Saturday, September 26, 2009

C.P Snow's Two Cultures are battling it out in Suburban Melbourne

I am a scientist by nature and training, while my_reason_for_living is a big brained Ph.D of Humanities.

So we are waged in a constant struggle over where the heart and mind of the nine year old weapon_against_society will lead.

I am pleased to declare that the forces of order and light have won a significant victory.

This week we got the_weapon's results from NAPLAN. The National Assessment Program for literacy and numeracy conducted on every year three student in Australian schools. The_weapon tested high in everything, but it was in numeracy he kicked butt. He did so well we considered getting him tested genetically to see if he is Asian.

There are a lot of things which contributed to this, lots of time on basic numeracy drills, he works a lot on an on-line program called Mathletics and he is learning piano and there is some evidence that it contributes to mathematical ability though there is some question over correlation and causation. Kids who are good at maths do well at music or the learning music helps them do maths.

The final salvo came when the_weapon declared one evening

"I want to be a particle physicist"

I suspect interest in quatum mechanics comes from the same place he learned the song he was singing on a street corner in Brisneyland last week to a friends Ipod

Our whole universe was in a hot dense state,
Then nearly fourteen billion years ago expansion started. Wait...
The Earth began to cool,
The autotrophs began to drool,
Neanderthals developed tools,
We built a wall (we built the pyramids),
Math, science, history, unraveling the mysteries,
That all started with the big bang!

But not to be complacent I am seeking out other ways to brainwash the_weapon. Yes I realise its brainwashing any parent who calls it anything like socialization is deluding themselves, parenting is all about brainwashing and operant conditioning.

The latest tool in my arsenal to get him to join the side of science. The excellent work of the band 'The Might Be Giants' and their CD 'Here Comes Science'. Which has the_weapon singing this song around the house.

I love diggin' in the dirt
With just a pick and brush
Finding fossils is my aim
So I'm never in a rush
The treasures that I seek
Are rare and ancient things
Like velociraptor's jaw
Or archaeopteryx's wing

And all the kids
Who wanna see 'em
Are lining up
At our museum

I am a paleontologist
That's who I am, that's who I am, that's who I am
I am a paleontologist
That's who I am, that's who I am, that's who I am

so any other suggestions for ways to produce a science head?


  1. I reckon get 'em thinking like a scientist from day 1. Plug it into their world view. Understanding that the way to understand the world is to ask questions about it, and figure out ways of getting answers to those questions - explanations that don't rely on faith or superstition but on having a look and a fiddle about. Experimentally speaking anyway. Mythbusters et al isn't science, but at least they ask questions and test them in a vaguely scientific (if in no way rigorous) kind of way.

    They Might Be Giants have been doing this sort of stuff for a lot of years - there was that Sun song from about 20 yrs ago that some blokes in college played the arse out of under some misguided kitsch loyalty.

  2. Excellent Advice Dr Yobbo and Mythbusters is certainly a good way to introduce the scientific method. They also teach the very valuable lesson that boys like explosions.

  3. Wow,a particle physicist. That's impressive.

  4. Now all the lad needs to do is build a weaponised particle accelerator for his next science project

  5. I'm with Doc, 'cept not only would I help him discover NOT ONLY "explanations that don't rely on faith or superstition" but ALSO look at the universe in a way that doesn't solely rely on another sort of 'faith and generally accepted concensus for lack of any other explanation that isn't apparently contradictory to what we DAMN WELL want to believe how it is'. :o)

    Round the education. Don't give it a pointy end. It's good for the sole. Trust me. Just no church; they are hypocrites. ;O)

  6. The thing about science that makes it a special kind of knowledge, is that scientific knowledge claims can be backed up, tested and defended. So what really makes for a scientific world view is to get them asking the question "How do they know that?" when anyone makes any assertion that is a knowledge claim. I think that leads naturally to getting heavily into the history of science, something that is neglected way too much for nonsensical pedagogical reasons.

    Then of course you have to encourage them to practice asking that question *inwardly*, at least to avoid getting beaten up.

  7. Heidi Germanaus
    Thanks, it does make for a quizzical look when people ask him what he wants to be when he grows up.

    Looking forward to explaining how he got the radiation burns at the emergency ward.

    Moko 2.0
    I think I understand what you are saying and he has asked a lot about god and things of spiritual nature. I've tried to encourage his thoughts about it without biasing but I know thats impossible.

    I agree entirely espcially with the practical advice at the end

  8. All's fine and well, Barnesm, until he discovers that girls smell nice and all that nonesense. Then you'll have your work cut out for you.!

  9. intelliwench

    as long as she is the brainy sciency types how could it be a problem

  10. Yep - supposedly geeks and nerds are cool these days...