Saturday, June 12, 2010

Science Education

Of the lessons I learned in high school, none will stick with me as long or as well as Mr. Robertson's first day of class: Science is a way of thinking. It's not the information of chemistry, biology, or physics, it's the approach. This is probably what turned me from a math lover into a science geek. (Ms. Blevins helped with that, too.) See, math is a language, but science is a way of thinking.

Mr. Robertson made a gutsy move for a public school teacher, and presented science in direct opposition to faith: to have faith in an idea is to believe it without evidence. Science, on the other hand, is an approach based on evidence.

I actually learned the same lesson in elementary school in a different way, during our study of the Renaissance. Rick dressed up like a bishop (or a pope?) and explained that the answer to all of our questions was, "Because god made it so." Next, he dressed up like Merlin, and the answer was always, "Magic!" In the Renaissance, he explained, people stopped accepting those answers, and went in search of their own.

The way I see it, the rest of my science eduction focused on how to ask good questions (those that are interesting and can be answered) and how to go about answering them (through research, observation, and experimentation).

In the below video, Neal DeGrasse Tyson (one of my science educator heroes) explains why the 2012 apocalypse theories are nonsense. But at about 1:52 into the video, he explains why science education is so important: it's the approach, not the material.

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