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Introducing African American Scientists to kids in Middle School- High School

  1. Apr 17, 2012 #1
    1. Dr. Meredith Gourdine for Physics- Physicist who is best known for
    finding a successful method to use the principles of EGD to directly
    convert gas to electricity.

    2. Percy Julian for Biology- He created derivative drugs to treat
    glaucoma and arthritis.

    3. Lloyd A. Hall for Chemistry- Chemist Lloyd Augustus Hall is best known
    for his work in the field of food technology, where he developed
    processes to cure and preserve meat.

    4. Elijah Mccoy- Inventor who is best known for inventing the automatic
    lubricator for oiling boats and automobiles.

    5. Granville T. Woods- Granville T. Woods developed variety of inventions
    relating to the railroad industry such as the telegraphony.

    6. Lewis Latimer- Lewis H. Latimer was an African American scientist who
    is best known for the significant modifications he made to Thomas Edison's light bulb to make it longer lasting.

    7. Garrett A. Morgan- He was an inventor who is best known for inventing
    a device called the Morgan safety hood and smoke protector.

    If you were to introduce these guys in school for certain subjects (such as biology, chemistry, physics, math and etc) to kids how would you do it? When and what course would you relate and connect these inventors to? I want to introduce them at some point but I don't know when is it best? What fundamental concepts are some of these men known for related to?
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 17, 2012 #2
    What a crazy question! So, on the one hand, race doesn't matter, but on the other, we are going to specifically mention black people. Why is this? Blacks aren't the only minority. How do you introduce every other scientist/inventor/mathematician? I would do it EXACTLY like that.
  4. Apr 17, 2012 #3
    My focus is on Blacks only because if I account for everyone the list would be very long. But you're right, how exactly would we do this? I think it would be great if more schools offer a history course on the progression of Science from a variety of cultures. It'll make their Science courses much more meaningful.

    But my question isn't too crazy. So for example... Dr. Meredith Gourdine, if you were a High School Physics teacher when would you start connecting his work of EGD to directly convert gas to electricity?
  5. Apr 17, 2012 #4
    Surely you don't meant that the only minority scientists you are going to discus are the black ones.

    I would completely forget about race or nationality. Then, I would mention a scientist if he has done something that warrants a mention. THEN if the fact that he is black/Hispanic/female is relevant, mention that fact.
  6. Apr 17, 2012 #5
    Of course. But for this topic they are. It's just something I wanted to ask people planning for black history month next year.

    You're right one should completely forget about race and nationality. But one would also want to diversify and expose the younger generation about science in multiple aspects. If you open a textbook today the majority of the texts are dominated by Western Civilization's views. I find it important to expose them to as many facets of science as possible.
  7. Apr 17, 2012 #6
    Well, there's a rather good reason for this: The US is a Western Civilization.

    As for science, there is also a good reason that most of the scientists discussed are white men. It is because most of the scientists are white men (at least historically, I don't know what the demographics are now.) Of course, there are many disturbing reasons that this is the case, but it is a fact.

    But, like I said, just bring the black scientists up when you are teaching about whatever topic they worked in. Then, if you want, say something like "Oh, this guy was black, which meant he had to overcome these difficulties: X, Y, Z, etc"
  8. Apr 17, 2012 #7


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    What do you mean "Western Civilization's views"? There are no "views" in science. There are only facts.
  9. Apr 17, 2012 #8
    The science are facts but this isn't always true with the history of science. We base our history only on written works and evidence. When the evidence is destroyed it is hard to really say.
  10. Apr 17, 2012 #9
    Right. But we are also a country of many cultures. It won't do us any good if we don't expose them to Non-Western aspects of Science too. For a minority kid who sees only white men making contributions towards Science he'll eventually will wonder about the one's that are not. Why not expose it to them while they are young?

    It really depends on how you interpreted what a Scientist is. There's been thousands of men other than white men who has made remarkable discoveries that has contributed to Science too.

    I am not bringing up a Scientist in class just because of their color. I am just trying to incorporate Scientists of all cultures. It just happens the ones I've asked opinions on how to link them with the lessons is because the school wants teachers to incorporate that group into the lessons and I wanted to see how some would approach this.
  11. Apr 20, 2012 #10
    In my opinion that causes even more divide than it helps quell the relations between people who still view others in terms of "race", and it doesn't stop people from seeing only the surface of the person. A lesson should only incorporate relevant material, and on the off-times, incorporate interesting facts.
    Even if the scientist was black, noting his/her skin-color is not exactly beneficial as I see it as more degrading to the point of, "here this scientist did x and y, oh but wait! he is black as well!", that doesn't seem like something relevant in the science curriculum. Not only irrelevant, other scientists usually in the western world (text wise) are noted based on nationality, i.e. American, European, etc..., so simply saying it's black is something more disparaging and tips the line of the "us vs. them" mentality.

    Rarely do we discuss the aspects of other scientists phenotype within course-work, but just the scientists work itself. To mention race only stifles progression in the human relations department. I know you mean well, but that isn't the way to go about it.

    Aren't those scientists American (Granville being Canadian-American)? Weren't they westernized-American people as well? Saying they are of a different culture isn't exactly correct. Yes, they aren't white, but being white isn't a requisite to being of American culture.
  12. Apr 21, 2012 #11
    I suggest you give an even handed and accurate representation of the history of scientific advancement.

    Anything else comes off as an attempt to promote a social agenda which I think has no place in the education system although it's pretty clear those who control it disagree with this position.
  13. May 6, 2012 #12


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    It's probably best to introduce them as early as possible, e.g., in 4th grade. Otherwise, their particular achievements could be introduced in respective courses, e.g., biology, chemistry, physics or a general science course.

    Let's not forget George Washington Carver. He made quite an impression on me when I was very young. He was one my earliest scientific heros.

    Here's a good resource African Americans in Science
    Last edited: May 6, 2012
  14. May 6, 2012 #13


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    so the school has given you a list?

    i'm wondering, which side are they on? :redface:

    any kid bright enough to be a scientist is bright enough to see that this is a list of very minor contributions

    until recently, it has been almost impossible for a black person/person of colour/african american to become a scientist

    are you using this list to try to prove that black people can be just as good scientists as white people?

    it makes much more sense to start from that premise (as being blindingly obvious), and use the list to demonstrate how disadvantaged black people were (and perhaps still are)​

    and maybe ask the class "can you become famous scientists?" in expectation of the reply "yes we can!" :smile:

    (but if you must do it the other way, at least choose a more appealing list … perhaps using a selection from the book Astronuc referred to … African Americans in Science

    i'd go for black astronauts and astronomers, to a background poster of Michael Jackson moonwalking!)
  15. May 7, 2012 #14

    Andy Resnick

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    I hear you, and think you are right for raising this point. I think you've motivated me to approach our College of Urban Affairs and open a discussion.
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