When I was growing up, I was a bit of a science geek. You start out with the basics — bringing the outdoors indoors in jars. Mom saying, “make sure that lid’s on tight.” Having your aunt and uncle catch the bigger specimens for you. Then came space club. No one told you how to build the lunar module. You just got the card and the kit. I don’t think the teachers knew how to put the thing together either. I gave it my best shot. I never missed a splash down on TV. I said “One day, that rocket’s going to land like an airplane.”
In the pre-teen years I had a rock collection. I got turned onto geology. We had a few lessons about it in science class, but then the teacher had to get back to her full-time duty of disciplining the students who just wanted to throw rocks. So I struck out on my own with a science project on solar energy. I was reading Mother Earth News monthly. It was the organic granola eater’s resource for all things earth friendly. Back to basics. Mother Earth News published articles on raising live stock. Mind you, I’ve always lived in the city. That science project – I had no one to help me. Teachers had to take attendance. My family didn’t have scientific friends and the elders only knew the basic earth stuff to feed a family. I couldn’t find silicon cells in DC.
High school science was another speed bump. Public school labs lacked supplies. We didn’t get to cut open frogs, just worms and crayfish. Even that gave a lot of my classmates the willies so I volunteered to do it for them. The teacher spent the rest of the class lecturing us on why we could fail in life. In high school, I just gave up on science.
My science education story isn’t a happy one. But I’m in a happy place, so don’t worry about it. Yes, I would’ve liked to have had the choice or opportunity to consider MIT. But having an appreciation for science makes the regrets minor. I’ve always been interested in how things worked. But let this be a plug to demand quality public education if nothing else.
This week, the President-elect’s address talks about science.