Science is a way to create order from chaos

I went to school for a very long time. If you find the word "very" inserted in that first sentence, it was my wife taking editorial license.

However, it takes a long time to learn all the stuff a person must know to be a scientist. They tell me that the United States is already behind everyone else in the world in math, physics, chemistry, biology, geology and a bunch of other important stuff.

Then there are all the unimportant subjects such as social and political science which aren't sciences at all. Oh, and history, civics, technology, citizenship and health are deemed necessary for some reason. For all I know we may be behind everyone else in English. We are in foreign languages.

As I recall, I didn't see a lot of personal relevance in my public education when I was there. I was more worried about money. Besides, my Mom had cancer, Dad was trying to pay the medical bills, my sister was married to an abusive guy, my brother wouldn't loan me his motorcycle, I had two part-time jobs, there was a guy at school who wanted to fight me, and then there were girls. And that reminds me, I needed more money. Maybe that's why I eventually became enamored with science. I mean, at least I could get my hands on the real world there.

It seems to me like we have done a decent job with our science, engineering, technology and math education (STEM), but I am assured we haven't. The people who oversee STEM education tell me they need more money, so we can clone more humans because there are too many of us, change the climate because the climate is changing, and harness energy from the sun after destroying much of the way energy has been harnessed by the sun since the beginning of time. This is serious stuff!

I am glad I got such an intense education over the very many years I was in school. (Be suspect whenever you see the word "very" in my columns discussing my education.) However, I must tell you that it still wasn't enough. I didn't have time to take courses in many of the important classes such as:

■ how to face my fears and difficulties,

■ what to do about my depressive feelings,

■ how to deal effectively with the death of a friend, or a mother,

■ what to do about and with my anger,

■ how to be more confident and make decisions,

■ how to deal with expectations of others or deal with criticism,

■ identify my purpose for existence,

■ how to impress girls,

■ how to make more money,

■ or how to make anything at all.

It was just as well that I didn't have time because such courses never existed anyway. My weird family helped me adapt to being weirder than others; therefore, somewhat removed me from peer pressure. I did take some courses in frivolous subjects like art and music. They probably came the closest to helping with things like fear, anger, purpose, and making things.

I can't blame the teachers too much. They probably didn't know how to do those things either because all they had been taught were the important subjects also. Interestingly, the classes I never had time for were what school used to be about before STEM developed. Ironically, these subjects were called philosophy. Today, all self-respecting scientists today have a degree called the 'Doctor of Philosophy', the Ph.D. However, I don't think most of them ever take a course in philosophy.

My Mom made me go to church a lot. At the time, like school, it didn't seem too important. But I must admit I find the Ten Commandments very useful in living peacefully, and religion is helpful in the absence of philosophy. I guess we all need more schooling, but I'm hesitant saying anything like that to my wife.

Gary McCallister, gmccallister@bresnan.net, is a professor emeritus of biological sciences at Colorado Mesa University.

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