Having returned from the Great White North (which was beautifully green) and gotten back to my general level of being behind, I thought it was time to fulfill my promise.
First, my goal of discussing the nature of science was an abject failure. Actually it was a failure to launch as opposed to a failure in practice. In large part this is because I didn't have the time to carefully put together this component, since the students are spending ~ 2 hours setting up an experiment and analyzing the results, I have less than 2 hours to do any additional instruction (factor in the time that I give the students and myself a break about halfway through to enjoy some great snacks put out by the cooks). I also have to make sure I cover the material included on the exam (not that it matters a whole lot in my experience). So there really is limited time to deal with such a broad topic/issue unless its tied well into one of the former aspects of the class. Since I didn't take a great deal of time trying to do this, clearly I was unable to incorporate this discussion.
Second, one thing I did for most of the sessions was write the words "skepticism" and "trust" on the board before the students arrived. Once class began I asked whether each term had positive connotations or negative connotations. In the four or five sessions I did this, only one group thought "skepticism" was a positive term (although my skepticism leads me to consider that they figured out the "right" answer and may have been sucking up). All the others gave me the answer of "skepticism" is a negative thing and "trust" is a positive thing.
Think about that for a couple of minutes....
This actually depresses the shit out of me.
When looking at 60 of the most intelligent and educationally advanced individuals (from their peer group of high school students using some admittedly subjective criteria), almost all of them lack an appreciation for one of the greatest tools in their intellectual toolbox. I have heard many people stress the importance of teaching/training our students to be critical thinkers. If this cohort of students lack an understanding of the importance of skepticism, then what about those students not going on the college?
I see results like this and have a hard time not wallowing in the sense that our society is fucked. Maybe the gloom-and-doom is overstated and things aren't any worse than they were 100 years ago, hell maybe things are much better since we teach much more information in K-12 compared to 100 years ago. But I would argue that the forces arrayed against the individual are much worse now than ever before. Two words: Fox News. Media no longer provides information, media now basically tell us what to think (its the modern version of the church). Media today is like the automobile of the 1950s, it is an integral part of our lives that we have become dependent upon.
How does one survive in the echo-chamber that represents modern media if we are trained to cherish the trusting side of our nature and disparage the skeptical side?
Carl Djerassi (1923-2015): Chemist, writer, polymath, cultural icon
10 hours ago in The Curious Wavefunction