Selling science Science isn’t attracting

Selling science
Science isn’t attracting girls — or boys either. This Christian Science Monitor article fumbles for a reason.

“Scientists are opinionated people,” says Michelle Thaller, an astronomer at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif. “The point is to prove the establishment wrong. And that’s the single biggest challenge facing women in science: You’re expected to act aggressively, and nobody trains you for that.”

Actually, I think many kids think scientists are fact-accumulating drones, not aggressive challengers of received wisdom. They agree with a girl at an IBM-sponsored science and technology camp. She wants to be a lawyer.

“Science is boring; I want to argue with people, just like Reese Witherspoon,” Karyn says, referring to the actress who played a Harvard Law School student in the film “Legally Blonde.”

Science is often taught poorly, if at all, in elementary and middle schools. Kids get a lot of tree hugging with very little science. In high school, biology tends to be taught by teachers who know enough about biology to make it interesting; chemistry and physics teachers don’t always know their subjects, much less how to reach students. Except for biology, which is quite popular, science is for geeks.

Update: Stephen Thomas writes that the humanities and sciences are not polar opposites:

I work in multimedia, in particular in the development of 3d immersion environments, or what I prefer to call the Holodeck. I’m a Star Trek fan. The sciences and humanities are merging in ways that seem of no interest to those in English and Education departments. . . .

My field demands people who can combine the talents of programming, script writing, musical composition, video development and just plain general computer smarts. It’s a very demanding field, and yes it does demand a lot of rote learning.

I think that you are misdirecting young people by implying that such work, in essence, lacks “glamour.” It does not. I use multimedia in my other work arena. I’m a professional musician. I see clearly that performance in the future will take place within the virtual environment, and I’m going to be one of the first to get there.

I meant that science is perceived as being geeky. Kids (and their teachers) don’t understand that they could do cool, creative things if they learn math, chemistry and physics.

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