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Education Science

Stop Taking All the Fun Out of Science 246

HughPickens.com writes: Heidi Stevens writes in the Chicago Tribune that according to NASA astronaut Mae Jemison schools treat science like the class where fun goes to die. "Kids come out of the chute liking science. They ask, 'How come? Why? What's this?' They pick up stuff to examine it. We might not call that science, but it's discovering the world around us," says Jemison. "Once we get them in school, we turn science from discovery and hands-on to something you're supposed to do through rote memorization." But science doesn't have to be that way says Jemison. Especially in the elementary school years. "When you have teachers saying, 'I don't have enough time for hands-on activities,' we need to rethink the way we do education," says Jemison. "The drills we do, where you're telling kids to memorize things, don't actually work. What works is engaging them and letting them do things and discover things." Jemison has teamed up with Bayer to advance science literacy across the United States by emphasizing the importance of hands-on, inquiry-based learning opportunities in public schools. Bayer announced recently that it will provide 1 million hands-on science experiences for kids by 2020. "Science is around us everywhere," says Jemison. Farming is science. Cooking is science. Even styling hair involves science. "When we go to the hairdresser, we want her to know something about pH balance," says Jemison with a laugh. "Boy, do we ever want her to know something about pH balance!"
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Stop Taking All the Fun Out of Science

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  • by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Sunday September 27, 2015 @02:00PM (#50608431)
    it's there to get people ready for the workforce. That's why we have bells and it's why we start it early when research shows kids need more sleep. I always find it annoying to see people who can't or won't acknowledge that virtually everything in our society exists to serve the ruling class. You'll never get anywhere with reform until you acknowledge and deal with that basic root problem. It's why FDR was so successful and it's what Eisenhower was afraid of when he talked about the Military Industrial Complex...
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by alvinrod ( 889928 )
      If kids need more sleep, wouldn't it be sufficient to go to bed sooner?

      If you move the start of school two hours later, kids will just stay up or out later and still be sleep deprived. The start time was made to serve the working class so that they would have their kids in school before getting to their jobs so they wouldn't have to worry about the kids being home by themselves for several hours because someone wanted to move the start time later in the morning, because apparently the only way to get mor
      • by Chris Mattern ( 191822 ) on Sunday September 27, 2015 @02:40PM (#50608735)

        If kids need more sleep, wouldn't it be sufficient to go to bed sooner?

        No. We have times that are natural for us to go to sleep and to wake up, regulated mainly by our perception of sunlight. This is shown by studies of shift workers (Working nights and sleeping days is very bad for your health).

        While the natural bedtime and waking time is different for each person, studies have also shown that both, on the whole, get later for teens (and then get earlier again as we age). It really would be better if high school students could sleep in. Making them be at school at 7 AM is not good. Your point that it was made for the convenience of the working parents is quite true, but doesn't make it any better physically for the kids.

        • I'm rather curious where school is starting at 7 AM as that's rather early. When I was growing up it started at 8:45 AM. Starting at 7 AM would require kids waking up at 6 if they're going to shower, eat, and take care of any hygiene needs in addition to allowing for travel time to school and isn't any more convenient for parents unless they are dropping of their kids and then have a long commute to work.

          The only reason to start later than that is perhaps if you're farther north and the sun doesn't rise
        • We have times that are natural for us to go to sleep and to wake up, regulated mainly by our perception of sunlight.

          ...which is unnaturally regulated by our use of screens with series D illuminants.

      • I've recently seen articles in newspapers about this (and not only about kids, also adults), and the point is that it's against our natural cycle, so going to bed earlier doesn't really fix it. Additional issue is probably that it's also a personal thing, some people will have a different natural cycle than others, so one size fits all will never be optimal

        • Somehow, though, in our society --- and this has persisted for centuries, it seems --- there is the idea that getting up early is somehow meritorious and more "moral" than getting up later. Maybe it started with the needs of an agricultural society, but today is seems really misplaced. I get up at 5 am and you get up at 9 so I'm a better person than you are? I hardly think so.

          • Somehow, though, in our society --- and this has persisted for centuries, it seems --- there is the idea that getting up early is somehow meritorious and more "moral" than getting up later. Maybe it started with the needs of an agricultural society, but today is seems really misplaced. I get up at 5 am and you get up at 9 so I'm a better person than you are? I hardly think so.

            It's because until about 1900, the majority of the populace were farmers, which lacking some serious candlepower is a job that has to be mostly done in daylight. So to get the most number of working hours out of a day means rising with the chickens and working until the sun set.

            Of course, that meant that once the sun had set, most of your time was your own and in more extreme climes the "hard" work was something you could only do when it wasn't too cold to grow anything.

            The first factories were also likely

    • by trout007 ( 975317 ) on Sunday September 27, 2015 @04:45PM (#50609283)

      The problem as I see it is that in the old days teachers were educated intellgent young unmarried women. They dedicated their early years to their students. Parents respected the teachers because typically the parents were less educated then the teachers.

      But this is no longer the case. The most intellgent women now become doctors, lawyers, scientists, engineers, business people, etc. Teachering is now a life long profession for C students. If you have ever gone to parent teacher night I find many of the young teachers to act very uneducated. They also have their own young children so basicly clock out when the school day is over because they have to pick their kids up from day care or school. There are a couple exceptions to where education is a calling buy you can't build a system on this.

      In addition the parents are often much smarter and more educated then the tecahers. This I beleive is what is behind the homeschool movement. It is in our family. We got tired of C students trying and failing to educate our children. It got to the point we were spending entire evenings teaching our kids what they should have learned that day. So we homeschool them now and have much more free time with the kids. And I live in an "A" school district (whatever that means).

      We need to transition to a new system. I have no idea what it should be. Maybe have retired professionals teach their subjects of expertise. How great would it be to have a Chemistry teacher who was a researcher or worked in the petrochemical industry? Or a NASA engineer as physics or math teacher? You need people with a passion to transfer that passion to students.

      • by dbIII ( 701233 )

        Maybe have retired professionals teach their subjects of expertise.

        With woodwork, metalwork and drafting that used to be the case, real experienced trade qualified people with a teaching diploma - but the pay sucks too much for most who have been in other fields to commit the time to get past the increased barriers of entry to get into teaching.

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        You don't need a Masters or PHD to teach 8 years olds maths. You need teaching and class management skills. You need an understanding of child psychology. Maybe you are just looking for the wrong skills in teachers.

        The way to get skilled professionals into teaching is to pay skilled professional wages. It would also help if we could attract more men into the profession, especially for the youngest kids.

    • We need less workers than ever before. Perhaps school should be about enriching lives, and promoting creativity, so that we can figure out what all these idle people are going to do with their time.

  • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Sunday September 27, 2015 @02:00PM (#50608437) Journal
  • by mlookaba ( 2802163 ) on Sunday September 27, 2015 @02:13PM (#50608541)

    Unless we want to re-invent the wheel over and over, it's necessary that people have a basic understanding of the work that has been done in the past.

    The problem isn't how hard it is to memorize facts. The human brain is capable of memorizing a lot of facts. The problem is that (US specifically) kids are just too lazy to do it. They have the ability, but not the desire. (Source: My wife is a high school science teacher of 30 years).

    Let's address the real issue and stop trying to give participation trophies.

    • What does "memorizing a lot of facts" have to do with not re-invent the wheel?

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        What does "memorizing a lot of facts" have to do with not re-invent the wheel?

        If you don't know the wheel exists and what it does (if you haven't memorized those things), then you'll wind up re-inventing it through simple ignorance, won't you? And probably do a much worse job of it--something computer programmers have a depressing record of seeing every day.

        • by sjames ( 1099 )

          Computer programmers have to reinvent to keep the lawyers away. They can't just take someone's patented and copyrighted square wheel and make an octagon out of it, they must start from scratch.

      • When I was a kid, in my school's science classes, we did lots of hands-on stuff. Did we "re-invent the _____". Yes. So what? We learned how to "do science" by doing science ourselves. And I don't mean just mindless following directions. We started with describing things we "discovered" as we went through our days. Then the concept of doing simple tests to learn more about "every day" things. We were even encouraged to figure out how to test things, so were starting to do scientific experiments. Yes, some pr

    • by PvtVoid ( 1252388 ) on Sunday September 27, 2015 @02:37PM (#50608723)

      The problem isn't how hard it is to memorize facts. The human brain is capable of memorizing a lot of facts. The problem is that (US specifically) kids are just too lazy to do it.

      What, exactly, is useful about memorizing facts, in a world where any fact you want is at your fingertips on demand? Being usefully conversant in facts is not about memorization, it's about understanding relationships between things. Understanding how stuff works. The facts you need will be memorized along the way.

      • by AthanasiusKircher ( 1333179 ) on Sunday September 27, 2015 @03:43PM (#50609009)

        What, exactly, is useful about memorizing facts, in a world where any fact you want is at your fingertips on demand? Being usefully conversant in facts is not about memorization, it's about understanding relationships between things. Understanding how stuff works.

        I agree with you that the "understanding relationships" etc. is more important in being an educated person than memorized rote knowledge.

        The problem, however, is that one actually needs something in your brain to "understand relationships" between. You can't "understand how stuff works" if you don't even know there is "stuff" to begin with.

        I'm absolutely NOT arguing for lots of rote memorization. But I think a common error (and an increasingly serious problem) today is the idea that memorization is worthless because... well, "Google can answer it." Yeah, that's great if you're looking up some atomic fact. But what if finding an answer to a problem depends on connecting seemingly unrelated atomic facts? If they are both in your brain, you may be able to figure it out. But if not, you're out of luck (unless someone has solved that exact problem before and posted it on the internet).

        Traditional specialization in a career, for example, usually required adaptability. If you were a mechanic or a machinist or whatever, having 25 years of experience wasn't just about making fewer mistakes -- it was about having a brain full of knowledge that could make such connections when needed. That often included a lot of obscure facts derived from experience... "Oh, don't even bother trying that part on that model, because it uses X and although they say it's different from Y, both the mechanisms on based on principle Z."

        Memorization can SOMETIMES be a way to fast-track understanding and make those subsequent connections easier to make. Memorization for the sake of memorization is stupid, but if you're memorizing information that you can actually use on a regular basis, it might actually be helpful in doing stuff like you say: "understanding relationships between things" requires knowing something about "things."

        The facts you need will be memorized along the way.

        That does tend to happen when you use information frequently. But sometimes it can actually be helpful to force oneself to KNOW stuff in advance. (I can't believe I actually need to argue for this....) And sometimes you don't know what you might need to know, and knowing SOMETHING that is potentially relevant can give you an advantage over someone else who just has to blindly Google things rather than actually knowing anything.

        In medieval times, when books were expensive and scarce, there used to be an entire "art of memory," a method which facilitated memorization of long passages of writings and even entire books. There were drawings showing people "eating books" too -- this was the symbolism given to the act of memorization, because once one had these complete texts in one's brain, it allows a much more thorough "digestion" of the ideas and contents of these texts.

        I'm not saying that we should go back to that. But there's something different about knowledge that is actually in your brain, and memorization can sometimes be a useful TOOL to get it there.

        • But what if finding an answer to a problem depends on connecting seemingly unrelated atomic facts? If they are both in your brain, you may be able to figure it out. But if not, you're out of luck (unless someone has solved that exact problem before and posted it on the internet).

          Science students should be getting exactly this kind of problem on a regular basis in the form of exercises, and simultaneously given the resources to dig up those facts (e.g., Google) in order to solve the problem. Then they'll learn the useful interplay among simple facts that forms the basis of relational and functional knowledge. Sitting them down and telling them to memorize the periodic table won't accomplish this.

          Yeah, you have to know stuff, but simply knowing lots of facts that you're not in the pr

          • It's not just science.

            The current standard U.S. school model has this same issue with most other subjects as well, with typically the notable exceptions of Art and Music, which tend to be taught by practitioners thereof, rather than your standard teaching college graduate.

            Can you imagine if learning a musical instrument started with, "Let's memorize all the different note positions/letters on the treble and bass clefs, but we'll worry about actually playing some music when you're in college..."

        • by serviscope_minor ( 664417 ) on Sunday September 27, 2015 @04:25PM (#50609169) Journal

          I think though that one naturally memorizes stuff. If you keep having to make use of a fact and keep having to look it up, after not especially long you commit it to memory automatically. The trouble with just mindless rote memorization that it's awfully easy to memorize wrong without understanding, awfully easy to have a list of facts but no idea how to use them and it's boring as all hell and guaranteed to put off the majority of students.

          Do, rather than memorize and the memorization will come naturally.

          • I think though that one naturally memorizes stuff. If you keep having to make use of a fact and keep having to look it up, after not especially long you commit it to memory automatically. The trouble with just mindless rote memorization that it's awfully easy to memorize wrong without understanding, awfully easy to have a list of facts but no idea how to use them and it's boring as all hell and guaranteed to put off the majority of students.

            Do, rather than memorize and the memorization will come naturally.

            This. Somebody mod parent up.

        • To put this in computing terms, it's all about cache locality and the cost of I/O. It also applies to large organizations of people.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Frosty Piss ( 770223 ) *

        What, exactly, is useful about memorizing facts, in a world where any fact you want is at your fingertips on demand?

        New facts are built on a foundation of old facts, and if you don't know them, the new facts will not get built.

      • by Hognoxious ( 631665 ) on Sunday September 27, 2015 @04:23PM (#50609161) Homepage Journal

        What, exactly, is useful about memorizing facts, in a world where any fact you want is at your fingertips on demand?

        Because there may come a time where they aren't.

        Interesting fact: Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein and Francis Bacon were all totally shit at using Google.

        • by dbIII ( 701233 )
          Yes, but if you don't even know the key words or what they mean google is not going to help. You need at least something to start with.
          It's especially clear here when people way out of their depth link spam you with stuff that in no way supports their argument. They googled what they thought they meant, found something different and didn't know enough to notice.
      • by turbidostato ( 878842 ) on Sunday September 27, 2015 @04:53PM (#50609315)

        "What, exactly, is useful about memorizing facts"

        They are the bricks to build comprehension.

        "in a world where any fact you want is at your fingertips on demand?"

        Facts outside your brain are of no value. In order to get value as nodes to tie connections in between you need to already have them in your brain.

        "The facts you need will be memorized along the way."

        Are you sure?

        Just like Homer's use of epithets basically made them into a single substantive, it seems USA is changing "memory" into "rotten memory" as if it were a single word. It isn't: memory is a most useful tool, and exercising it is only good for growing minds. Change your education system to avoid rote memorization but don't make the mistake of thinking that all memorization is rotten.

      • by gringer ( 252588 )

        What, exactly, is useful about memorizing facts, in a world where any fact you want is at your fingertips on demand?

        When you're talking to someone in a professional setting, saying "hang on, I'll just check up on that" multiple times is a very good way to encourage them to leave and not participate in an exchange of goods or services.

        When I go to fast food restaurants, I would like cashiers to be able to instantly tell me the answer to allergy questions (e.g. are your chips fried in peanut oil).

        If I'm presenting to biologists about a differential expression analysis on samples they've been working on, I need to be able t

      • What, exactly, is useful about memorizing facts, in a world where any fact you want is at your fingertips on demand? Being usefully conversant in facts is not about memorization, it's about understanding relationships between things. Understanding how stuff works. The facts you need will be memorized along the way.

        Because not everything is about interrelational self actualization, self esteem enhancing, collaboration.

        Basic math for instance. No matter how damn hard we try, basic math is neither exciting, need some rote memorization and 2 plus 2 still adds up to 4.

        Rectangular arrays, and area models are the products of insanity, making the simplest problems ridiculously difficult.

        Basic math is basic math, and needs to be memorized. If 2 plus two equaled 5, or some valuable social construct, then hey, let's al

    • by Kohath ( 38547 )

      Let's address the real issue and stop trying to give participation trophies.

      As long at we don't replace them with trophies for following instructions and agreeing with whatever authority figures say.

    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      I am a scientist and I can assure you memorizing facts is almost completely a waste of time. Or rather, it is worse than that. The problem is that there are far too many fact for even a basic selection to be memorized. But trying detracts from the all-critical skill of critical thinking and being able to interpret facts quickly that you have looked up. Drilling kids to memorize facts at best qualifies them to be factory-workers doing repetitive things.

    • Exactly. Science is hard. Mixing chemicals and making cool explosions or fire demonstrations or baking soda volcanoes may be fun but it's not science. Study after study has shown that kids that are exposed to effort-intensive mathematics, computer science, and general STEM knowledge early on in life do much better than those who are exposed to it later - even if they do not wind up pursuing STEM fields as careers.

  • by Yergle143 ( 848772 ) on Sunday September 27, 2015 @02:15PM (#50608559)

    Maybe we should stop raising children to think that everything is fun.
    Impactful science is a heck of a lot of work.
    Guess it's more about doing rather than viewing.
    Listening to a musician is fun. Learning to play is not.

    • by PvtVoid ( 1252388 ) on Sunday September 27, 2015 @02:21PM (#50608601)

      Maybe we should stop raising children to think that everything is fun.
      Impactful science is a heck of a lot of work.

      Yes, but it's also more fun than just about anything else if you're doing it right. The great breakthroughs in science, as in art, come from minds that are full of play.

      • by Kohath ( 38547 )

        How common are "great breakthroughs"? Does it really make sense to pretend every kid is going to make "great breakthroughs"? If you really want to encourage more "great breakthroughs", you're going to have to stop treating the 1 in 1000 kid as just another member of the herd.

        • Making sure that 1 in 1000 kid gets the start in science he or she needs to make those breakthroughs is a worthy goal of science education, but just as important is getting the other 999 kids to understand why science and its applications are wothwhile. If we could accomplish this, we wouldn't have to watch Asian countries stride boldly into the future without us.

          • by Kohath ( 38547 )

            just as important is getting the other 999 kids to understand why science and its applications are wothwhile

            Why? How do you measure "important"?

            we wouldn't have to watch Asian countries stride boldly into the future without us.

            Pretty sure "the future" is available to everyone, so it's really not clear what you're trying to say.

            These are just platitudes we're all supposed to mindlessly agree with, right?

            • just as important is getting the other 999 kids to understand why science and its applications are wothwhile

              Why? How do you measure "important"?

              Because they can vote? Because if even two of them can find their way out of the door they've outvoted the one with a clue?

              • by Kohath ( 38547 )

                Because they can vote? Because if even two of them can find their way out of the door they've outvoted the one with a clue?

                Why should the "science" crowd be given political power over their neighbors? Has that worked out well historically? Any reasoning behind this at all, or do you just want more political power over people, regardless of the benefits to anyone besides yourself?

                • Because they can vote? Because if even two of them can find their way out of the door they've outvoted the one with a clue?

                  Why should the "science" crowd be given political power over their neighbors? Has that worked out well historically? Any reasoning behind this at all, or do you just want more political power over people, regardless of the benefits to anyone besides yourself?

                  Because Trollerina, they won't be the "science" crowd. They will be people smart enough to know when you are trying to biullshit them

                  • by Kohath ( 38547 )

                    It's actually a lot easier to bullshit people who think they are smart. Look at the anti-vaccination movement and Chipotle's anti-GMO noise for examples.

                    • It's actually a lot easier to bullshit people who think they are smart. Look at the anti-vaccination movement and Chipotle's anti-GMO noise for examples.

                      Thinking one is smart != being smart.

    • Maybe we should stop raising children to think that everything is fun.

      Maybe we should start teaching children to beware of any superstimulus. We've designed foods that are tastier than found in nature -- but we've dissociated food's tastiness from its healthiness. We've designed entertainment to be fun, addictive, etc -- but it is a dead end, boredom now leads to the rut instead of away from it. We've sabotaged almost every drive we have, soon sexbots will complete the job. This [omgfacts.com] is what we're doing, only one level removed.

      Science is a combination of work and fun. It used to b

    • by J-1000 ( 869558 ) on Monday September 28, 2015 @12:11AM (#50610937)
      Spoken like a horrible teacher. Your problem is that you interpret fun to mean unimportant, easy, or silly. In fact, fun as it is used here simply means that the student discovers and embraces the desire to do it. Learning to play music isn't fun? That attitude is how you become a crappy musician.
  • Any other children of the 70s remember the big brown box? It came from some company; but I forget the name. Our school would get these every other month or so. They were full of basic science experiments for elementary aged children. There was one with seeds to sprout and instructions, for example. Another might have had some relatively safe chemicals in it. Then you'd do stuff with the chemicals like put water or vinegar on them. Perhaps based on some earlier lesson you'd then answer questions like,

  • Science isn't a game (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mattwarden ( 699984 ) on Sunday September 27, 2015 @02:22PM (#50608607) Homepage

    Science isn't supposed to be fun. It's a method and its rigorous. The problem isn't that the fun is being taken or of science. The problem is the the "I Fucking Love Science" crowd has popularized science among people who do not understand science. Science is treated like a religion, and the philosophy of science and especially its skepticism is missing in the discussion, covered instead by "omg isn't this science looking thing cool". Pseudoscience abounds. Looks at nutrition science. You can't even tell anymore what is actual science and what is total nonsense based on anecdote... because the methods are almost the same.

    • by AthanasiusKircher ( 1333179 ) on Sunday September 27, 2015 @03:21PM (#50608909)

      Science isn't supposed to be fun. It's a method and its rigorous.

      Scientific education can very well be fun. The best way to convince people ignorant of science that the scientific method is useful is by doing exploratory exercises with them (often "fun") and then gradually introducing rigor to show them how scientific methods work better.

      I speak as someone who has taught high-school science. One of the first activities I would do with physics students was to give them a few different types of pendula and a stopwatch. I would divide them into groups and tell them to come up with a way of predicting what the period should be.

      That's about all the instructions I gave.

      They'd get a few days of this -- I'd bring the class together at the end of each period, and we'd talk about what they had discovered. Hmm -- the mass of the weight at the end of the string didn't seem to matter. The initial angle didn't seem to make much of a difference either. Etc.

      I'd walk around the room in each class and gradually give suggestions and hints on better ways to collect and organize data, answer questions, provide additional equipment upon request, etc.

      By the end of a week, most of them had learned more about the scientific method than many physics students do in a year (if they only performed calculations and solved equations). And most of them found it interesting -- it was a puzzle to solve, a physical thing that they were expected to figure out how it worked. Once one group figured out that graphing their data might help, all of sudden someone would realize it was a parabola... and pretty soon they could come up with an equation.

      Exploratory science is essential for education -- that's how little kids learn. But many of them have is stomped out of them by middle school, forced to sit in desks and learn things by rote or by doing dozens of repetitive exercises. There is certainly a place for memorization and repetition, but there's no reason why science can't also include fun exploratory activities.

      You can talk about the definition of a "theory" or "hypothesis" or whatever until you're blue in the face, but nothing beats making kids actually have to DO IT.

      Science is treated like a religion, and the philosophy of science and especially its skepticism is missing in the discussion, covered instead by "omg isn't this science looking thing cool".

      And this is precisely the problem with science education that isn't fun and exploratory in nature. If kids spend years sitting in science classrooms being dictated to and told the "facts" of science, when and how exactly are they supposed to acquire the skills to form and evaluate their own hypotheses with appropriate skepticism? If they never try to do it, how would you expect people to be able to do it regarding other science they encounter in the world in their lives?

      Of course those sorts of skills are hard to test on things like standardized tests, so teachers in many public schools feel like they don't have time to actually train kids in the actual process of DOING science, rather than memorizing facts ABOUT it.

      Pseudoscience abounds. Looks at nutrition science. You can't even tell anymore what is actual science and what is total nonsense based on anecdote... because the methods are almost the same.

      I'm not sure precisely what you're referencing. Nutrition science, properly speaking, is NOT based on "anecdote" more than anything else -- it requires data collection, control groups, data analysis, etc.

      But the big problem with much of science -- and not just nutrition, but medicine in general, and psychology, and most "social science" (increasingly even harder sciences) -- is the substitution of (badly done) statistical procedures for any semblance of experimental judgment. We now live in a world where we act as though simple statistics can "do science" for us -- and we have all the thin

    • Science isn't supposed to be fun. It's a method and its rigorous.

      OB: xkcd [xkcd.com].

    • "Science isn't supposed to be fun."

      Not for those who practice it, but for the rest of us it should be, so that we will support the scientists rather than being afraid of everything they accomplish.

      Yes, I Fucking Love Science and I'm proud of it.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 27, 2015 @04:26PM (#50609177)

      Science isn't supposed to be fun.

      Speaking as someone with a Ph.D. in Biochemistry and who is currently working in a scientific laboratory (as in, it's Sunday afternoon and I'm literally sitting at my desk in lab while I type this), this statement comes as a surprise to me.

      I definitely didn't choose it for my health (viz. I'm working in lab on a Sunday afternoon), and the money certainly isn't all that great. "Fame and fortune" are not really in the cards, either (there's no Kaley Cuoco knocking on my door) - the most I can hope for is respect among my peer group in the rather narrow field I'm in. Given the current science funding climate and the abundance of Ph.D.s in my field, job certainty also isn't all that grand either.

      So why am I doing it? Because I enjoy it. Because there is immense satisfaction in staring the world in the face and wrestling knowledge from it's byzantine grasp. Is science a laugh a minute and all excitement? Certainly not. It can be slow, tedious, and at points soul crushing. I have yet to meet a scientist who doesn't look at their time as a Ph.D. candidate and think that most of it was a pointless waste. And still ... "third time pays for all", as they say, and the good times outweigh the bad. It *is* enjoyable, and any time I forget that, I just need to go to a seminar where a colleague is presenting their latest research, and I'm reminded about how fun and interesting this whole enterprise really is.

      So I, as a scientist, completely reject your statement that "science isn't supposed to be fun". If you're dong it right, it *is* fun and it *should* be. But it's fun in the same way that playing sports is fun - you have moment of glory in the game, but tempered by hard work and perseverance during practice, with an underlying satisfaction about doing a job right. It's not nonstop excitement, but then neither is anything else in the world.

      I certainly agree that the "I Fucking Love Science" crowd really doesn't understand science -- but in part that's due to the very way we're teaching science that's being decried in the article. Science is presented as amazing knowledge bequeathed upon the world by mysterious adepts. The "How come? Why? What's this?" attitude which is really the core of science is replaced by "Thus sayeth SCIENCE!" proclamations. Actual scientist who do actual science have a much more "play like" attitude to the process: "what happens when I do X?" "I want to tweak X, Y and Z, and figure out what happens." The grade school formalism of "scientific methodology" is a caricature of what actually happens (much like the "how a bill becomes a law" story is a caricature). And this stilted formalism only serves to cement the image of scientist as stolid masters of arcana whose word is "truth".

      So, yeah, ccience is a method, and it is rigorous, but it's fun, too. And people would be better off if they understood why it's fun.

    • Very, very true. Many treat science as a body of knowledge to be queried for what is true rather than a method of demonstrating what it is false.

    • Science isn't supposed to be fun

      That is not the point. No, it's not supposed to be fun. But it can be. Science can be exhilarating, heart-pounding and absolutely amazing. High-definition images from Mars, cures for debilitating diseases, allowing disabled people to walk again, nigh-infinite distributed clean energy and even uncovering the very fabric of the universe!

      We probably thoroughly agree that (good) science is often also hard and arduous. Guess what: so are tons of jobs. Yet science is regarded as the stuffy shit the weird kids do.

      • Science isn't supposed to be fun

        That is not the point. No, it's not supposed to be fun. But it can be. Science can be exhilarating, heart-pounding and absolutely amazing.

        Yer damn right its fun. I've caught shit in here by a lot of Slashdotters because of all the hours that I worked, and lots of things outside my education.

        But I went to interesting places, did a lot of interesting things, and did a lot of science.

        Why? It was freaking fun. Made for a career rich beyond measure.

    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      Science isn't supposed to be fun. It's a method and its rigorous.

      Really, you either suck at science or you do not know how to do it at all. Unless you are having fun with some parts of what you are doing as a scientist, you will never produce anything worthwhile.

      That is not to say that there are not a lot of bad actors are using the claim that they are doing "science" these days to sell you things, including "philosophies". I do not dispute that and it is truly despicable and repulsive.

    • Science isn't supposed to be fun.

      Speak for yourself. Science is a blast. Just because you don't like it doesn't mean eveyone is like you.

  • Whenever we had to do anything in school that was supposed to be "fun", I wished I'd skipped school that day. I could have used the time to do something I actually liked doing, but instead we spent hours learning something we could have learned in a few minutes. And it wasn't fun.

    Fun and a sense of "discovery" aren't really possible in a highly structured school environment. You can't do anything but follow the instructions. How is that fun? What did I discover other than the fact that science experime

    • Re:Time vs. "fun" (Score:5, Insightful)

      by PvtVoid ( 1252388 ) on Sunday September 27, 2015 @02:34PM (#50608705)

      I doubt professional scientists think their work is "fun".

      If that's true, it's only because professional scientists spend the vast majority of their time doing things that aren't science: grant management, administration, job interviews, committee meetings. Every scientist I know is desperately trying to get away from all of that bullshit and get back to having fun: i.e., doing science. Science is so much fun that scientists are willing to put up with all the PHB college adminstrators that fill their days, just for those moments of science, which are pure joy.

      • by Kohath ( 38547 )

        I still doubt it. But if someone genuinely experiences "joy" doing such work, then I'd suggest that's not a feeling that would be common to a large percentage of people. I'm not sure why everyone should have to do things a specific way because that method might appeal to a small minority. Maybe one-size-fits-all government education isn't really desirable...?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        BS.
        I'm a physicist, doing basic science at a research lab.

        I can assure you: None of the people there do it for the money! We all do it because it is _FUN_!
        Doing something nobody has ever done before, thinking about things nobody has ever considered before, and building stuff to do an experiment is fun, fun, fun!

        Rigorous method and stuff: yes. Grant management, admin, etc.: Yes. Of course we have to do it.
        But the the driving force, the reason _why_ we are doing it is _exclusively_ fun!

        [ I could easily earn

    • I doubt professional scientists think their work is "fun".

      My father was a computer scientist and oceanographer for 40 years and always marveled at the fact that people would pay him to do what he would gladly do for free. He had quite a bit of fun.

      • by Kohath ( 38547 )

        My father was a computer scientist and oceanographer for 40 years and always marveled at the fact that people would pay him to do what he would gladly do for free. He had quite a bit of fun.

        People exaggerate. When someone says something like this, it's not literally true.

    • I doubt professional scientists think their work is "fun".

      Everyone I worked with disputes your ridiculous claim. WE were enjoying ourselves so much that we sometimes forgot to go home. Around 7: the wives started calling.

      Just because you have a white hot seeting hatred for any and all matters science, doesn't mean everyone else thinks like you do.

      • by Kohath ( 38547 )

        Seems hard to believe. But even if true (and no one offers any evidence or any supporting arguments at all, just anonymous claims posted on the Internet), what's fun for a very small subset of people isn't necessarily going to be fun for anyone else.

        • There's anonymous claims on the Internet with scientists claiming that science, overall is fun, and people describing scientists that agree with that. Do you have any actual evidence that scientists don't think science is fun, or are you just stuck to your own opinion?

          To put this another way, why do people become scientists? Considering the level of education required, the pay is crap, the hours are long, the job market is bad, and it's often necessary to move all over the world. Since the extrinsic r

  • is not 'science'. Knowing how to repeat a recipe is not a scientific endeavour, neither is the process of repeating it. Your barber knowing about pH is not a scientific endeavour.

  • by Tokolosh ( 1256448 ) on Sunday September 27, 2015 @02:26PM (#50608643)

    "I don't want my child anywhere near chemicals. They are bad for us and evil companies are destroying the planet."

    My son was excited to take high school chemistry. After the first day I asked him what they had done. Nothing, just a lecture about good behavior and harassment. Second day: lecture about safety. Third day: more safety and protective equipment. Fourth day: Had the fear of god put in them for doing anything whatsoever unauthorized. Fifth day: Forced to sign a "contract", brought home for parent's signature too.

    Second week: Fully kitted with coats, glasses, gloves - observed effect of vinegar and baking soda solution on litmus paper.

    Lord help us.

    • Good god! I hope they never mixed the baking soda and vinegar!
    • by Rhywden ( 1940872 ) on Sunday September 27, 2015 @05:59PM (#50609553)

      When I'm doing my safety lecture, I'm always demonstrating why some behaviours are not smart. Either by showing videos and photos, or actually doing an experiment which "goes wrong".

      Much better if pupils know why some stuff is forbidden.

      However, I'm, also showing them that the acids and lyes they'll be working with are not something to be massively afraid of. Respectful, yes. Afraid, no.

      • by gweihir ( 88907 )

        And that is the only way to do it right. Some theoretical warnings will either get ignored or, worse, result in people that are to afraid to try anything at all. You have to justify an warning. A warning is something that should come with some level of shame and things can only be made right by really demonstrating why the warning is necessary. Unjustified restrictions are the hallmark of a controlling, totalitarian mind-set.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      My wife does something similar when teaching science. The first few experiments are ridiculously safe. The goals are to get into a safe habit and (more importantly) figure out which students are going to act like total morons. Later on they get to play with acid, fire, sharp objects.

  • I'm not sure this is really supported by the article. The first paragraph says,

    Despite the subject’s reputation, and the fact that schools treat it like the class where fun goes to die, kids are more excited about science, on average, than math, English and social studies, according to a new report.

    So science classes must be doing something right.
    Seriously though, school isn't entertainment. If kids want to enjoy themselves, they should be taught the pleasure of learning something new.

  • by joe_frisch ( 1366229 ) on Sunday September 27, 2015 @02:27PM (#50608647)

    There are two parts to "science". There is learning some of the vast amount of science that has already been done, and there is learning how to do science. Both are important, and both can be made interesting by a good teacher and dull by a bad one.

    • There are two parts to "science". There is learning some of the vast amount of science that has already been done, and there is learning how to do science. Both are important, and both can be made interesting by a good teacher and dull by a bad one.

      Go to youtube and do a search on "Periodic Table of Videos" The main host of the series is Martyn Poliakoff, an incredibly charming fellow with a wild head of hair.

  • by Xaemyl ( 88001 ) on Sunday September 27, 2015 @02:28PM (#50608657)

    This is a problem for school overall. Its pretty fucking boring.

  • She's an engineer. She probably doesn't even know what "pH balance" actually means, somebody just told her that "this in hair good, that in hair bad". She's probably never even read a peer-reviewed journal. And she doesn't need to. Of course all this was at some point discovered by scientific researchers, but the research itself was "fun" in the way most kids perceive fun. It was probably hard work, and boring. Science is study, discovery and hard work. Engineering is applying the results of that study.
    • A hairdresser isn't an engineer. She's an artist. There's no equations for getting your hair to behave. Well, I'm sure there are, but they're not teaching them in beautician college.

  • Mythbusters do it right - they show that it's nothing special with science.

    The problem is that today it's more popular with implausible reality shows.

  • by Streetlight ( 1102081 ) on Sunday September 27, 2015 @03:11PM (#50608867) Journal
    Science does involve knowledge of facts as well as hypotheses and theories. Without knowledge of the known facts determined by scientific experiment one might just be condemned to relearning what others have already discovered instead of extending that knowledge to ongoing studies or new areas of discovery.

    Furthermore, one of the problems in some parts of the world and in particular some states of the USA is an anti science culture. Some folks have used various governmental school agencies to restrict the teaching of many scientific disciplines including evolution because they think it contradicts biblical authority.

    In Colorado recently a state authority has reduced the standards for high school graduation by allowing lack of competence in science by graduates. Imagine a small school district that has budget problems and finds that the best way to solve it is to eliminate science education from the HS curriculum. Apparently that's possible with the new rules. These HS graduates obviously will be at a disadvantage trying to get into college, but the school district may have balanced its budget.
  • by j-beda ( 85386 ) on Sunday September 27, 2015 @03:21PM (#50608913) Homepage

    There is also the danger of selling something as "fun" in the way that going to a carnival might be "fun" versus selling it as something that is "rewarding" like perhaps the efforts necessary to train as a team to win a race, or the preparations necessary to do tasks like rock-climbing or other challenging tasks. If you tell someone "This thing is FUN!" then it seems much more likely that when they encournter aspects that are not effortless and completely entertaining, they will (rightly) decide that it is not "fun" and have much less chance beliving that is worthwhile.

    Coaches generally don't tell the players that "running lines" or doing pushups is "fun", but the players believe that doing those tasks is worthwhile and necessary to do what they want to do - get better at their sport and do well in the competitions. Almost nothing we do is "fun" in every aspect. Helping people to develop the ability to get satisfaction from doing a task well, and recognizing the benifits of focussed effort should be a primary goal of our general educational system. Having the student understand why they are doing whatever they are doing might also go a long way towards providing motivation for the activities. Having the instructors understand the purpose of activites as well is probably worthwhile too...

    With that said, unless one is trying some revers psychology or something, we shoud be trying as much as possible to limit the unpleasant aspects of learning in all areas. Pushups might be necessary in order to build athlete strength, but we do not have to do them on a field of broken glass.

  • by sandytaru ( 1158959 ) on Sunday September 27, 2015 @03:28PM (#50608953) Journal
    Oh sure, we were calculating velocity and acceleration and angles, but we were putting it to practical use with a Hot Wheels car on tracks set to angles to make them fly through a target. It was tons of math but also lots of giggling 17-year olds playing with cars like they haven't done in ten years.

    During another unit, we calculated our own personal horsepower by running up the stairs.
  • Recalling my Physics and Chem classes in high school (not even mentioning Math here), you lost half the general population after v = s / t.
    Newtonian Physics is already too hard to grasp for most students (in general) except for the ones in Advanced Math/Science classes.
    Yes experiments are fun, but they just showcase the problem or the reaction. The actual understanding comes from deriving formulas and doing the actual paperwork. That's the biggest part of the actual science.
    This is like saying they shoul
  • by DrLudicrous ( 607375 ) on Sunday September 27, 2015 @06:16PM (#50609625) Homepage

    While in grad school, I was lucky enough to be selected to teach elementary school science in an inner-city school as part of the NSF's GK-12 program. I team-taught with the main classroom teacher 4 afternoons a week, using inquiry-based methods. Our pedagogic approach was very hands-on, and we had to think on our feet a lot. It was not easy for us to lesson plan, but we did our best.

    The results? Out of ~35 kids, all of whom were getting free lunches (and all save one living in single-parent/grandparent households), most of whom had no previous science education, roughly 55% passed the state-mandate science proficiency test. That might not sound so great, but since the previous year's class had a passing rate of about 17%, we were ecstatic. We also had good participation in a "science club" held after-school, with more inquiry-based activities. At one point, late in the year, our students even understood free body diagrams (they were about 10 years old) as part of understanding Newton's 3rd law- something my college students typically struggled with.

    Inquiry is powerful stuff. It harnesses the thing that makes people interested in science in the first place: innate curiosity.

  • The vast bulk of elementary school teachers in the United States don't like Science, just as much as they don't like math.

    I am *NOT* saying that they are not good teachers. But rather - you're taking someone who probably never really liked those subjects in the first place, and are trying to get them to instill a joy in something that they, themselves, don't have in it to people. It just is not going to work!

    Let's look at the elementary school teachers here in the US.. most of them are coming from a liber

  • "NASA astronaut Mae Jemison schools treat science like the class where fun goes to die. "Kids come out of the chute liking science. They ask, 'How come? Why? What's this?' They pick up stuff to examine it. We might not call that science, but it's discovering the world around us," says Jemison. "Once we get them in school, we turn science from discovery and hands-on to something you're supposed to do through rote memorization"

    That doesn't describe any school I've ever been to.

    It certainly doesn't describe my

  • Any subject in general could be extremely fun to learn if the educational pace was more easy going. THAT is the problem.

    We are a generally long-lived species these days. Why in the hell do we need to compress several times the knowledge of 60 years ago into the same time span they had 60 years ago? It makes no sense to me. High school teenagers in AP (advanced placement) classes are competing so hard that they need to be up until 1am or 2am in the morning three or four times a week just to keep up with

The meat is rotten, but the booze is holding out. Computer translation of "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak."

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