If we knew what we were talking about, we wouldn't be so chatty.
|From Fishing Destin Guide|
I saw a sand flea on its side. I picked it up to look at it, and it kicked its legs a bit. I dug a hole at the edge of the ocean to give it a chance to survive, and accidentally uncovered another one. I dug another hole, disturbed yet another one. Thousands upon thousands of sand fleas lay under our feet, betrayed by the dying one lolling upside down in the tiny trench washed by the surf.
I buried it an inch or two, said a prayer, and walked on.
There is far more to this universe than we'll ever know.
To reject expertise, to reject scientists, is not the same as to reject science, but the distinction can be fuzzy. Science research can be (and is) dictated by powerful folks who drive our economic engines. Scientists can be (and are) influenced by money, by rewards, by fame--everybody wants to be a rock star.
Science itself, though, can be practiced by anyone with a reasonably intact brain and a decent command of written language (a scarce commodity), anyone willing to follow where the natural world takes you.
I might say the same for democracy, substituting "rational thought" for "natural world"--and this similarity drives my passion for teaching in a Title 1 public school system. I'm not worried about the children in private schools, nor those in the elite suburban public schools. Our culture has their backs.
Democracy wasn't promoted by our British aristocratic roots--the first man killed in the Boston Massacre was once an American slave, a dockworker of both African and Wampanoag descent. If we ever remember our own history, we might avoid our habit of electing Tories.
The problem with science is that it tells the truth, at least as far as the natural world goes. You do this, you get that. We don't always understand the "that," and much of the creative joy in science is creating models of the "that" that can explain all this stuff outside our brains in a way we can understand.
- Our current dominant economic system requires "growth"--it does not recognize natural limits.
- Our current dominant political system depends on raw emotions--it does not recognize rational thought.
- Our current dominant culture requires magical thinking and deference to humans--it does not recognize the mystery around us.
Then I pick up a "dead" sand flea, and its feeble kicks tickle the palm of my hand, reminding me I know nothing, then dig up several others while trying, foolishly, to save the one.
The push for STEM education comes about for all the wrong reasons, and will fail for the same. We need to kick China's ass, we need to fix the economy, we need to kick Russia's ass, we need to provide workers for our multinational corporations, we need to kick India's ass, we need to get more energy, we need to kick Europe's ass....
Science, real science, starts with the first time a child's simple observation of the natural world conflicts with what she knows, the first time she realizes that the world most of us live in, as comforting as it may seem day to day, is made of mirrors. She has a choice to make, a huge choice that will push her into a new world that will separate her from her culture.
I have known a few real scientists in my classrooms, and most of them do not thrive in our building. The life of a scientist requires hard work, and may pay less than the high school science teacher who pushes them into a field he himself could not master.
You can no more make professional scientists by pushing high school science child than you can by eliminate obesity by requiring every child to take physical education.
We do it anyway.
What do you remember from high school science?
Sand flea by Fishing Destin Guide, permission pending
The STEM chart from New Voices for Research