That the Gettysburg Address is among the most famous speeches in the American consciousness is one of history’s great ironies. If you actually read the words, Lincoln discusses the powerlessness of words, and that no one will care about what said that day:
“…we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.”
Perhaps this is why he spoke for only 2 minutes, while others droned on for several hours at the same dedication. In any case, the role of an observer, who notes but does not alter the situation, can to my mind today as I was teaching physics lab. In my class, overwhelmingly pre-med students, 12 of 15 were female. This might seem surprising for subject matter that had been seen as the Provence of men, but I was not so surprised. I just started reading The End of Men: And the Rise of Women by Hanna Rosin. She is aware that the purpose of her book is not to set forth an argument, but rather to mark a momentous shift in the course of the human experience. For the first time since ever, females are overtaking their chromosomal mismatched counterparts. Rosin points out that the rise of automation has dealt a heavy blow to traditionally “male” occupations, like construction and manufacturing. When given a level playing field, where brawn is not an issue, women are thriving and men are getting left behind. At Nova Southeastern University, where I teach, about 70% of the student body is of the female persuasion, and nationally the figure is around 2/3. In this new connected world, where a machine (or third-world laborer) can do most taxing and menial tasks, the value of education has never been greater. Women are seeing the larger divergence in life- paths between unskilled workers and trained professionals and choosing their education levels accordingly.