but you seem to have missed out on the fact that Skyline’s auto tech classes have been open and inclusive to all genders for THIRTY YEARS, and has only resulted in FIVE female graduates – in 30 years. After the development of this class – female enrollment more than quadrupled and resulted in almost 15 certificates granted in one year.

You might have known these things had you not made assumptions based on little if any, evidence. You made factually incorrect statements. You accused the administration of thinking its students are “stupid”. You undermined the reputation of your own publication. And you made yourselves appear foolish.

There’s a reason it’s not “Car Care Basics for Beginners” – a very good reason, and if you’d made even the smallest effort, you would know what that reason is.

If you’d like to be enlightened – I’m 20 steps away. Drop by anytime.

Julia Johnson
Professor, Automotive Technology
Skyline College
3300 College Drive, San Bruno, CA 94066
650-738-4485, [email protected]
PS – Lamaze classes are for men and women. And if the woman in the cartoon was me, you got the nose wrong. Again – research!