“Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts."
I am trying to get a handle on my seemingly irrational visceral response to the Next Generation Science Standards. I should be lovin' this up, especially since philosophically the folks at NGSS and I are on the same page. The Visigoths of Ignorance are banging on national psyche, and we are teetering on the brink of Age of Magick.
I am a bloody mix of superstitions, awe, and and mortality with an inkling of the power of science, and as such may put too much trust in my enteric nervous system ("gut feelings"), but eventually I wrestle with my viscera enough to either make sense of these feelings, or abandon them.
So what's the problem? Ah, the devil (there's that magick again) is again in the details.
If you want to learn science, you're going to have to let go of some things you believed to be true. Not all things, not even all things irrational, how dull would that be?
But some things, some things that you believe in your core to be true. The ground is mostly solid stuff. The sun rises and sets. You are, in some sense, immortal.
|From Johannes Stabius’s Pronosticon (1503) via Philadelphia Are Center for History of Science|
If we're going to teach young students science, and if we're going to insist on some set of national standards (though why we need "standards" in a field whose strength is blasting holes through standards through the ages), we need to get the basic stuff right.
Not mostly right, or almost right, or, please-forgive-us-we're-a-committee right
We need to get what we do know (or at least think we know) dead on balls accurate.
And the NGSS whiffed....
Energy can be “produced,” “used,” or “released” by converting stored energy. Plants capture energy from sunlight, which can later be used as fuel or food.
One of my pet peeves is our inability to grasp what food is--we screw up the concept at so many levels. For now, I'll limit this to its definition.
Food is stuff, not free energy. It is very unstable stuff, and when it breaks down, lots of energy is released, but we end up with the same amount of stuff we started with, just in different forms.
Plants put stable stuff together to make food. This takes energy, energy plants glom from sunlight. If I want to build an (unstable) house of cards, I take a deck of 54 cards, use energy to arrange them a certain way, but when I am finished, I still have exactly the stuff I started with, 54 cards.
Food is represented by the house of cards, not the energy I used to build the house. Plants do not convert sunlight into food, no more than I create cards out of thin air when building the flimsy house.
If the soul of biology is the theory of evolutions, its heart is the babble of bubbling life trying to make or grab food, breaking it down to release free energy and to rearrange its parts to build new things.
I preach from Day One: Follow the "stuff," follow the free energy, the two are entwined but separate.
"Plants capture energy from sunlight, which can later be used as fuel or food." So what's the big deal?
Energy is not food. Plants are not made of sunlight. It seems so, though, given how big trees can get,
We are surrounded by trees, huge organisms weighing tons and tons While we bemoan folks for not being able to see the forest for the trees, many of my lambs miss the trees as well.
The NGSS gets this wrong--free energy is used to make food, true, but energy is not used as food. And now we've given thousands of elementary teachers permission to keep getting this wrong.