Double Helixes and Double Crosses (was: Favorite NON-fiction)

Wed Jan 29 08:22:17 PST 2003

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Andrew Lias [mailto:anrwlias at hotmail.com] 

> elsewhere, all 
> too often tends to emphasize the absorbtion of facts without 
> giving much, if 
> any, attention to the methodology, period.  As a consequence, 

Definitely.  My Human Physiology course as a senior in HS is a prime example (and also the only _biology-related_ course I think I ever took).  We spent the entire year studying what was covered in the first (two? Maybe three) chapters in excruciating detail.  After that year, I knew lots about the interior of cells and a wide variety of muscle types, etc. (Now it's twelve years later, and I can barely remember any of it. :)

The chemistry course I took with the same teacher (same year, even), I have to admit was better.  It was more method and "lab" oriented than the H.Physiology course.

> I have to disagree.  If I want to teach a 2nd grader about 
> farming, I'm 
> going to tell them farmers plant their crops, water and 
> fertilize them, and 
> harvest them.  I am not going to go into the intracacies of 
> crop rotation, 
> pesticide use, and the environmental impacts of farming.  Am 

I think it'd be worth-while to at least give a cursory nod towards these items.   I don't regard crop rotation as being that intricate, at least on the level that needs to be taught to a "layman".  Admittedly, there are limits in terms of the amount of time that a teacher can afford to spend on the topic "farming" before moving on to something else.

> I lying to the 
> kids?  No.  I am presenting a complex subject in a manner 
> sufficiently
I have to agree with you that "leaving out" crop rotation, pesticides, etc. is not lying to the student.  
> So it is with the generalized version of the Scientific 
> Method that most 
> people are presented with in grade school.  The problem is 
> an appropriate starting point for introducing the real methodology of 
> science.

It's a good starting point, but I fear that the study of it is limited to "memorize these three statements, you'll be tested on them" rather than discussing the important/whyfores of doing it that way.  Basically, the student memorizes the 2-3 statements, answers the question on the test successfully, and then that is it.  Instead, we need discussion of the theory of it, and then practice applying it (or judging whether others successfully applied it, if they're studying scientific history).

And this can be done at any age.  Start the year with discussing the scientific method.  Follow up with either reading about, or doing themselves, "experiments" where they apply the method.  The experiments can be exceedingly simple experiments: what happens if we plant these three kinds of seed?  What do you think will happen (Hypothesis), how would you find out (test), etc. ) for primary school, to complex for secondary school.  

It's my view that "primary school" instruction (and parents) underestimate the capabilites of the students and often "oversimplifies" material be presented.