Bare Necessities: Science

>> Monday, September 7, 2009

Raise your hand if you didn't think this was coming.

It should be no surprise that science is firmly entrenched among subjects I think are essential in any education. Science is not only fun, not only fascinating, not only a great way to learn about the world around us, about reality, it's one of the best ways to sharpen the old critical thinking skills.

And I have to tell you, I can't think of a skill more useful in the real world than a well-developed ability to think critically.

Science is a process used to help us understand our world as well as the body of knowledge we've developed to explain what happens in the world and universe around us. It is pivotal to every technological advancement, medical treatment, understanding of natural processes and disasters...really, there's almost no limit to how it affects our lives (and how we live it) as well as how we affect the world around us. Science is all about reality and we all need to deal with that -- even those of us that write fiction.

But, and I think this is key, even if you don't remember what animals have gone extinct (long list) or what causes a tsunamis (generally seismic events) or the chemical formula for hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), what you can take away from a science class is how you learn things in science, the questions you ask, the way you understand what answers make sense and how to know when something doesn't sound right. For this and this alone, science is an absolutely essential class.

But when you add all you are exposed to in the world around you, the ways to help you find more when you need it (or need a refresher) and know what makes sense and doesn't really (and how to tell), it's an even better deal. And the critical thinking applies to more than science.

I couldn't be a rocket scientist without loving science, loving learning, loving asking questions and exploring the answers. But you don't have to be a scientist of any flavor to learn lessons to last a whole life long with just a little dose of science.

Gotta love science. I sure do.


  • Jeff King

    i love it and find it full of endless wonders...

  • Project Savior

    Learning about Science can open up your imagination in a way nothing else can, from thinking about the endless universe to the interactions at the quantum level.

  • Stephanie B

    Good point, Project Savior.

  • The Mother

    I agree, of course, but I do have a bone to pick with science education in high school.

    Sciences tend to be taught as grinding calculation classes. My kids can convert units and calculate the trajectory of falling arrows with the best of them (cause that's SO useful in daily life), but in two years of physics, they never mentioned general or special relatively, spent no time on nuclear, and just barely scraped quantum.

    We should be teaching them the fascination of science--conceptually. If they decide to go into physics, they can learn to calculate arrow trajectories.

    Biology, too--they spend so much time on phyla and classification that they really can't get into what makes biology so FASCINATING--how evolution made all this stuff. Of course, this is TX, what did I expect?

  • Stephanie B

    Oh, The Mother, I could go on for days on how many of my favorite topics are taught. Why they stress dates in history instead of the motivations and implications of key events in history. Why they spend days on diagraming sentences instead of how to use the language more effectively. How the glories and mysteries of science can fuel our future.

    I know teachers do the best they can and are often constrained by curriculum wherein some council or group of administrators think that learning about history or language or science is all about coughing up easily testable data that will be wiped from the young minds as extraneous during the next summer break, if not the next weekend.

    Children come pre-equipped with a love of learning; sometimes even the best-intended teachers can kill that instead of using it to teach key concepts. But there are often wonderful teachers that can. I wish I knew the answer, but I agree that the most important things to learn in college are the least likely to be reducible to a scantron sheet - and until we recognize that, our education system will be systemically flawed.

  • Patricia Rockwell

    I agree with The Mother. I didn't learn to love science until I was in my doctoral program in SOCIAL science (Communication) and actually started learning how to hypothesize about issues of interest to me and how to test them scientifically. All of a sudden, I saw the use of the scientific method.

  • Bob Johnson

    It's a shame, the sciences have everything to do with the way we live yet it is the one area people care to know little about, partly because it isn't taught or expressed properly.

    One only has to look at the releases by the astronomy magazines, the terms and the way they express thoughts, only made for scientific or people already in the know.

    You can disagree with me but it is an ongoing problem. Sky and telescope tried to dummy down their mag to reach the masses, even released a short lived Night Sky mag which I would buy then give to friends, and were criticized by their intellect readers, one of the main reasons I started my blog.

  • Stephanie B

    You're not wrong. Unfortunately, many a scientist does not have a good grasp of language (as per a previous post) and that severely hampers his or her ability to communicate effectively.

    A serious pity.

  • The Mother

    Certainly Bob Johnson has a point. But I think the impetus is shifting.

    For many, many years (shall we go on a limb and say centuries?), the average person had no interest in the arcane world of science. That started to shift when Einstein became a household name.

    Now "popular" science books outsell novels.

    The science community as a whole is working on the "framing" issue. But I would contend that there are already a vast number of scientists who do communicate, very, very well. Perhaps not in their scientific papers, which by definition must use the language of their peers, but in their other writings.

    Go to Amazon. Type in any bizarre science topic. You will get twenty books written by excellent communicators that are well written page turners.

    It's a start.

    Unfortunately, science is DELIBERATELY muddled by the religious right, the woo meisters and the charlatans. That doesn't help; one has to actually know something about science to be certain that the books one is reading are written by legitimate scientists.

    And part of the problem is getting the average Joe to open his mind to science (which would mean giving up his Iron Age fundamentalism, I'm afraid).

Post a Comment


Blog Makeover by LadyJava Creations