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-   -   Childhood Persuasive Essays (http://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=493026)

AlexChandler Apr24-11 10:39 AM

Childhood Persuasive Essays
 
I just had a thought that seems somewhat significant, so I thought I'd share it.

The structure of most "arguments" that make up the flimsy backbone of pseudoscience very much remind me of the type of arguments that I, and all other children in my school, were encouraged to make in english class, perhaps in middle school.

We were encouraged to think of some idea, and try to persuade others that the idea is right. We would then put together some facts and data that support the idea. Then, we would have a paragraph where we would refute the counter arguments.

The idea was to make the counter arguments sound ridiculous in the context of the paper. However we were not encouraged to take into consideration that our argument could be completely wrong, and we were not encouraged to consider that the counter arguments may actually be correct. We would try to find the counter arguments that were easiest to refute. If we found one that we couldn't refute, we would simply leave it out of the paper.

I find that most programs on the history channel (about ancient aliens.. etc.. ) follow this procedure almost exactly.

Why don't we promote scientific thinking to our children in schools? There is no class for general scientific thinking. There is only classes where you learn some facts about science, but no where can they see how science actually works, and the processes of scientific thinking. To me it seems that this is a problem, and perhaps a cause of much of the pseudoscience and wild claims that we see nearly every day.

JaredJames Apr24-11 12:18 PM

Re: Childhood Persuasive Essays
 
Quote:

Quote by AlexChandler (Post 3264238)
Why don't we promote scientific thinking to our children in schools? There is no class for general scientific thinking. There is only classes where you learn some facts about science, but no where can they see how science actually works, and the processes of scientific thinking. To me it seems that this is a problem, and perhaps a cause of much of the pseudoscience and wild claims that we see nearly every day.

Science classes do teach scientific thinking. You do experiments and learn how things work, that gives you a good insight into scientific thinking.

Simply doing a few experiments and being made to write them up gives a fantastic insight into how you should approach problems.

Pseudoscience claims come from flawed understanding of science for the most part or misrepresentation. Not incorrect scientific thinking. In fact, some can sound pretty good until you start digging around a bit.

The biggest problem is that if you don't know (or have no knowledge) to help you judge the validity of a claim, this 'good sounding stuff' can be pretty convincing. You can be as scientific as you like, but if you don't know better it won't help.

AlexChandler Apr24-11 12:30 PM

Re: Childhood Persuasive Essays
 
Quote:

Quote by JaredJames (Post 3264385)
Science classes do teach scientific thinking. You do experiments and learn how things work, that gives you a good insight into scientific thinking.

Simply doing a few experiments and being made to write them up gives a fantastic insight into how you should approach problems.

I do not know of many children who have been exposed to the type of science classes that you are speaking of. I surely wasn't. To me it seems that in most public schools, science teachers are under qualified, and often are unable to display scientific thinking themselves.

JaredJames Apr24-11 12:38 PM

Re: Childhood Persuasive Essays
 
Quote:

Quote by AlexChandler (Post 3264397)
I do not know of many children who have been exposed to the type of science classes that you are speaking of. I surely wasn't. To me it seems that in most public schools, science teachers are under qualified, and often are unable to display scientific thinking themselves.

It's standard curriculum in the UK. Legally must be taught in public schools.

You can't gain a GCSE in science without performing at least one experiment and writing it up.

DaveC426913 Apr24-11 12:49 PM

Re: Childhood Persuasive Essays
 
In the broader sense it is often called critical thinking. In school we were given assignments to analyze media claims critically (ausually commerical products), pull them apart and examine their veracity. I recall in grade 8 English, we were given an essay about a Kennedy assassination urban legend and asked to examine it critically for plausibility.

AlexChandler Apr24-11 12:51 PM

Re: Childhood Persuasive Essays
 
Quote:

Quote by JaredJames (Post 3264411)
It's standard curriculum in the UK. Legally must be taught in public schools.

You can't gain a GCSE in science without performing at least one experiment and writing it up.

Oh i see. My experience is only in America. But really... it seems to me that performing one experiment and writing it up is not going to give you a good sense of how science works. I think we should require a course for philosophy of science.

AlexChandler Apr24-11 12:54 PM

Re: Childhood Persuasive Essays
 
Quote:

Quote by DaveC426913 (Post 3264430)
In the broader sense it is often called critical thinking. In school we were given assignments to analyze media claims critically (ausually commerical products), pull them apart and examine their veracity. I recall in grade 8 English, we were given an essay about a Kennedy assassination urban legend and asked to examine it critically for plausibility.

This is wonderful. I wish my school had assigned me things like this. Was this at a public school?

JaredJames Apr24-11 12:54 PM

Re: Childhood Persuasive Essays
 
Quote:

Quote by AlexChandler (Post 3264435)
Oh i see. My experience is only in America. But really... it seems to me that performing one experiment and writing it up is not going to give you a good sense of how science works. I think we should require a course for philosophy of science.

Well you don't just do one, the curriculum outlines a good few for you to get used to it. It's just that the 'final' demands the skill to pass.

If it's critical thinking as per Dave above, we tackled it in many subjects. Not just science.

DaveC426913 Apr24-11 12:56 PM

Re: Childhood Persuasive Essays
 
Quote:

Quote by AlexChandler (Post 3264441)
This is wonderful. I wish my school had assigned me things like this. Was this at a public school?

Yes. Canada.

AlexChandler Apr24-11 01:00 PM

Re: Childhood Persuasive Essays
 
Quote:

Quote by JaredJames (Post 3264442)
Well you don't just do one, the curriculum outlines a good few for you to get used to it. It's just that the 'final' demands the skill to pass.

If it's critical thinking as per Dave above, we tackled it in many subjects. Not just science.

That is great! Im glad to hear that schools are promoting critical thinking. However, I still feel in america it is not being promoted well enough. A huge part of the U.S. blindly believes that the earth is literally about 6 thousand years old.

In high school, I knew that I liked science, but I was often unable to tell the difference between science and pseudoscience. I would buy into things like astral projection, or aliens, or homeopathy, because they sounded sort of scientific to me, and I really didn't have the tools to see through these things.

It wasn't until I started reading Carl Sagan's books (namely The Demon Haunted World) that I realized the importance of scientific skepticism, and started to get the hang of how science really works.

cobalt124 Apr24-11 02:07 PM

Re: Childhood Persuasive Essays
 
Quote:

Quote by AlexChandler (Post 3264397)
I do not know of many children who have been exposed to the type of science classes that you are speaking of. I surely wasn't. To me it seems that in most public schools, science teachers are under qualified, and often are unable to display scientific thinking themselves.

Quote:

Quote by AlexChandler (Post 3264435)
Oh i see. My experience is only in America. But really... it seems to me that performing one experiment and writing it up is not going to give you a good sense of how science works. I think we should require a course for philosophy of science.

That surely is not the general case in the U.S.??? Though it may explain the prevalence of pseudoscience and evangelism. When I did my GCE Physics and Chemistry waaaay back (U.K., when I was 14-16 years old) we performed and wrote up one experiment a week (each) for two years. I assumed this still happened now, but from what Jared is saying, maybe not.

JaredJames Apr24-11 02:11 PM

Re: Childhood Persuasive Essays
 
Well there are a fair few experiments to be done, but time and frankly, lack of effort means they just can't afford to do them.

With an incredibly motivated teacher you'd be doing one or more a week.

In my final years we were doing hardly any experiments unless desperately required in most classes, except for physics where our teacher was so motivated with the subject he would find any reason to get equipment out and have us perform and write them up (fantastic teacher, one of the best I ever had - we need more like him).

cobalt124 Apr24-11 02:26 PM

Re: Childhood Persuasive Essays
 
I know in GCSE History children are taught about primary sources and secondary sources and to critically analyse the validity of sources, something I never did, but I could probably still have a stab at recounting the Dreyfus Affair which, among other things, we learned rote.

FlexGunship Apr27-11 01:57 PM

Re: Childhood Persuasive Essays
 
I was educated in the U.S. and I got my first batch of critical thinking in 4th grade; excellent. Unfortunately, the second batch came as a junior in high school.

I specifically remember an English teacher in middle school that snatched a sci-fi book I was reading (in class, as instructed) out of my hand and said: "What does 'maelstrom' mean?" And I responded that it was like a whirlpool or a storm. And she told me I was wrong, and suggested that I might be better off reading something on the approved reading list. It actually took me a long time to convince myself that my definition wasn't really wrong.

My college, however, was excellent and promoted practical critical thinking in almost every class I took. It was an awesome change of pace... but it was a private school. I wonder if that's significant.

AlexChandler Apr27-11 04:27 PM

Re: Childhood Persuasive Essays
 
Hmm well it seems from the responses as though there is no problem in the educational system. However, I wonder if perhaps it only seems this way because, for the most part, only the people who did get a good science education with emphasis on critical thinking will end up chatting in a forum like this (especially in the section on skepticism and debunking).


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