The other day I was writing about our experiences unschooling high school science. I mentioned a couple of books I thought my chemistry-loving-daughter, Charlotte, might like to read. Of course, I couldn’t help myself. After publishing the post, I just had to buy both books. Well, it is the start of the new school year and everyone (on this side of the world) is busy buying resources. It’s the natural thing to do. I know… we have heaps of books and DVDs and other interesting stuff sitting around, unused on our shelves. I didn’t really need to buy anything new. But I did…
I clicked page after page until the following excerpts caught my attention, and caused me to stop and reflect:
As a physics major with hopes of escaping the lab to write, I felt miserable among the serious and gifted young scientists in my classes, who loved trial-and-error experiments in a way I never could. I stuck out five frigid years in Minnesota and ended up with an honors degree in physics, but despite spending hundreds of hours in labs, despite memorising thousands of equations, despite drawing tens of thousands of diagrams with frictionless pulleys and ramps – my real education was in my professors’ stories. Stories about Gandhi and Godzilla and a eugenicist who used germanium to steal a Noble Prize. About throwing blocks of explosive sodium into rivers and killing fish. About people suffocating, quite blissfully on nitrogen gas in space shuttles. About a former professor who would experiment on the plutonium-powered pacemaker inside his own chest,speeding it up and slowing it down by standing next to and fiddling with giant magnetic coils.
“… my real education was in my professors’ stories…”
Could it also be in stories in living books written by scientists or in stories portrayed in chemists’ videos or in stories recorded in Catholic scientists’ podcasts or…? Could Charlotte actually be getting a real science education as she dips into interesting books and websites and videos and podcasts? Is this why she knows and understands so much, without ever trying to memorise a single fact?
How I wish some of my own university professors had had a few stories to tell us. But all I gathered from them was page after page of dry facts and figures, that I struggled to commit to my poor memory… pages that eventually ended up in the garbage bin.
I am now off to read some more of The Disappearing Spoon. It’s fascinating. It’s entertaining. And I am learning heaps. At last I am getting a real science education.