Sunday, July 14, 2013


As an ex-professor, I’ve learned faculty members and students often don’t agree on what’s important in college. So I asked Christy Dyer, the new intern at OTP Press and a recent college grad: List the most useless things you learned in college.

No, I didn’t bribe her to give these responses. They’re funny and support my thesis that science literacy is a hard sell.

1. I learned about the weather. I needed a random science class so I chose the weather. I don't remember a thing. Astronomy was another random science class I took.

2. Communication class. I learned how ... to annoy a teacher to the point that she yells at us throughout the rest of the class.”

Christy’s last comment is a classic student technique. Only beginning profs (or poor ones) lets students distract them from the material with taunts, not legitimate questions. Her first explains why determination of  core requirements for undergraduates is usually a bloody battle.

Everyone needs to know a little science.
Many Americans consider science to be collection of boring facts, as dry as the stuffed animals and bones in natural history museums. Science should be thought of as a verb not a noun. Science is the collecting of information on the natural world in an organized and systematic way and the applying the accumulated knowledge to solve problems or test hypotheses.

We all solve problems everyday. For example, mystery writers make many choices as they formulate plots with just enough hints along the way. Those promoting books have to experiment with different advertising approaches to find what works best for them and which advertising techniques are a waste of time. Edison said science innovation was 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration. Seems to me that, sums up writing processes too.

Many controversies – global warming, using fetal tissue to treat neurological diseases, labeling food for genetic modifications – have a scientific basis. Those who don’t understand a little science, have a hard time understanding or adding to a constructive debate of the issues. And these subjects make great topics for fiction.

Scientists and educators should make science relevant to everyone. 
Now I have to take Christy’s side. Many science classes, starting back in first grade and going through college, are irrelevant. Teachers didn’t take the time to show students how they could use the material being taught. Often, because the teachers didn’t take to time to learn about their students, not just the subject matter.

That’s why I included tidbits on virology and vaccine development in Coming Flu. Sounds boring? It’s not when your life is being threatened by an unstoppable flu virus. Similarly, most dieters don’t consider the safety of their diet regimes or the supplements that they use. They will after learning how difficult it is to conduct clinical trials in Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight.

Obviously, there are lots of other ways to educate children and adults on science. I’m just starting a dialog.

Science education isn’t unique.
My arguments could be applied to history, geography, foreign languages, and even English. Students of all ages dislike courses that seem irrelevant. For example, most science majors complain about their English courses.

Now the question is: Was this blog relevant enough for anyone to finish reading it?

JL Greger
More on  JL Greger:
Murder: A New Way to LoseWeight is available on Amazon. So is its prequel Coming Flu.


Billie Johnson said...

Great blog, Janet....and it was great to see you again in Vegas!

Billie Johnson

Janet Greger said...

Thanks Billie.

Now I wonder what Christy Dyer has to say. Bet she didn't expect this response to her answers to my questions.
JL Greger

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Loved your blog, Janet. And was so glad to see you at PSWA. Thank you for doing the publisher/editor appointments. Wish I'd been able to spend more time with you.

Neelakantan Tn said...

Yes, increasingly there is a waning interest in learning Science and Mathematics. Probably, internet, cell phones, SMS likes are killing youngsters' interest in Science and Mathematics. The teacher needs to be very innovative so as to keep the children involved in learning.

T N Neelakantan
Author: 1) Short Stories for Young Readers
2) Short Stories for Success for Young Readers: A New Lexicon Unfolded

Books available on for online reading.