Tuesday, May 14, 2013

High School Science : 'Home of the Hubris' , STILL

Science (the resulting name for the 150 year old victory of Natural Philosophy over Natural History) is widely accepted to be primarily pedagogical in nature.

It exists as a subdivision of Philosophy and is designed primarily to do nothing more that to teach students (and the adult laity) formal and informal lessons in metaphysics and ethics, 'Drawn from Nature' as Science understands it.

Natural History has had to retreat to those vast areas of useful if messy , applied technology : areas like engineering, industrial processes and clinical medicine, where much 'trial and error' is required to align classroom theory to the reality at hand.

By contrast,  parents can rest assured that all real reality has been carefully airbrushed away from intro University undergraduate science courses, which together with their bigger and older brothers in the High School sciences,  continue to supply the world with most of its Popular Hubris.

High School Science continues to be the 'Home of the Half-Filled Glass Science', the place of Panglossian Science, where Mid Victorian Optimism burns as brightly as ever.

High School Science syllabus setters claim that setting real world problems for lessons and exams would be too tough for young people to answer correctly.

'Let them wait till they are adult engineers and doctors to have to struggle to figure out the actual solutions, out in a real world where Ceteris Paribus never applies'.

But of course the vast percentage of students never go on to be professional scientists or engineers and doctors and get a chance to learn to wrestle daily with the difference between idealized high school science theory and messy reality .

Instead they grow up to become voters and politicians, generals and soldiers, CEOs and machine operators.

All of them, as a result of formal education (together with the drip-drip media pronouncements from the High School's fellow travellers, the science journalists, sic ) remain as deluded as 16 year old High School kids.

Deluded into believing that because Newtonian science can more or less successfully predict the paths of a half dozen placid , near-by, large planets that this means it can also predict the paths of smaller and more dangerous objects.

Like darkly invisible, tiny, unpredictable asteroids, or ballistic shells fired off twenty miles away, or incoming raindrops.

My idea of an ideal High School science course would be one where the children know less, for absolutely certain, than they did before they came in, where they fail to correctly answer the exam questions but give it as good a first try as any working engineer might do.

Because out in the real Universe,out beyond Newton and Galileo, there is no real absolute vacuum for objects to move through, and so those objects are always affected by the arbitrarily accumulated (not cross-cancelling) effects of other forces and objects---- and kids today might as well know that from day one.

The real reason why High Schools continue to focus on teaching Newton,Dalton and Darwin, more than a century after they stopped being cutting edge science, is that they impart to the students a hugely self-confident scientific sense of imperialism ; that out there is a world and a universe just waiting to be easily and safely exploited by Man's Science.

In a world where mining company executives continue to hold far more sway than do their environmentally concerned critics, High School Science teachers are going to continue to be compelled to teach self-preening, self-esteem and 'uplift'.

And it won't stop until environmentalists back off attacking mining executives and focus instead on questioning Popular Scientific Hubris at its fount : High School....

1 comment:

  1. Personally, whenever I see today's HS science teachers still trotting out Newton Dalton and Darwin and then giving a last minute, token, nod to Quantum science I wonder why they have a quantum GPS in all their cars, if Newton is really so great.

    Good science ? Or just bad acid ?