Day 3: Enlightenment Ideas on Gender and Education

Day 3 of our class will be entirely discussion based.  In an attempt to recreate the coffee houses of the eighteenth century, I will provide coffee for the class, and we will discuss both our homework readings and some in-class readings.

Building on our homework reading by Charlotte Sleigh, students will discuss in groups the connections between science and literature.  Is C.P. Snow’s “two cultures” still a useful construct?  If science and literature are both shaped by the culture in which they are constructed, shouldn’t there be some interplay between the two? What examples can we think of where science has shaped a literary plot?  What impact did writers like Jules Verne and H.G. Wells have on the following generations of scientists?  Can literature meaningfully alter our perspectives on certain scientific and ethical issues?

Our in-class readings will focus on eighteenth-century understandings of women’s nature and whether or not women needed equal education as men.  We will analyze excerpts from Astell, Rousseu, Condorcet, Jaucuort, and Wollstonecraft for insight on Enlightenment ideas on science, gender and education.


  • To do well on your group papers, you will need good teamwork and equal participation from all the group members.  Please read the linked 3 page paper, “Coping with Hitchhikers and Couch Potatoes on Teams.”  In the comments below (or in an email to me if you’d prefer more privacy), write a paragraph about an experience you’ve had in a previous class with a hitchhiker or couch potato.  What happened, how did you handle it, and what would you change if it happened again?
  • The longer reading is an overview of science in the coffee house.   Just as coffee and comfy chairs bolstered our conversation today, scientists have long met in coffee houses to discuss their work, promote their careers, and gossip.  The Temple Coffee-House Club is one of the best known groups who met at coffee houses.  Here is a link for for Margaret Riley’s 2006 article over this group.  Please read this and bring it with you to class tomorrow for discussion.

13 thoughts on “Day 3: Enlightenment Ideas on Gender and Education”

  1. I had an experience with a “hitchhiker” student during my sophomore fall semester in my evolution class. The class was divided into groups of 8 students, which already is a lot of people and a lot of schedules to coordinate together. However, one student in particular basically embodied most of the characteristics of Jack from the reading; he seldom showed up to group meetings or class, never responded when contacted, and didn’t even show up on the day of our group presentation. Part of the group assignment was a peer evaluation worth a good deal of points. We had already contacted the professor about this student, but she told us to use this part of the assignment to reflect on our group mate’s performance and we would all be graded fairly. However, after filing our peer review, the teacher still counted off several points from each student of our group for not having every group member there for the presentation. If this were to happen again, I would have gone back to the professor and reiitterated my concern several times, or would approach the professor earlier on into the project. Also, I might request to be moved to a different group.

  2. I had a group in my intro to zoo class that really didn’t help me out that much throughout the semester. Most of them were couch potatoes/hitchhikers and maybe didn’t even realize it. We did not have a ton of group work, so I was fine with having a mediocre group–it was such a large class that complaining about it would have been a waste of time. We only had a few assignments throughout the semester that were considered group assignments, and whenever they came up, I would usually take most of the work and let them look over it before I turned it in. There were a few times where another person stepped up and took the bulk of the work, so I didn’t feel like I did everything. However, I did feel that the work was definitely not distributed evenly, and I grew to really dislike almost any work where I had to work with other people because ultimately some of their work would come to reflect me academically and felt that it was unfair. The more I have worked with other groups though, the more I realize that there are a large number of people that can distribute work fairly evenly and make working together an enjoyable experience. The hardest part of this is finding the right group, the people that think similar enough to you that everything is not argued about until someone gives in to another; rather, the people need to be able to discuss things in a manner that builds group thinking and cohesion. When this can be done, good group work is bound to follow.

  3. I do not have an experience related to this in an academic setting that I can recall. However, while I was serving in the Marine Corps as a Sergeant I encountered various events that resemble this idea of hitchhiker/couch potato. One of the Marines that was a member of my “fire team” (usually a group of 3-4) was close to being discharged due to his lack of physical fitness in accordance to military standards. He always claimed that he was doing his best and that his continuous weight gain was genetic, and so on… I had him on a fitness plan that was simple to follow outside of our unit’s normal physical fitness activities.

    Yet, weeks and months went by and the issue still persisted and became worse. When you’re unable to keep up with everyone else, this can become a major problem in a combat environment and even with our everyday work that we performed. I would say that this individual would fit into the “couch potato” category quite literally. I started to hear rumors that he was not exercising on his off time like I had “kindly” ordered him to. I made a visit to him in the barracks (housing) and he was alone eating a large pizza while playing video games. After I became aware of this, the nice plan that I had him on quickly became vigorous with early morning runs, and evening pt alongside myself.

    In the end, he became more fit and changed for the better. For a quite some time, this Marine’s personal actions and laziness reflected poorly of my own leadership. If I could change anything about how I handled the situation, I would have kept a more keen eye on this individual from the beginning and would have taken action sooner.

  4. I had an experience with a “couch potato” in my introduction to zoology class. He was a nice guy and showed up to all of the group meetings but did not put forth much effort into his work. Most of the work he turned in to the group had to be revised or in some cases completely re-done. We held a group meeting and set expectations for each member of the group and told the “couch potato” to make the necessary changes or we would seek to remove him from our group. He acted as if he was unaware of his minimal contributions to the group but from then on turned in quality work. The only thing I would change if this were to happen again would be to confront the individual sooner rather than let him slide by for a few weeks.

  5. Unfortunately, I have had experience with dealing with both a “hitchhiker” and “couch potato”. I had to work with a group of 4 people in my Animal Behavior class, and one person in the group always failed to show up to our group meetings. She claimed that she was just too busy. I decided to go ahead and nip the problem in the bud. I was very firm, and told her that if she did not participate, I would not allow her to put her name on the paper. That seem to get through to her, and she began to attend our meetings. Looking back at it I would have been a bit nicer about the way I spoke to her. I handled the couch potato incident in a very similar way. I told that person that if they did not get it together, then they would not take credit for the assignment. Again, looking back at the situation, I would have been a bit nicer, but sill firm. If the problem regarding hitchhikers and couch potatoes were to arise again, I would handle the situation in a much similar way that I have in the past, but with a nicer tone.

  6. The best example i can think of when i have experienced a “hitchhiker” in my group was in my introduction to Psychology class at OCCC. I had two different group members that were rather lazy and never responded to the emails and me asking them to send me the information needed for our powerpoint that was our major group project. I did the opposite of what we are advised to in the article. I made up the entire powerpoint by myself and wrote up notecards for them as well, since we were graded as a group for how well we presented. Our group all ended up getting a good grade and the presentation went fine because they had the information to read off of the cards. Looking back I would change the fact that I gave them credit for helping out and would talk to the teacher and let her know what had happened, as well given them poor peer evaluations. If it happened again, especially on an assignment that was more important, I would be firm and assertive and let them know that they would not receive credit for work they did not help with.

  7. I had an experience with a “couch potato” in my physics II discussion class. This person was always late too class, and barely contributed to any of the group discussions. We had worksheets every class period, and the “couch potato” would just sit there and copy down the answers. We only had to turn in one paper per group, so even though she barely gave any input, we still put her name down. I would get extremely frustrated when she pretended like she did some of the work and then would just sit there on her phone. I really don’t like confrontations, so I never did anything about the situation. If I ever experience something thing like this again, I will hold my ground and address the matter earlier on in the semester.

  8. I would actually like to anser this question from a different perspective.

    As a long-time high school instructor, I find myself seeing these things from a slightly different perspective when compared to my view as a high school student or undergrad. Group work in my class compromises about 80% of the overall work for the class. I have seen each of these circumstances arise many times, as recently as this last semester. As a teacher/professor it is very difficult to determine if the person that is complaining to me has really given the other person direction and opportunity to do the work that is needed. I generally handle these situations in multiple ways, as my students on the high school level are not always equally motivated. My oldest exercise in combatting this problem is very similar to the contracts that we have signed this week. Once the projects are finished, I have each group member evaluate the other group members by dividing 100 points amongst the other group members. I then take the total number of points that was given to each student, divide it by 100, then multiply it by their score. This last semester, I had one member of a group get a 12%, while another member of the same group scored a 91%. This method has worked well for me in groups with 3 or more students, but it has limitations with only two members in a group. I had a female student, this last semester, come to me claiming that her partner had done absolutely nothing throughout the lab or on the lab report. I had noticed the same behaviors while I watched their group complete the lab. I had the student highlight all work that she had completed on her own in orange, work they had completed cooperatively in green, and leave the work that her partner had done with no highlight on it. When i recieved the electronic document, it was much as the female student had stated. I presented the document to the other student and asked her to identify work that she assisted on, and then work that she had completed on her own. The student began to highlight some sections in the middle of the lab report as an area that she had worked cooperatively with her lab partner. This student knew she was guilty, and began to cry. I did not have the heart to tell her that it wasnt even her groups’ lab report. Ooooooops!

  9. I was in a group this past spring with a couch potato. I would attend the action center tutoring during the week for one of my science classes to get help with my homework. I would always get the work finished before a girl in my group, and she would always ask for my notes. At first I did not see any problem with this, but then one day I could not attend tutoring, and asked if she could go and get the notes and help me out with the homework if need be. She said replied she had a lot of home work to do for another class, so I was ok with her not being able to go in my place. I eventually got the help I needed later in the week. The next time I saw her she talked about how she had been out with friends and did not finish the homework. The next assignment due date was coming up, and I attended tutoring as usual, and of course she asked for my notes. I then realized if I was not supplying the notes from tutoring, her homework was not going to get done, and she did not want to attend the action centers, so I stopped allowing her to see my tutoring notes. I told her I wouldn’t help her any more because I am using my free time to go to tutoring to get help and she should do the same rather than waiting to copy my paper. She never attended tutoring, and her homework reflected that.

  10. I think I’ve only ever had an experience with a hitchhiker once, but he sort of dissappeared from the class early on so we never had to deal with him. I haven’t had any experience with couch potatoes either. There is one type of dysfunctional teammate that I think this paper doesn’t touch on; I can’t think of a clever name for it, but the type of teammate who doesn’t trust anybody to do any work, and sort of monopolises work in the group.

    I had a group member like this in a Physics lab once, it was far more annoying than if I had to do all the work myself. She wouldn’t trust any of our lab reports, she was very controlling, and any time we offered to do anything, she’d get offended. She couldn’t take on the work load by herself, either, so we were left rushing to try to finish up lab papers at the beginning or end of class, and a couple of times we just didn’t get any real work done and ended up with a big fat F.

    The teacher in that class was very apathetic and didn’t like to single out people, so we pretty much all just ended up switching to another group. I don’t know what became of her.

  11. Personally, I’ve been really lucky in my college career that I’ve been in high functioning groups and haven’t had many issues with either of those personalities. For me however, it’s difficult to let go of the control thinking that my way might be better or if someone’s work isn’t exactly what I would have done, that it doesn’t mean its wrong.

  12. I’ve had group mates with both of these personalities during college. Mostly during my first year of college in the “weed out” courses where interest in the classes we are required to take seems to be either very low or very high. Although, it is not my normal mode of working when working with groups I have come to understand and identify with some of the excuses that I may have brushed off at the time. This last semester I had to start working a full time job which made it very very difficult to make group projects or participate and meet when it was convenient for everyone else. Recent medical problems have also prevented me from being the student physically or mentally that I normally am. Therefore, excuses that I would usually yield invalid seem to have greater merit and seem a bit more valid in my eyes. I think as an outsider judging someone else’s life and worth as a group member all we can do is judge people on what we see and experience. Sometimes that may be unfair to the other persons circumstances but that is all we can do.

  13. I never had any major problems with a couch potato, except once in my evolution class where we had to give a class presentation. One of the members didn’t really hold his weight even though I notified him repeatedly. By the time the presentation came he was totally unprepared and our grade suffered because of this. If I had to change one thing I would have notified the teacher before our presentation as it wouldn’t have affected our individual grades as much

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s