Saturday, March 23, 2013
  Laudable but fatally wrong

BBC reports on an effort to attract more black kids toward science, using rap noise.
According to UK’s The Sun, Dr. Emdin started this project in the Bronx to tackle poor science results among black and Hispanic students. “It’s not just a race thing – it’s also a cultural thing,” he said. “We should find new ways to capture the interest of a new generation. I think hip-hop is the way.”

He also said, “If you don’t bring in youth culture into the classroom, you exist in the space where you are only putting in an established culture, and an established culture necessarily alienates someone. The thing about science in particular is that historically, its been known as a discipline that is very Eurocentric and is completely divorced from the ways of knowing and being of a diverse amount folks.”
It's a laudable motivation, but unfortunately it has NOTHING to do with science, and completely misses the point. Emdin is looking at the world from an absolutely non-scientific viewpoint, and clearly knows nothing about science. In CP Snow's terms, Emdin belongs completely to the literary mindset.

Science in the most basic sense has nothing to do with "an established culture", and if you teach it PROPERLY, you'll enable kids of any culture to think more clearly and gain some part of a scientific mindset. Teaching it PROPERLY means one thing above all:

HANDS.

You don't even need language, let alone culture, to teach science. You can do it without speaking one word. Set up an experiment or experience. Show how to do the experiment. Let the kids try it at their own lab stations, and guide them toward seeing the result, feeling the result, smelling the result, hearing the result.

As far as I can tell from the media coverage, Emdin is not teaching science. Emdin is teaching ELITE ORTHODOX STATEMENTS ABOUT ELITE ORTHODOX SCIENCE. For instance, he's getting the kids to "craft a rap" about Darwin. He is trying to shape black kids toward ELITE ORTHODOX BELIEFS, most of which are precisely anti-factual, anti-logical, and anti-scientific.

Judging from my own experience in teaching electronics, I'd say black kids are more receptive than white kids to ACTUAL SCIENCE. Africans are better than Europeans at dealing with direct sensory reality, and drawing conclusions from direct sensory reality. Europeans are too easily fooled and distracted by words and formulas, which are enemies of ACTUAL SCIENCE.

Quoting GW Carver: "Look about you. Take hold of the things that are here. Let them talk to you. You learn to talk to them."

That's the perfect definition of science. Elegant and all-encompassing. Can't be said any better. (It's so perfect I had to add it to the top icon.)

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Polistra was named after the original townsite of Manhattan (the one in Kansas). When I was growing up in Manhattan, I spent a lot of time exploring by foot, bike, and car. I discovered the ruins of an old mill along Wildcat Creek, and decided (inaccurately) that it was the remains of the original site of Polistra. Accurate or not, I've always liked the name, with its echoes of Poland (an under-appreciated friend of freedom) and stars. ==== The title icon is explained here. ==== Switchover: This 2007 entry marks a sharp change in worldview from neocon to pure populist. ===== The long illustrated story of Polistra's Dream is a time-travel fable, attempting to answer the dangerous revision of New Deal history propagated by Amity Shlaes. The Dream has 8 episodes, linked in a chain from the first. This entry explains the Shlaes connection.

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