There’s that word again . . . WONDER

Students today are often immersed in an environment where what they learn is subjects that have truth and beauty embedded in them but the way they’re taught is compartmentalised and it’s drawn down to the point where the truth and beauty are not always evident.

It’s almost like that old recipe for chicken soup where you boil the chicken until the flavour is just . . . gone.

I have this video numerous times but it was only when I watched its creator David Bolinsky talk about it on TED that I heard that powerful word again: Wonder.

Here’s another take on it, this time from Simon Jenkins in the Guardian

I devour popular science, finding its history and its wonder a constant delight. . . . It is a mystery how so many science teachers can be so bad at their jobs that most children of my acquaintance cannot wait to get shot of the subject. I am tempted to conclude that maths and science teachers want only clones of themselves, like monks in a Roman Catholic seminary

Or how about George Monbiot:

We are deprived by our stupid schooling system of most of the wonders of the world, of the skills and knowledge required to navigate it, above all of the ability to understand each other. Our narrow, antiquated education is forcing us apart like the characters in a Francis Bacon painting, each locked in our boxes, unable to communicate.

This one is mine – maybe we should form our own society!

We educators take this incredibly exotic jungle of knowledge called Science and distil it until all the wonder has been removed and we are left with nothing but a heap of dry shavings. We then pour this drivel into our syllabus and textbooks and make our students learn it off by heart so that it can all get vomited back up come exam time.
And then we wonder why so many young people don’t like science.

It’s really such a shame that the wonder of Science only seems to be spoken about by artists, poets and writers. Why do scientists (and science teachers, and in particular those who are responsible for drafting the science syllabi) hide from it so much?

Would they not accept that by acknowledging the Wonder that lies at the heart of the subject we might actually engage the students a little more? Maybe it goes right back to the origins of Science.  Adam Smith once wrote that “Science is the great antidote to the poison of enthusiasm and superstition” and the philosophy behind the world’s first scientific society was to discover knowledge, not by force of argument or flowery speech, but rather as a result of cold, objective facts (hence the gradual removal of the use of the first person singular when describing experiments and the move towards the more impersonal ‘the experiment was set up as seen in the diagram’).

What a disservice we do to our students.


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