|By Dharmuli, under CC|
"So I’m not going to be able to give you an an answer to why magnets attract each other except to tell you that they do."Richard Feynman, around 6:43
Science doesn't take the romance out of the universe.
I would love to start the school year with Insane Clown Posse's Miracles. [WARNING: Don't click if you're allergic to swearables.] For obvious reasons, I cannot, but it gets to the heart of the matter.
Science education in schools hurts, which is OK, but in the wrong way, which is not.
A child comes to school with a reasonable question--how do magnets work?
The child gets hit with "magnetic fields" and "electrons" but never gets the answer she seeks--because the answer is, for her, unknowable.
Truth is, the answer is unknowable to all of us, at least in the sense that the child asks the question. We do know that the same electrons that cause magnets to push and pull are what keep us from falling through the floor.
Maybe if we just said that, acknowledging that one of the coolest phenomena in any child's universe is, well, essentially unknowable, she'd see science (and the natural world) more for what it is, instead of a collection of words held together by an internal logic not apparent to a 7 year old.
For every teacher out there who teaches that energy is "the capacity of a physical system to perform work" without immediately adding the disclaimer that no one really knows what energy is, kids are going to think that scientists are lying.
But they're (mostly) not. It's not them, it's us, the teachers.
We need to stop lying to our children, and to ourselves.
Maybe next I'll tackle fire.