So, my 15 year old science magnet daughter and I experienced last month's exciting March for Science—! From home, as she was temporarily felled by some bacteria. Consuming an unscientific "cure" of chocolate pudding—? We watched the march on CNN.
Now, the news changes so quickly you may not remember that just one month ago—? There were shock waves due to proposed massive federal budget cuts— Not just to climate change research, but to—surely the more non-controversial —National Institutes of Health. I mean, health? Who's anti-health? Even MacDonald's is serving apple slices now, and kale!
The march was a mix of passion and fun. There were lots of great signs, including one with the classic line: If you're not the solution, you're the precipitate! Marchers came dressed as Einstein, dinosaurs, polar bears.
Then again— And admittedly, at home, we were wearing bathrobes rather than labcoats—? A couple of humble notes.
Some of the speakers in DC were less scientists than YouTube science explainers. And pure research scientists—not to mention philosophers—might question some of the applause lines. And I quote: "Science is inherently political!" "Science is objective, but it is not neutral!" What? Then some of the marchers chanted back, with a decided New Age lilt: "Science is hope!" "Science is our planet!" "Peace, love, science!"
I heard myself grousing to my daughter: "Sure. It's like 'Nature.' To some, 'Nature' is a beautiful flower. But 'Nature' is also Stage 5 hurricanes and poison frogs who eat their own offspring. And—and pitcher plants! Have you seen pitcher plants?"
The chants continued: "Health is science! Safety is science! Clean water is science! I yell at the TV: "PS: Nuclear missiles from North Korea? SCIENCE!"
There were also heartfelt pleas from the stage for more "K-12 hands-on STEM-based learning." I sympathize. I marched for that when my daughters were in elementary school. Of course we want our children to be turned on to science— To the classroom volcanos comically exploding with baking soda. To the wonders of milk carton pea plants, sunny farms of ladybugs.
But eventually, inexorably, comes The Ugly. The multiplication tables, long division, algebra, trig, then calculus, if a career in science is really being pursued. I just heard about a senior I know, an exceptional—and well-rounded—student. He has a 4.5 GPA and almost-perfect SAT's, nosebleed-high! But he has been shut out by all the UC's he applied to, including his third choice, UC San Diego. Mwah! SCIENCE!
Still, quibbles aside, science is the future. We applaud all, and must forge on. Chocolate pudding recommended.