The individual concepts of children, and the individual concepts of most persons who live and die in this world, are exceedingly vague, crude, and obscure. That is, they are vague, crude, and obscure in comparison with any approximation to adequacy.Francis W. Parker, "Observation," Talks on Pedagogics, 1894
Leslie and I startled a black duck-like critter as we stepped over to the other side of a jetty. It scrabbled its way back to the water, its legs flailing against the sand. It had a bright orange-red beak, and it swam a lot better than it ran.
What was it? Not sure. We'll find out eventually by putting together its shape, color, location, season--all things recorded by others, things I can look up. Right now I suspect it was a black scoter. A few minutes on the internet, and I'll figure it out.
Science requires observation, of course, but it also requires a way to record those observations. Humans (and other mammals) when left on their own will see what they need to see. Context matters.
Writing things down matters more than we realize--we give life to words, because words make moments permanent. We can compare a moment we had two years ago with the one we have now. It turns out our words are less
Words make our stories more certain, and over time, less true. We trust the book (in whatever form) over our elders now, no small reason we have formalized our warehousing of the old. We no longer need the old folks for their collective memory, and books don't soil their beds.
Science works because the natural world follows consistent rules, and because those who practice science trust their written words over their intuitions. It still upsets me that an American dime (2.3 grams) falls as fast as the CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics (almost 3500 grams) when I drop both from about 8 feet on the first day of class.
They both hit the floor at the same time, every time.
I know that they will, but I still don't believe it. Cognitive dissonance.
Cognitive dissonance hurts, a lot, and for good reason. A mammal who hesitates, who is confused by competing interpretations of its environment, may soon end up in pieces, torn by the talons and teeth of a critter a bit more focused.
If my students aren't grabbing their brains complaining that all this science stuff hurts, then I'm not teaching science, I'm teaching trivia. I teach a lot of trivia.
Ripping away the comfort of cultural reality creeps people out. On a rare day, I'll see a glimpse of fear in a child's eye as she feels the floor drop under her feet. I won't push this, but I will acknowledge it--"the world is bigger than any of us can know" or maybe "welcome to science."
What I won't do is pretend it's not terrifying, this cognitive dissonance, bucking hundreds of millions of years of evolution that taught us to fear the shadows, fear the dissonance.
I'm sure a
None of us see it during review for the state tests.