It’s Easy to Teach Kids to Love Science. So Why Do We Keep Failing at It?
Science needs to be about discovery, not rote memorization.
Brian Greene is an American theoretical physicist and string theorist. He has been a professor at Columbia University since 1996 and chairman of the World Science Festival since co-founding it in 2008. Greene has worked on mirror symmetry, relating two different Calabi–Yau manifolds (concretely, relating the conifold to one of its orbifolds). He also described the flop transition, a mild form of topology change, showing that topology in string theory can change at the conifold point.
Greene has become known to a wider audience through his books for the general public, The Elegant Universe, Icarus at the Edge of Time, The Fabric of the Cosmos, The Hidden Reality, and related PBS television specials. He also appeared on The Big Bang Theory episode "The Herb Garden Germination," as well as the films Frequency and The Last Mimzy.
Brian Greene: I think there are a lot of reasons why there are some people — and I don’t consider it to be some major epidemic sweeping the land, but yes, there are some people who resist the insights of science. And I think a lot of this has to do with how we teach science to young kids in school, right. For many people — and I’m talking from experience — people have told me this that science for them in school they didn’t understand it as a body of investigative knowledge that gives us insights into how the world works. No, for them it was some facts that they were made to memorize and spit back on an exam that had no direct relevance to anything that they could directly see or touch or in some sense it was just abstract nonsense that they were force to memorize.
The tragedy of that is when a young kid realizes that science reveals the hidden underside of reality and what it reveals is so exciting — when I talk to kids and tell them about black holes, tell them about the Big Bang, tell them about quantum mechanics and quantum tunneling, how particles can go through barriers that you wouldn’t have thought possible, I can’t tell you the number of times kids will say to me, that’s science? That’s cool. And science needs to have that experience for kids where it just grabs them as the most exciting dramatic story of discovery. And if you have that experience as a young kid, science is not a subject. It’s not a test that you have to take. Science is your ticket to understanding the world and the universe and then it’s with you for life. If you can have that experience, it changes everything.
Directed / Produced by Jonathan Fowler, Elizabeth Rodd, and Aaron Lehmann
Science needs to be about discovery, not rote memorization. Kids become turned off of science at an early age because the way we teach it makes such little sense. "Science is your ticket to understanding the world and the universe and then it’s with you for life," explains theoretical physicist Brian Greene. "If you can have that experience, it changes everything."
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