Clever Science

The London Times’ jolting revelation the other day that exam results are rigged – they didn’t use the word, but ‘readjusted grade boundaries’ about sums it up, filled me with horror. After I’d stopped laughing, of course. Any teacher who’s been in the game more than five minutes realises that a) kids concentrate less and dislike writing b) they don’t listen to explanations ’cause it’s patronising, innit, and they c) respond momentarily to videos and PowerPoint presentations in inverse ratio to the time it took to produce them. Most are unable to write a coherent, properly punctuated sentence and the flow of logical reasoning is about as alien as it would be to an emperor penguin. All this as well as a Government that decides in advance how many A grades it wants. 
Universities offer remedial reading programmes, which may or may not be an oxymoron. It might seem a tad obvious that people able to benefit from  degree courses ought perhaps to have some rudimentary understanding of their letters. A book published in 2001 entitled ‘Remedial Reading for University Students’ suggests without a trace of irony that ‘beyond word identification, the student may have demonstrated a need for assistance in comprehending ideas’. Quite so.
I began to wonder if I might just be turning a shade cynical, but, no, the dilemma extends to the production of ‘science’ programmes as well. The UK production Brainiac has a nodding acquaintance with science; is always good for an explosion or two – as long as there are pretty, semi-naked girls lighting the fuses – and sometimes holds the attention of clever thirteen-year-olds, especially when the signature caravan is blown up. In America, it would seem, the dilemma is more acute. This, paraphrased  from ‘The Onion’ – always a reliable, accurate source.
 
Science Channel president Clark Bunting told reporters Tuesday that his cable network was “completely incapable” of watering down science any further than it already had.
“Look, we’ve tried, we really have, but it’s simply not possible to set the bar any lower,” said a visibly exhausted Bunting, adding that he “could not in good conscience” make science any more mindless or insultingly juvenile. “We already have a show called Really Big Things, which is just ridiculous if you think about it, and one called Heavy Metal Taskforce, which I guess deals with science on some distant level, though I don’t know what it is.
Along with Bunting’s remarks, the Science Channel issued a statement claiming that staff members are unable to bring themselves to make programming hours even more asinine.
 
All of the foregoing is attributable in its entirety to the fact that I have had five days’ vacation which I have been able to use to actually think for myself before returning tomorrow to the trolls, gnomes and terminally challenged. Ho-hum. Attempting to teach Galilean empiricism to those who actually believe a sentence which begins – “scientists say…’ is an uphill battle, I think.
 
The image is what happens when you heat up a diamond and immerse it in liquid oxygen to form carbon dioxide. Riveting, isn’t it…



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