Why children now love the appliance of science at school
PUBLISHED: 16:14 16 January 2012 | UPDATED: 09:12 15 February 2012
I've often thought that scientists are on to a clever racket. Most of us, baffled by the mere mention of anything vaguely mathematical or technical, immediately bow to the seemingly superior brains of the scientific, blindly believing everything they say.
Remember the time they purposely programmed every computer to read the year code “00” as 1900 instead of 2000 and then spent years rabidly prophesising Doomsday scenarios involving planes dropping like stones out of the sky, the till at Tesco charging everyone £3 million for a can of fruit salad and nuclear reactors combusting on the strike of midnight? Or the time they told us they’d found “the missing link” at Piltdown? Or when they said the earth was flat? Or when they claimed cigarettes and excessive alcohol were bad for you? It was all rubbish.
Nonsensical tripe from people who were trying to reanimate roadkill in the attic with lightning, nail varnish remover and some spark plugs when their classmates were hanging round in bus shelters experimenting with the opposite sex.
Of course the young scientists wanted to experiment with girls too. But there are laws against that kind of thing and besides, it’s difficult to muffle screams when you’re holding a Bunsen burner in your other hand.
Occasionally, when I think about the importance of finding a cure for cancer or inventing a mass market hover car, I worry that the entire population is as narrowminded and blinkered as I am about science.
But, it seems, my fears are unfounded. A new survey shows that science is, in fact, the subject that most GCSE students like best. The only saving grace, and suggestion that today’s teenagers aren’t robots, is that maths is below English on the ‘favourite subject’ list.
I was an annoying child, an overachiever and all-round teacher’s pet who spent all my high school lunchtimes doing extra-curricular activities and begging staff to let me take my O levels early.
That I had any friends whatsoever was a miracle – I think I was even too dull to be bullied – and that I am not bathing in lakes of my own cash every night considering the vast stash of qualifications I amassed in a few short years is a continuing tragedy.
Although I was very academic, some would say pathologically academic, my Achilles heel was mathematics. Numbers are, and have always been, a foreign concept to me. I understand that people are able to solve quadratic equations, my problem is coming to terms with why they might want to.
Being single-minded and desperate to go and greet the golden intelligentsia I assumed would be waiting for me at university (a misconception which was swept away in a tsunami of blandness during fresher’s week), I persevered until I finally passed the GCSE maths qualification I needed to do my degree.
I was lucky – the year I re-sat my maths exam was the advent of GCSEs and I swear they lowered the bar to massage pass rate statistics for the government. I say this without political agenda – it’s just that I was really, really crap at maths.
The government launched a new drive in 2009 to convince teenagers that science and maths was exciting and fun after research revealed that teens thought both were “geeky and dull”.
Lessons were jazzed up as children were encouraged to walk across gigantic pools of custard in order to teach them about the strength of starch molecules.
My daughter comes home from school regularly telling me about what they’ve been setting on fire or launching into orbit.
I learned enough in science to know that my brain cells are dying as I hurtle at the speed of light towards my twilight years, but even I can remember a distinct lack of gigantic pools of custard or rocket launchers in the science lab.
Instead, there was the periodical table to learn, the individual bones in the ear to memorise and three weeks of red-hot flower porn involving stiffened stamens and explosions of sticky pollen. The closest we got to excitement was when the classroom had to be evacuated after someone smashed a thermometer, sending mercury bouncing across the floor.
We all really learned something about science that day, and as a result, far more thermometers were smashed when things got really dull. I’m glad that children like science more than I did. Frankly, I am use to neither man nor beast and I am relying on the next generation to find the secret of immortality in order that I can continue to be useless forever.