Catching up on my podcasts this morning, I listened to a really interesting episode of Skeptically Speaking: #169 Play Reality. While the first part of the episode about gaming was interesting, the second part featuring a panel of children at LogiCON 2012 speaking about their interest in science really got me thinking.
I think the core ideas I took away from this interview come from these few excerpts:
Desiree: ” …has there ever been a time that an adult tried to encourage you to become involved in science in a way that was spectacularly unsuccessful?”
Evin: “…they tell us these things, but they don’t tell us why these things are happening…They told us the information we should know, but not like why we should know the information”
Evin: “…everybody in the class as early as kindergarten and grade one, we all had this common interest for science but we all mostly like to look at sort of space and aerodynamics, but we didn’t actually get those units until grade five. I think it would have catapulted all of us even higher if they had just done that.”
Desiree: “…do you think that the other kids would have thought the same thing or do you think it just would have helped the people that were already sort of going that direction anyway?”
Evin: “…when I was younger, my teachers all most scared me away from science. They sort of say it’s all complicated and that kind of thing, but once you sort of get a basic level of understanding, it just continues, it excels…”
Here’s what I hear this kid saying:
“We are interested in science now and ready for you to teach us now, not later when we’re older. Don’t assume we can’t understand it and discourage us by saying it’s too complicated. Capture our imagination now, don’t wait until later, it may be too late! And when you do teach us please don’t turn it into dry and boring facts.”
Since these children were attending Logicon, their interest in science may be the exception rather than the rule, but Evin’s statements make me wonder if these kids really have to be the exception. The big question is: what can we as parents, as family, as teachers, as role models, and finally as skeptics do to capture children’s imaginations early and to kindle their interest in science rather than extinguish it?
by Benjamen Johnson
This week my daughter receives her first communion. I’m not really pleased about her being exposed to the Catholic church, but that’s a rant for a different time. What it did get me thinking about is how Catholics celebrate the sacrament. The 2nd graders prepare for a whole year, learning about the event which eventually culminates in a special mass where the children are the center of attention. They dress in fancy clothes…especially the girls who wear elaborate white dresses purchased specifically for the occasion. Their families and friends attend the special mass then, most of the time, everybody has a big party afterwards with cake and sometimes presents.
Does the description above sound like Catholics hold the first communion as an important achievement? It sure does to me. Now, how about birthdays? Do most people place undue importance on an arbitrary day that fall the same time every year? Party, cake, presents, friends…yep. Now contrast this with something we skeptics hold important: education.
A few weeks from now, my daughter will have her reading hall of fame ceremony at school. The children who have read 400 minutes on their own for at least eight months of the school year get to participate. Now that’s over 53 hours of reading over the course of the school year, a pretty big commitment and a huge accomplishment for a 2nd grader. Considering that how much a child reads is an important indicator on how well they’ll do in school, this is important, right? The school does try their best, they have an evening ceremony in the school gym where they receive medals. Most of the children and parents are dressed in their everyday clothes if they even bothered to attend. I’ve never heard of anyone having a party afterward.
My point is with these celebrations we are showing our children what we value. My wife and I place a high value on our children’s education, but as parents my wife and I aren’t showing this to our daughter. Imagine what you’d be saying to your kid about how important reading is, not to mention other kids and their parents, by having a very special ceremony and a giant party afterward with all their friends, cake, and presents. Isn’t this worth rewarding? Unfortunately I wonder how many people in my family would show up for such an event.
We’re stuck with the first communion and party this week, so we aren’t going to throw a party for my daughter’s reading hall of fame induction, but I am definitely going to do something special with her that week and make sure she knows why.