Why do most people find science boring?

Discussion in 'General Science & Technology' started by Magical Realist, Oct 19, 2014.

  1. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    Magical Realist:

    Some people are proud of being good at sports, or good at music, or good at art, or good at writing. Some people are proud that they are good at history, or mathematics, or psychology. Some people are proud that they are good at building houses or driving a truck. Maybe everybody is an insecure nerd who needs to bolster his/her own ego by being proud about something.

    Are you proud of how many crazy conspiracies you believe in, Magical Realist? Does it bolster your nerdy ego to believe in Bigfoot and alien spaceships and ghosts? Are you good at pseudoscience?

    What I'm getting from you here is a kind of envy or jealousy. It's not surprising. You chose to come to a science forum. When you came here you found - surprise! - some people who know some science. Maybe you don't meet many people like that in your daily life. It's a bit of a shock, probably, when your pseudoscientific worldview is given a shake. It's natural that you therefore want to belittle science. Your pseudoscience must be far superior, right? Otherwise you'd risk feeling inadequate.

    You're right that a lot of people get along just fine without knowing much science. Half of the people in the United States don't believe in evolution, for example, and they don't care to find out about it. A good proportion of people don't know how long it takes for the Earth to orbit the Sun once, and they're just fine with that. They don't think they need to know. They don't think it is important. They don't think it affects their lives (even though it does, quite significantly, year after year).

    Are uneducated people any less because they are uneducated? That's a question that is worth really thinking hard about. What is the value of education? Never mind science for now, because that's only one way to be educated. The real question is whether there is value in being able to look outside your own narrow personal concerns and see a bigger picture - about the world and its people. Sure, you can live your whole life without ever expanding your mind. You can work your day job as a janitor and spend your nights watching mindless TV. You'll be just fine. But is this really the best kind of life to live? You only get one chance at life.
    billvon and Russ_Watters like this.
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  3. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member


    Children don't always know what is best for them, so adults decide for them. In our societies, adults value education. In fact, many adults look back on their own schooldays in later years and wish that they had studied harder.

    Virtually everything of value in this world requires effort to obtain. In today's world of instant gratification, it can be difficult to focus on long-term goals. It is true that some children find their school work to be boring. In fact, most children find some of their school work to be boring at least some of the time. The difference between the drop-outs and the high achievers is often as much about perseverence as aptitude.

    Have you ever learned how to do something really well? If so, you will know that it took a lot of time, effort and practice to get good. Probably you didn't enjoy every minute of it, but you had in your view the long-term payoff.

    All education must ultimately rely on self-motivation for improvement. You are right that you can't force somebody to learn. You can force them to be obedient to authority, but that is a different thing.

    Educational outcomes are very complicated and depend on many factors. These include the level of funding per child, the quality of the teachers in the school, the amount of parental support or opposition to schooling, the socio-economic situation of the students, the general attitudes of society to education and more.

    People tend to hate things that they don't think they are very good at. Many people come out of math classes with a dislike for math, for example. That's because, in some cases, they weren't taught well, they didn't try hard, they weren't pushed to or expected to succeed in math, there was a perception that "math is hard" and therefore it's ok not to try in math class.

    Ask kids who hate school what it is that they hate. Given reasonably able teachers, it is not usually the lessons that some kids hate, or the stuff they are supposed to learn. Rather, it is the social milieu of the school - their classmates, the attitudes of (some) teachers and/or administrators, and the fact that they don't have a clear view of why they are "forced" to do the whole school thing in the first place. One of the most important factors pointing towards success or failure of a child at school is the attitude of his or her parents to schooling. Many parents project their own negative experiences and perceptions of education onto their children, and so do not give their children the support and encouragement they need to do well at school. This can become a self-perpetuating inter-generational cycle.
    Russ_Watters likes this.
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  5. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    LOL..IDIOTS evolve without Science toooo....

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  7. paddoboy Valued Senior Member

    Again in my opinion the most obvious thing re the subject in the OP, is that this is the same poster who makes the ridiculous claim earlier that science has never benefited mankind.
    This fact cannot be stressed enough and much can obviously be read into it.
    Only a person with an agenda would say that "people" are not interested in science.
    Only a person with a "chip on their shoulder" would ever say that science benefits no one.
  8. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    p.s. And civil discourse includes spirited debate. Actually I found the exchange between paddoboy and Schmelzer, both informative and entertaining.
    paddoboy's critique in his usual very direct way and Schmelzer competently defending his apparently serious scientific work.

    In context of the OP, it was certainly not a boring intellectual exchange between two intelligent and competent people on a scientific subject
  9. paddoboy Valued Senior Member


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  10. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    Yes, that directly addresses the formative years of children.

    p.s. personally I (intuitively) feel that is the time the "mirror neural network" of the brain is most receptive for shaping cognitive and associated emotional experiences.
    I stipulate this is wholly speculative.
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2015
  11. Schmelzer Valued Senior Member

    Yes, but the problem is that one cannot decide for somebody else what he finds interesting. And to find something interesting or not is simply decisive for the success of learning it. I would expect the efficiency of learning interesting vs. uninteresting things is 10:1, at least, may be more. Do you remember the time of Jurassic Park? Here in Germany it was, at this time, impossible to meet a school child who did not know much more names of dinosaur species than even educated adults.

    What would be the effect if children would learn what they like? They would certainly learn much more in much less time. It would also be much more specialized knowledge. And there would be, possibly, quite large domains where they know less than today. As far as this is possible, given the large numbers of functional analphabets of modern schools.

    But what the modern society needs are specialists. What they need is the ability to learn new things - but this is what they learn automatically learning the things they like during childhood. The classical ideal of the Aufklaerung - the universally educated person, which knows some standard knowledge which classifies it as an educated person, seems dead. The education in thoses parts where some standards would be really useful - rules of civilized behaviour - is completely down and almost non-existing. A well-defined amount of scientific knowledge about the world is, instead, highly problematic.

    In other words, I think the classical ideal of obligatory school - to educate a civilized educated member of a democratic society, educated enough to make reasonable decisions in democratic elections, to have the basic knowledge necessary to work in an industrial society, and to behave in a civilized way, has failed completely, and the question is not only this failure, but even if the ideal itself is an appropriate and reasonable one.

    Another major point is that adults are free people - but have not learned how free people have to behave, because they were unfree during their education. They don't really learn how to behave in a civilized way in a classroom - the classroom is a room of fight between a prison guard named teacher and inmates, the rules of behaviour one learnes there are those useful for prison inmates, not for free people. The education of free people works completely different: You are interested to learn from the teacher - else you would not join. If you behave inappropriately, in a way which disturbs the learning process, you will be simply thrown out. Point. Thus, there will be no mieschief-makers by construction. Even the education of teachers would be different - he does not have to learn the abilities of prison guards, because there will be no problems with prison inmates to handle, if somebody disturbs the teaching he will be thrown out.

    Then, if to follow the course requires some basic knowledge, the participants will have it - else, they simply would not join, or, in the worst case, the find it out at the beginning and leave the course. This also simplifies the work of teachers - the audience will share the same knowledge. The conflict that you have to teach those who are behind, which forces you to be boring for the better ones, disappears.

    To learn to work hard to reach a goal is something much easier too if the child really wants to reach the goal himself. Once this can be presumed by the teacher for all participants, he can really give hard tasks, as well as a lot of homework (which is not that problematic, because there may be much less time spend in class lessons). And, of course, behind all this is a long term goal: What is your dream job? What do you need to get your dream job? This question can be asked from the start, and from the start the child can "specialize" in this direction. Of course, the dream job will change many times - that's natural - so that the child will start to learn things necessary for a large number of different jobs. Too many boys want to become soccer stars? So what, they will learn hard, playing soccer is hard work, and they will learn very important things about team work, fairness and so on too. And most of them will find out that they are not good enough to become professional soccer stars. But what they have learned during this time remains useful anyway.

    But I think what makes them hate this is that they have been forced to learn this. You have to be in a class where you have to learn this, and because you are not good at it, you feel contempt by those who are better, and cannot avoid this. This is a natural background for hating this. There are a lot of things I'm not good at, and I couldn't care less about them, but I hate basketball. Because my sports teacher liked it, and I was quite short during school time.
  12. Kittamaru Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Adieu, Sciforums. Valued Senior Member

    There is a key component of debate missing from MR's posts - honesty. When one party refuses to acknowledge facts and logical reasoning... well, that person is no longer debating. They are preaching.
  13. Russ_Watters Not a Trump supporter... Valued Senior Member

    Logically then, what you suggest (a societey where kids get to learn what they want) would yield 90% of the population as paleontologists who can't even read, much less do the math required to pay for dinner.

    Yes, forcing people to learn is inefficient, but the things they are forced to learn are needed to be functional adults. I don't think what you propose provides a viable way around this.
  14. Schmelzer Valued Senior Member

    Wrong. For many reasons.

    Children want to learn. And they want to learn all what the adults can do. When they start to go to school, they have already proven this - they have learned to walk, and to speak, have already learned basic moral rules of the society (for example, in societies where this is not accepted, they don't run around naked in the public).

    A thing they all want to have, the more the better, is money. They already know that money allows them to buy things. It is very easy and natural that, before giving them their own pocket money, one can require that they are able to count them. Quite natural - this protects them from cheaters. You expect how fast children learn to count to 100 and be able to add and substract such numbers if, once they have managed this, they get 100 cent of pocket money?

    Of course, every child wants to be able to read. If it needs motivation for learning such an obviously useful thing, it will be easy. The classical way is reading fairy tales as long as they are small, and, then, to give them some nice, simple book but refusing to read them. This is something you can read yourself.

    And, certainly, for every domain of interest, one can find a lot of interesting information in written form. Thus, it is easy for teachers to motivate them to read more, given that there is some interest for the things written in this book. And the natural way children behave if they are interested to learn is that of one of my sons, who was reading the names of the metro stations, and commenting "this is Rosa-Luxembourg-place, and this letter x we have not yet learned in school".

    It seems quite obvious that a large majority - all those who find something interesting for them - will learn all the things necessary in this particular field. This will, independently of the choice, include reading abilities. To expect that the number of those who end as functional analphabets will be as large as today I see no reason at all. To reach this, it would be sufficient to have a soccer course, which requires, on the higher level, the ability to read the books about soccer techniques, tactics and so on.

    The functional analphabets are those who hate school and block completely.
  15. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    Psychologically that is probably true. But to be well rounded it is better to be pretty good at alot of things than very good at just one thing, especially in the realm of knowledge. You thereby avoid the exaggerated sense of self-importance and monomania typical of the so-called "expert."

    Not at all. I rarely discuss these beliefs of mine in public and do so only cautiously online. I know doing so only gets one ridiculed and viewed as a nut. You'll note when I post in the Fringe section it isn't "I believe this and that." It is "here is evidence of this and that." Even in those threads I am less than forthcoming about my beliefs, primarily because they're always in flux.

    I'm not jealous of fanaticism, having once been such in my religious years. I see how that path can lead one to a lonely and isolated life, without any objective sense of how boring you are or why people seem alien to you.

    I know science too. I've been studying it my whole life. But I'm not going to pontificate on it being some supreme way to the truth or the answer to all life's problems. And I'm certainly not going to use it as some weapon to destroy the beliefs of others. That's the impression I get from most here---that you'd better believe like we do and trust science or you're some sort of lesser person. That sort of view on outsiders as heretics and derelicts smacks of religion, and that's not something I find very scientific at all. This is first and foremost a discussion group, and discussion is driven by contrast of different views. The need to suppress this in the name of some monolithic institution generically called "Science" tends only to make this group preachy and less about discussion.

    No..I don't feel my beliefs are superior to other's. But then I don't see other beliefs held in the name of being scientific as superior either. We're all just primates typing on keyboards here. No person has any more access to the truths of existence than any other.

    They DON'T need to know. The field is pretty much an exclusive country club for PhD's and scholars. And the theories of science are pretty much too abstract to apply to everyday life. So most people get along very well without it, focusing on the things that enhance their wellbeing and connect them more to the world around them.

    Maybe that janitor watches PBS science shows and the Science channel though. Is he therefore a happier janitor? Does he know the secrets of the universe? No..he just knows about some things other janitors may pay no attention to. It doesn't make him a better person imo.
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2015
  16. billvon Valued Senior Member

    That education is essential to any democracy, since they have the final say over governance. And it is not possible to argue that it has failed completely, since there are plenty of examples of civilized educated members of society that went through obligatory schooling.

    (There are, of course, a great many ways we could improve it.)

    You could just as accurately (i.e. not accurately at all) describe the relationship between an employer and his employee. "They do not learn how to behave in a civilized way in the workplace. The workplace is a room of fight between a prison guard (the boss) and the inmates (the employees) - the rules of behavior one learns there are those useful for prison inmates, not for free people."

    Uh - right. Past grade school that was a good description of my (and most people's) education. The same approach can not be used earlier in the educational process.

    That's a great question to ask. And for an 18 year old it has a lot of meaning. For a 7 year old - less so.

    "If you want to be an astronaut you have to learn math."
    "Yaay! Astronaut!"
    "Here are some math problems. Or all your friends are out in the playground, playing soccer. Up to you what you want to do."
    "I'll do math . . . later!"

    Agreed. And learning to deal with emotions like that is a crucial part of growing up. Jealousy? Hate? Envy? Best learn how to deal with them at an early age where people find it easier to learn such basics.

    I hated basketball too, and it was by far the #1 sport in my high school. I learned to deal with it.
  17. Schmelzer Valued Senior Member

    I went through it too. So, yes, one can survive it and nonetheless become educated and civilized. Nonetheless, I think for me the school was a complete failure - anyway all what I have learned I have learned outside the school. In fact, books had not really a good chance to remain unread, so that the schoolbooks for the next year I had read before the school started.
    If a firm would work this way, would it be really successful? Not very probable.
    And why is it completely sufficient in the very early childhood, where children learn to walk and to speak? A much harder job than to learn a few letters to read or a few numbers to count.

    No, the 7-yo care about this too. Their answers will be inadequate and will change a lot of time, but so what? Whatever they choose, there is something one has to learn for this job, and he will be ready to learn this.
    As if playing soccer is not a thing which would teach him a lot of useful things. In particular, teamplay.
    As if there would not be enough problems with jealousy, hate, envy in a team of people who like to learn something. And if this guy you hate is part of your team, and you want to win, you have a much better motivation to cooperate nonetheless with him than if he is simply a classmate.
  18. billvon Valued Senior Member

    Some surely do. Most do not. Similar to schools.
    Because we have genetically provided imperatives that drive us to do that. We do not have genetic imperatives to learn to multiply, or do trigonometry.
    Exactly. And a good school will provide the chance to learn about both.
    I considered most of my classmates to be "on my team" (at least in higher education.)
  19. Schmelzer Valued Senior Member

    Not really similar. Schools are obligatory for the children. For the choice of the working place, there is freedom of contract. If you don't like one working place, you can try to find something different.
    The interest in learning new things is genetically provided. What you choose to find interesting enough to learn is an open question, depends on the environment, but the wish to learn all what the adults can do is there. And the things one has to learn are difficult, have always been difficult. Hunting is difficult, was more difficult in the past without modern weapons. One had to learn complex things about the behaviour of the animals one hunts.
    Not really - they have to force the children to participate. This is a background which prevents good learning. Of course, the natural wish of children to learn is strong enough that many learn a lot even in such nasty circumstances. But they are clearly not helpful.
  20. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    You may well be right, but I was not commenting on MR's participation.
    I specifically cited the exchange between Paddoboy and Schmelzer as an example of a civilized but spirited debate.
  21. billvon Valued Senior Member

    Most places in the US allow you a choice of schools, including home schooling. (It is often the parent's choice, of course, because they are acting for their children.)
    Right. True of schools as well. I chose my high school, for example.
    For things like walking, yes; everyone will try to learn to walk (if they are physically capable) on their own. That is not true of math. You can be born with curiosity, of course.
    Right. And lots of people hated hunting; however, often they had to hunt or die.
    [quite]Not really - they have to force the children to participate. This is a background which prevents good learning.[/quote]
    Hmm. I have always had parts of my education that required force to learn (i.e. it was not something I wanted to learn.) Early on this came from teachers, with penalties for being late with homework etc. Later it came from my parents; they told me it was important to do well in X and I trusted them on that. Later still it came from myself. I despise differential equations even though I use them regularly; it is a necessary evil that I force myself to do because they enable me to do design, which I enjoy. I strongly suspect this is true of most people - there are unpleasant parts of their work (or hobbies) that they force themselves to do so that they can participate in the activity.
  22. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    In order to avoid posting complications, please do not quote the post below, reference it.

    It seems that quoting the post results in a continuous loop.
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2015
  23. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    Whatever happened to The Montessori educational system?
    Early exposure to a range of pertinent but interesting areas of knowledge is critical, IMO

    Allow the child to "discover" his area of interest from a range of subjects designed to stimulate interest.
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2015

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