I had an Assistant Principal tell me that he wanted the school to graduate as many future doctors and scientists as possible.

I completely and utterly disagree with that as a goal. I don't aspire to point kids in any direction. I don't think schools should ever have the hubris to think that it is our job to prepare a developing child for a job.

On the day to day I am trying to share some understanding of science and how we know what we know. I want students to make connections between their life and the ideas that I present in class.

So what am I doing? I think I am trying to help encourage students to pay attention to the world around them so that they can observe the truths of life. If they can discern the truth of the world a little bit better thanks to the time we spent together I will consider my service adequate.

Towards that goal I have students draw things at least once a week. Drawing is an important tool because it forces you to pay attention. The things that we observe and articulate clearly are the closest truth because you aren't depending upon the expertise of someone else.

One of the major themes that I teach is theory of evolution and some of the important mechanisms of selection. Evolution is a useful paradigm because it applies at all levels of life.

Fundamentally there are features that we can observe in life if we pay attention and those traits that we notice are probably related to the environment in which they grow.

So if we pay attention to the individual and to the environment we probably can have a great understanding of the truth of that organism.

This paradigm helps explain why plants in the rainforest tend to have shallow roots

ecuador, rainforest, tree, root, board root, nature, tropical | Pikist

The rainforest soil tends to be nutrient poor. In tropical regions, most nutrients are in the ground near the surface, so many plants here have very shallow roots.

Evolution by means of sexual selection helps to explain why Peacocks are so much more ornate than the Peahens

Peacock And Peahen Photograph by Daniela Duncan
She is completely ignoring the guy doing his best to get her attention - I've been there bro!

Even if the feathers reduce their survival since they can be easily seen it helps increase their chance of sexual reproduction which supersedes the individual survival necessity.

The language of evolutionary theory has changed over the century and a half since Darwin first expressed his ideas in his publication "On the origin of species" in 1859.

Early evolutionary scientists were comparative anatomists who were descriptive in their work - looking at the features that they observed in organisms and comparing them to creatures to develop levels of relationships. These scientists were often trained in sketching and gifted writers.

Santiago Ramón y Cajal | Drawings, Art google, Santiago
Nerve Cell Illustrations by Santiago Ramon y Cajal (1852-1934)

Over time the sciences have moved away from holistic and total comparison to a more reductionist framework, looking at a gene level to compare genes between creatures. Today a scientist will be far more likely be a competent coder than a talented artist.

We can argue about what scientists need to know to do in order to continue to progress in science. I believe that trying to solve something as complex as cancer by focusing on a single gene or cluster of genes probably will never work because organisms are too complex but I am not nearly enough of an expert to give more than an educated guess.

But when we teach scientific concepts at the high school level we miss the forest for the trees by focusing so much on genes and cellular components at the expense of learning to study and examine the whole organism. It is an example of science by accounting as opposed to science by observation and reasoning.

Learning to directly and accurately observe reality with as little bias as possible is the most important skill I can help a student develop. If I can help students do that then I have served them well regardless whether they become a surgeon or a waiter.

Thanks again for reading my thoughts. If you know anyone that would enjoy my essays please forward them my work.