Family Science Club

Pointing to the Author of Science


Nail that doesn't scratch glass..., 2016
...and beryl that does, 2016

Images: Top, a nail that cannot scratch glass, and Bottom, a piece of beryl that can. Taken by Kevin Weaver

What do They Teach in Schools These Days? (February 2016)

You might remember that line spoken by the professor in "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe."

He was referring to logic, but I (Kevin) remember thinking along those lines my first winter in Michigan. I was looking for a brass windshield scraper to replace my old one. I found one at the third or fourth auto parts store I checked.

It was a small, independent store on the northern edge of Grand Rapids. The man at the desk was older and weathered, so I figured he wasn't just a clerk. I told him of my trouble finding a good windshield scraper. I said, "Most of the places back home carry these brass scrapers."

He chuckled. "It's Michigan. Most people here think they'll scratch their windshields and don't buy them. I stock them because I know they work best. I'm from Pennsylvania, too. I was taught right in school."

I learned about the concept of material hardness back in junior high. Glass is harder than brass, even though it is metal, and therefore brass cannot scratch glass. Unfortunately, that was in the early eighties.

Now I have been back in Pennsylvania for almost two decades, and I do not notice many stores stocking brass window scrapers nowadays. I have to assume that people are not buying them because they do not trust them. It is not like they were much more expensive than the lousy plastic ones. The hardness of materials has not changed.

However, the content being taught in schools has. Again the question, "What do they teach in schools these days?" Might the change in teaching be a cause? The schedule at all schools is more crowded with new subjects than it used to be, so other things must be left out.

People with different political, philosophical and religious convictions often complain that certain classes are just opinion and do not belong in public schools. That may or may not be true, but certainly more time is spent on theoretical and social subjects than before. Kids are taught about the grand scheme of climate change. Are they getting enough time on the characteristics of rocks and other materials?

Much of the early modern work in astronomy, biology and geology was done as a way to better understand the world God created. The early scientist did not expect to create a theory to understand everything, because only God can do that. Instead, they studied one thing at a time, in careful detail, to build up a knowledge of how a given system works. Layman or young people interested in science repeated the experiments and research published by "professional" scientists to develop their own skill and to confirm the others' theories really did make sense.

We need to make sure that we do not rush our young people through the basics too fast. They need to truly understand what is going on with our climate, our environment, or even just the best way to maintain their homes and vehicles. Such things are far too important to simply trust them to a relatively small number of people who happen to be full-time scientists.

Beyond that, we recommend that adults who remember little of their high school or college science take some time to review it. Much of the rhetoric about big issues like climate change takes advantage of the fact that people rarely remember enough about how things work to be able to easily analyze what is being said. They expect people to take positions based on emotion ("The poor polar bears!") or self-interest ("The miners will all be put out of work!").

If you remember basic geology, chemistry, etc., you are far more likely to notice the true weaknesses in each position. If you notice the weaknesses, you are far more likely to think it through and take a good position on a given issue. Otherwise, you risk becoming the fool or the scoffer referred to in Proverbs. God wants us to be wise, not naïve, and definitely not deceived.