My turn

Telling the whole story must include pioneering women

2013-03-24T00:00:00Z Telling the whole story must include pioneering womenBy Bill Vargo Times Columnist
March 24, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Thirty years have passed since I sat in a high school classroom, at least as a student. Since then, of course, I continue adding to my vast store of knowledge.

The main thing that I have learned over the years as both a teacher and afterward is that classroom subjects are really just the tip of the iceberg. There is so much more to learn and the depth of our learning is almost unlimited.

When my sons bring home their textbooks, I am reminded of that old saying that history books don’t change, they just add chapters from one book adoption to the next.

That makes it sound like history, literature and math don't change but, in fact, they are constantly changing. The substance changes not because of some paranoid revisionist conspiracy, but because learning is telling a story, no matter the subject.

Forty years ago, we sat in class and learned the history or English in much the same way that our parents learned it 20 years earlier. We studied the timeline of great men that shaped our nation and our culture.

What we have found is that the story is so much richer when we add women’s history and African-American history.

In the case of women, we often give the accomplishments of women in the sciences and arts short shrift.

That is why for this year’s celebration, the National Women’s History Project has chosen Women Inspiring Innovation Through Imagination as the theme. Among the honorees are noted architects and engineers, as well as women in the pioneering fields of robotics and computer science.

Often considered fields that men excel in exclusively, women have put their stamps on them as well.

In my family, my aunt Judy Koerner, originally from Hammond, was a computer genius who spent her spare time doting on her many nephews and nieces and working on puzzles.

She was such a genius at puzzles that she would often turn them over and work on the blank side to create her own challenge. Fortunately, she was able to utilize those amazing logic skills to troubleshoot computer system conversions and was in demand across the U.S. for many years.

Another inspiration to me growing up was my aunt Betty Vostinari, from Lafayette, a well-respected engineer. It was her accomplishments that inspired me for a brief while to contemplate architecture as a field of study, until I discovered that I had no mechanical aptitude at all.

Today, we have women in science ranging from the pediatrician who cares for our children to the less visible pathologist who studies cancer cells in the hope of one day discovering a cure for the most dreaded of diseases.

There continue to be women of great skill that do the work that was once reserved only for men.

That is the beauty of the stories that we tell and the ways that we raise our children. We tell them that anything is possible and that there is so much more to the story than a basic timeline of accomplishments.

I am often confronted by a mystery puzzle that sits on the shelf in the basement, a testament to my dear aunt. Should I try it? Can I possibly solve the puzzle without knowing what the end product (picture) will be? Now, that is a story to tell.

The opinions are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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