Archive for the ‘self-discovery’ category


November 13, 2011

Recent media reports express concern over the number of college students who are deciding not to continue their science based studies. The major reasons are the unanticipated difficulty of both the math and science courses. Analysts state that the decline in solid elementary and secondary education in math and science are major contributing factors. Considering the national goals of expanding and invigorating instruction and careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), this is a discouraging development.

IT’S THE TEACHERS, RIGHT? This is the motivator for all of the local, state and national efforts to tighten the methods and extent of teacher evaluations. In my opinion, with minor exceptions, we should not thump the teachers. The classic barriers of over-populated classes, curriculum goals that seek to satisfy national testing rather than student learning, and dreadfully fickle administrative guidelines that undergo school-board opinionated revisions, all turn the education process upside down. By the time all of this descends upon and around the teacher, student education has become a locked-stepped march into confusion. In spite of this, most teachers strive to teach and to inspire each student to learn. This turns a regular school day for teachers into an average 12 to 15 hour day when they really work to make learning successful and joyful.

JOYFUL LEARNING? There is an inherent stress for most youngsters during the education process; even for the super-bright ones. Making the process joyful, when suitable, reduces the stress, opens the mind and makes learning pleasurable instead of either deadly dull or frightening. In most cases, this approach is the product of highly motivated teachers who dress up their presentations (art, videos, student demonstrations, visiting heroes, etc) that far exceed the dry-as-toast curriculum dictated by the national test score mantra. All of these extra efforts are variables and in many cases difficult to consistently sustain so overall the education process FAILS with respect to future STEM success.

SO WHAT’S TO BE DONE? As and example let’s take five critical areas for consideration. These examples all presume a standardized education concept that enhances both STEM and HAMLIT education. This combination imposes a considerable demand on teachers through all elementary and secondary grades. Right now both are cut short because of the imposition of that national testing mantra. Yes, we do need to evaluate the system and how well it is serving the education of our young, but under no circumstances should that evaluation debilitate a sound and well structured curriculum. Broadly speaking the White House does not seem to recognize this educational impediment built into its mandates.

The five critical areas are as follows (The emphasis on items 1-3 are for elementary education, K-3):

  1. STEM and HAMLIT should be specifically present at the Kindergarten level, but in a most innovative way. Here the joy of learning is most important. Simple math concepts and delightful literature and music experiences should be presented in a most memorable and enjoyable way.  Young minds grab at these concepts when presented in this manner. Additionally, parents must be more actively recruited to support what is happening in Kindergarten. They should be fully aware of the program and the variety of supportive things they can do to enhance their children’s early learning experiences.
  2. STEM and HAMLIT follow the youngsters out of Kindergarten into the first stages of elementary school.  Now all children don’t learn at the same rate and not all will be serious STEM learners, but all of them will be at ease with HAMLIT when creatively presented. Yes, creative presentations. Most teachers, particularly elementary level teachers do this automatically and usually very creatively. These efforts must be extended to STEM as well. Math can be so dreadfully dull if presented in that way, but when creatively presented (using a variety of teaching aids) it can win over children that appeared not to be good STEM candidates.
  3. ENTER THE COMPUTER: Although the students may have already had some exposure (home or school) to computers, the Third Grade is the key place to begin using the computer to enhance STEM learning. Right now, there is some concerns about how effective this will be, but as the article in the foregoing link points out there are steps that, if taken, can make the computer a vital and highly productive instrument for enhancing the learning process; particularly for STEM. Teachers must be directly involved in the choice of software programs to be used. A misfit of program and teacher methods will produce a zero learning result with both frustrated students and teachers. Administrators and school-board officials must recognize this and insist on teacher input in the software selection process.
  4. ELEMENTARY LEVEL EDUCATION is critical to the full success of the youngsters through their Middle and High School experiences. A poor foundation in this area coupled with the greater student independence and learning responsibilities in these advanced grade levels can lead to a student drop-out. This is quite simply a tragedy whether the student was a good STEM candidate or more HAMLIT oriented. Dropping out is like shooting curiosity and imagination on the spot. Again, teacher instructional latitude, even with heavy computer participation, is critical. Impositions of the standard testing mantra, worrisome and severe teacher evaluations and often bumbling administrative processes can severely cripple these advanced learning experiences. So again, before harping, its the teachers, we need to carefully examine the teaching environment, the available tools and the level of administrative imposition that distracts teacher productivity.
  5. COLLEGE/CAREER PREP should actually start in Middle School and increase in supportive ways through the remainder of secondary education. Right now the push is for college from everywhere and everyone, and yet many students are either not ready or are just not interested in that direction for their future. Sound counseling on alternatives that continue to bolster the students opportunity profile should be included along with the standard college pep talks. There are a host of technical training opportunities, including the military services, that provide a student with some promising career alternatives. These should not be ignored. Additionally joint sessions with the non-college oriented students and their parents should be conducted to help prevent the forceful persuasiveness of parents fixated on college for the kids.
ALL of the above requires extensive time and effort on the part of both teachers and counselors. Again, the extremely tight schedules, mandated curriculum and standards test preparation along with the complexity of both STEM and HAMLIT subject matter demand more from teachers than neither time nor class size permit.  Yes, computers will help somewhat, but under no circumstances should they become tools to free up a teacher to perform those distracting administrative tasks. Computers are good, but they cannot sense all the nuances of each student’s learning method. Only a teacher can do that, and when he or she is intensely distracted by non-academic endeavors that alertness is muted. Guess who suffers?
Well, it is obvious that things must change, and the responsibility rests with every one of us, not just parents, teachers and board-members. All levels of government that interact with our education system must hear from us, and what we say must be in full concert with making sure that there is an ample supply of steam in the STEM program and also lots of bright words, art and stunning music in the HAMLIT program. We can then begin to bask again in the aura of bright, highly creative and dedicated young people and adults whom we so desperately need to keep us moving forward.
Well, it really all comes down to this (See video)>
About the Author: XiNeutrino (Waddell Robey) after leaving the high-tech aerospace and health science fields, he devoted a little over seven years working as both a TSS (Therapeutic Staff Support) and Therapist in Children and Family Services. Most of his time was spent in school settings with his young clients and this has given him a unique and highly informative perspective on our education system, its teachers, and the varying success of its students. Those experiences along with his independent observations and discussion with teachers and administrators have formed the opinions and recommendations expressed in this blog article.

IMAGE CREDIT: Cartoon depiction of STEM at work. Courtesy:


The Power of Nosy

October 31, 2011

Today, with the immense spread of social networks, exclaiming about nosy-ness is really a non-sequitur. We are all partial voyeurs as we “follow” the chatterings of Twitter or Facebook members. We even exercise a kind of “nosy-ness” by adding our comments to those of other network members discussing a topic, incident or opinion. All of this is participatory and so the rather unwelcome category of being nosy just does not fit or apply. Is this a good thing?

We think social networking takes an inherent natural sense of curiosity and allows it to express itself in many different ways. Yes, some of those expression may be regarded by some as nosy-ness, but the odds are those individuals are either unfamiliar with network socialization or are just extremely private individuals who carefully guard their personhood. Regardless, we are doing what comes naturally, as the image of the curious infant above illustrates. In that context, you have got to love it.

So where is the power? Well, we have seen that power as deeply moving calls for help such as the horrible Haitian earthquake or the original bold cries for change from the Arab Spring and both have had major social and political impact that has and is changing our world. Both of the foregoing are vitally important as examples of international communications that are reshaping nations. Perhaps the most universal power is the new and expanding culture-sharing that is spanning the globe. Insularity is crumbling as we come to not just make contact with, but begin to know humans from lands we have never visited and in some cases may never have heard about. This is a touching of minds and spirits that has never happened before on the scale of millions. Can this be a gateway to world peace?

Yes, there is some insularity within social networking as common interest groups form and relate. This should not be discouraged. Ideally, efforts should be made to expand those groups to reach out to include interested netmembers from various cultures, nations and politics. This is timidly happening and that timidity is due more to shyness about cultural and or political differences. Additionally, political forces, including our own, at least attempt to monitor the networks and some (like China) even restrict the scope and topic range of social networking. Believe it or not these impairments are a good sign. The politicos are cautious, worried and feeling threatened because the networks reach across most barriers and open the world to potential unity. The power and reality is that the networks and the linkages will prevail.

The New Nosy: Well, above you imply that nosy-ness is an non-sequitur;  so you are contradicting yourselves? Yes, on the surface it would appear we are, but the new nosy is just that new and different. In social networking many reach the point where they begin to share personal information including highly emotional topics. Suddenly the feeling is we are reading very personal words from a stranger. New nosy eliminates this anxiety and reticence. In the instance just described, new nosy enables us to communicate compassion by responding to the message from a “network friend” not a stranger. Another example is someone announces a significant accomplishment. We read and do more than nod; we respond with words of praise and congratulations.  Sure that is what they hoped for, but wouldn’t you also? Lastly, we have articulated expressions of political or social dismay, disapproval or approval. With new nosy, we respond with questions, with gentle arguments, and with counter-points that often create a blend of the original idea. Here again we must  ask are we at a gateway for world peace?

Summary:  Above all else, social networking and the power of new nosy ignores race, sex, national origin, religion, and ethnicity not by legislation but through the gentleness of human nature and the joy of connectivity that the network brings. Yes, some of us start out not so gentle, but the interchange of cultures, viewpoints and beliefs erodes prejudice and induces a shear joy of comradeship. So call it dreaming if you wish, but in reality it is slowly happening and we must do our very best to help the power grow and expand.  So nosy around and help strengthen the threads of world understanding and peace.


New Nosy – Image from “A Curious Baby” wallpaper

IT’S ALL ABOUT MASTERY:Practical Expertise

June 17, 2011

Literally, with the first humans, there quickly arose members who became recognized as experts. College degrees and/or graduate degrees were not around yet so expertise grew from both experience and its careful application. Has this been supplanted by academic credentials? In my opinion, absolutely not. In fact, but sadly, it continues to play a key, but less publicized role, in our sci-tech progress.

Yes, successful academic achievement is important in many areas, but is essentially competence-in-waiting. This is true all the way up to the doctoral degrees. Until we can actually work with and experience the specific domains of art, science, and pure craftsmanship we are just newbies.

Been there, done that (btdt) is not a gasp of boredom it is, in my opinion, an acknowledgement of experience either by accident or by intent. In either case, that experience produces a heightened awareness that normally enables the person to avoid new mistakes and to perform more effectively. Revered artisans in both art and technology have years of btdt under their belts that gives them the power of expertise.

In the medical sciences, doctors must complete their apprenticeships as interns and residents before they are really ready for the independent delivery of health care to you or I. Labor unions for years have used apprenticeships to build a labor force empowered by highly experienced and competent artisans. Yes I use artisan to describe all the various competencies, from bricklayer to master machinist, that a union apprentice ultimately achieves. Post-doctoral apprenticeships for new PhD graduates is another example of the careful process of inserting experience into the mastery equation.

Yes, things have changed in some ways, but the required expertise must still be in the forefront of what we design, develop, build, repair and actually operate. Today a master machinist may sit at a computer terminal creating the code to tell an automatic milling machine how to carefully carve part of the wing of giant jet aircraft. What is important is that the code carries with it all the years of expertise when that milling was done carefully and beautifully by hand.

Deep blue ocean sailing today is supported by a host of electronics that make sure we get to our destination. Let all those electronics fail, and hopefully our navigator quickly pulls out his sextant, and like the earliest of sailors looks to the stars to guide us on our way.

Bottom line is that the experiential ingredient in all that we profess is essential. We should keep that in mind when we hear some snobbish comments that put down what they term the uneducated workers. This is a horrible outcome of our stumbles away from actually making things and into trading paper. Those nations who still both revere, honor and promote craftsman skills will eventually prevail in the world economy. No house has ever stood when made from paper or cards.

Many PhDs quickly call an artisan plumber to unclog their overflowing sinks or other facilities. Most ace pilots warmly greet every master mechanic that cares for their aircraft. For certain they do not demand to know their academic credentials.

Parents, educators, industry leaders, political leaders need to understand this vital element and both promote and support it in all of our youth. Yes, some kids will become expert plumbers others will become expert physicians or scientists and we need to honor all equally and appreciatively. Hopefully we can MASTER this behavior to hold our place in the evolution of humankind.


The Handy Craftsman – The PC Gamer

THE INSEPARABLES: SciTech and Government

May 4, 2011

Yes, this is a highly prejudicial blog article. It is pro-science and definitely proposes new ways to both strengthen America‘s SciTech prowess and at the same time elevate the general well-being of humankind globally. Some, kindly, would term this as a solicitous appeal while others would…well?

In a rampage of proposed budget slashes a deficit threatened government reacts instead of carefully enacting. Yes, enacting would address the deficit, but in a manner that sustains the core strengths of America. One of those most important core strengths is our scientific and technological prowess. Put simply, can this government sustain itself and this nation without progressive science and technology? Similarly, is there much hope for this progressive and vital core without an equally progressive government? Truly, these are inseparable partners with a desperate interdependence.

So, what do we do?

President Obama in his 2012 budget proposal increases Federal spending on SciTech by 13%. On the surface this appears good and progressive. What is not clear is where that increase, if approved, will be applied. Additionally, one must wonder where the justifications came for that increase. In other words what SciTech advice was used to make that determination?

The White House and the Congress have many resources, but there are also strong inputs backed more by whimsy and illogic that solid justifications. Most of this kind of response seeks to degrade SciTech and in doing so pushes the nation backwards. On the positive side input from strong sources, including the Congressional Budget Office, the White House budget staff, the National Academies of Science, the National Science Foundation and a host of private and university research organizations all submit supporting data for their fiscal needs.

As critically important as full funding support for SciTech is, an exclusive focus just on that issue is dangerously and terminally myopic. Yes we need to finance a full spectrum of research, including space exploration, but for this to become a fully acceptable and supported standard we must pull down the walls of scientific exclusivity. At the same time we must break through the barriers of suspicion, superstition and theological extremism that blockade SciTech progress. These are false adversaries promoted mostly by political opportunism. That’s right it comes far less from the pulpit and more from wild-card politics. The common ground is the deep spirituality that comes from new discoveries and explanations that enrich and elevate humankind and all that surrounds us. Science does not defy us, it continue to define us and in doing that we grow and evolve and glorify our place in the Cosmos.

Regardless how you chose to justify it, humankind has a mission and now we spend more time denying it and its rewards than we do in seeing the light of discovery that is shining in our faces. There is so much astounding beauty and exciting revelations out there that our SciTech selves help us to see and appreciate. It is only the unexplained that imposes fear and suspicion. With each new revelation provided by SciTech, humankind moves forward, but also closer together.

Here is the essential connection. Government must be of and by the people, and science promotes an ever-expanding environment that enhances our surroundings and thereby improves human life. Stop science, and life then diminishes and thus governance – thus extinction  Shall we vote for extinction through both poor financial management, and even poorer use of our ability to explore, discover, and thereby explain? Good governance that promotes assertive SciTech, unifies humankind with the Cosmos. SciTech and governance together from now on work to forever protect and espouse this unity. Is it mystical? No, there is no mystery. Is it spiritual? Absolutely, each new revelation strengthens us and provides an incredibly deeply spiritual sensitivity for each other and for all that surrounds us.

SciTech is vital and governance is its essential promoter and protector. They are truly inseparable. Banish either and we banish humankind.

IMAGE CREDIT: I was born into Einstein’s and Roosevelt’s age and learned to value their commitment to progress and the well-being of all humankind. The image above is courtesy of “Time Line”

READER REFERENCE: For more about scitech and the funding crises you may wish to read Parts I and II of this blog: Tag-Along Science: (1) and (2)


March 31, 2011

The dialog by noted astrophysicist Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson is a good introductory beginning for this blog article. Please take a few moments to view and enjoy it.

As Dr. Tyson stresses, there needs to be a common dialog between the sciences and the rest of us. This is best achieved by what he refers to as Science Literacy. Now, some folks get right nervous at that idea. They interpret Science Literacy to mean they must become knowledgeable in the sciences and immediately feel both dejected and rejected. On the other side, many scientists despite their own broad interests become both impatient and discouraged by what they interpret as disinterest or suspicion on the part of the non-scientist public.  This is a precipitous divide! We must close that divide to progress and evolve.

Paraphrasing Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman’s “Ode On A Flower” he acknowledges the beauty we all see, but he goes on to point out that as a scientist he sees deeper and reflects on the elegant science that describes how the flower came to be. Both views are valuable and are clear pathways that can lead to a unity of concept between the scientists and the rest of us. The common ground is our mutual appreciation of the respective elegance of the flower’s existence. We see beauty and delicacy, the scientist sees uniqueness and also a set of common interrelationships that produce the flower. All contribute to the flower’s glory that we both see. The challenge is for the layman and the scientist to appreciate each others particular way of seeing things.

The artist/author thinks he “shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree.” The botanist hopes he shall often see a living system as amazing as a tree.

There is eloquence in the expressions of appreciation and analysis from both sides. There will be unity when the layman stops to listen and learn a bit from the scientist while the scientist pauses to respect the layman’s perspective and to help to point out their mutuality, as Feynman does in his ode. The divide begins to close.

As a trained aeronautical engineer, I see a bird’s flight as optimum aerodynamics. As a long-time bird watcher I see the entire glory and beauty of both flight and the bird itself. This, to me, is an example of the successful merging of science and art.

If you wish, click on either or both of the image titles below to enjoy your own closing of the divide.  Additionally, you are encouraged to read Dr. Lewis Thomas‘s Lives of a Cell to gain an even deeper understanding of the vital link between science and the art of all that surrounds us.





Coral Reef from>

Crab Nebula: Astrophoto by Waddell Robey/


MOM,DAD,TEACHER: Help Me Achieve Me!

March 19, 2011

The music the teacher is playing was written by one of the students.

A Preamble: There is so much criticism and outright political abuse of our education system and teachers that this author wishes to assure prospective readers that this is NOT another one of those mindless and highly prejudiced attacks. This author has spent a good part of his life as a children and family therapy worker with considerable time in both classrooms and homes. So what is written below comes from first-hand knowledge and exposure. It’s about a lot of wonderful resources that are either misapplied or overstressed (teachers, parents and CHILDREN).

Every child is unique, and by the time they arrive for their first day of school they have added to their genetic profile their individual family imprint. Both their educational and social experiences in their elementary school years will further define their intellectual and behavioral profiles, but not exclusively. What the child’s home-life is like can either enrich and encourage that blossoming intelligence or actually discourage, even undermine it.

Regarding a child’s home-life experiences the above is not implying that if his or her intellectual development regresses that it is due to intentional acts by parents or older siblings. In most cases it results from poor encouragement or the total absence thereof. Commanding, “do your homework, now” is not encouragement. It is actually a dismissal of parental involvement.

Yes, the above comes across as overly simplified opinions that seem to ignore the complexity of family life in today’s culture. Therein resides a major cause that affects a child’s intellectual growth and maturity. How can we address it?

The Critical Venue: The life venue of a child is never standard. Like the child, it is unique and remains such despite efforts by parents and others (teachers and friends) to seek to mold a child to fit a certain pattern. The challenge is to encourage the child’s individual development while providing good behavioral and intellectual support. This is a process that begins with just the family and expands to include the array of human influence. The support that is provided by the parents is critical because it provides the child with both self-confidence and a set of rules that help the child move forward while resisting misleading distractions from outsiders. This is not an easy task for parents, particularly if there are more children in the household.

To be supportive while encouraging a child’s growing independence and self-confidence takes a lot of individual effort by the parents (sometimes older siblings too). In today’s working family environment this is even more demanding and difficult. As a result there is the spillover effect where teachers are faced with providing some of the normal parental support. This latter situation is untenable. Teachers just cannot pick up the slack despite their desire to try to help. In many instances this produces an atmosphere of mutual resentment between frustrated parents and even more frustrated teachers. Most serious, is the effect it can have upon the child’s intellectual and behavioral development.

The Family Partnership: Both parents are vital in the process of rearing a child, but the role of the mother is both emotionally and biologically stronger. Regardless, the child should feel secure in that both parents are equal and trusted resources. This is strengthened by the very manner in which the parents work as a team in the child rearing process. Yes, single parent families or families where a supportive partnership does not exist gravely reduces the effectiveness of parental support and guidance. This is not to say that many single parent families do manage well, but this is often due to outside supportive resources. The child responds behaviorally and intellectually (good or poor school performance). When stresses across the family increase there is  a parallel decrease in the child’s developmental progress. Problems, intellectual and behavioral, crop up in school; adding a new element of stress between teacher, child and parents.

  • Note: If you feel a knot growing in your stomach as you read the two paragraphs above, then you know exactly what this is all about. Be assured, that as I write and read the above, I also get knots in my stomach.  If we are parents, then to varying degrees, we have experienced some of what is cited above.

As stated above, in most families today, both parents work full-time. Regardless of their motivations to work as partners in rearing their offspring, there is both extreme daily time limitations and the simple ability of the parents to put the utmost into their relationships with their child or children after a demanding and tiring work day. If the partnership is active and strong then alternating which parent gives full attention to the child can help both alleviate fatigue stress and give full support to the child. There is no hard and fast rules here. How such a plan works depends on the unique partnership plan the parents have established. Such plans are very specific with regard to each parents work regimen and hours. They can only deal with variances in work schedules if they are a fully committed parental partnership.

A major factor that can reduce stress and increase the effectiveness of a given family plan, is the inclusion of the child. Children are very sensitive to the emotional environment around them and when they are excluded, they worry and their stress levels increase. Insuring that the child feels included has a tremendous benefit in his or her cooperativeness and strengthens their sense of membership in the family. Encouraging them to speak up on family issues, even those involving only the parents, may seem to invite distractions, but actually enriches the entire child-rearing process. We should never underestimate the observational powers of children and the often amazing and highly relevant comments and suggestions they can make. As they become participants, they more strongly feel the parents love because they are encouraged to openly express their concerns and love. It is a powerful family adhesive.  In this regard, when a parent exclaims to a child, I need you, or I need you to do this for us, the child that is an included member of the family team responds positively and cooperatively.

Creative Spark: There is a great deal of both information and speculation about the creative spark and how to detect and nurture it. Unfortunately it is quite often presented in such a way that it seems to exclude children that seem  intellectually challenged (more crudely termed: dumb).Yes, there are definite variations in a child’s intellectual strengths, but that does not rule out the creative spark. The problem is, if the child is classed by both family and teachers as”slow”, then that spark is never even looked for, much less nurtured. The bright child’s creative spark is loud and noticeable so-to-speak. Parents and teachers will not be able to ignore it. In fact, the adults often tend to downplay those sparks as being too aggressive (noisy, insistent, etc). The change then must come as a universal attention and support of this creative energy from ALL children. The creative spark is vital. It is the cognitive expressway that helps accelerate the learning process; especially in the case of special needs children. In ALL children this expressway optimizes how a child processes new information because it leads to a highly receptive cognitive area of the brain. Nurturing this expressway also empowers the child to begin to enhance their inherent curiosity and to then begin independent exploration: self-learning.

Ancient Prejudices vs Active Listening: Most parents have dreams for their children’s future and those dreams are a strong motivation to nurture the creative spark. Unfortunately many parents project some of their own “missed opportunities” into their plans for their offspring’s future.  When the child’s interests and exploratory behaviors are in conflict with those parental goals there can be direct discouragement by the parents. This discouragement is rarely negative. It is more often expressed as advocacy for the child’s future that fits the parents unfulfilled dreams. In many cases the child adheres to parental advice and follows a described course (education, sports, art, music, etc). Often this is in direct conflict with the creative spark the child has displayed. These parental influences, based upon the parents unfulfilled goals, are regarded as prejudices against a child’s expressed interests.

None of the above is intended to criticize wise counsel from parents where the child has confused on unattainable goals. Wise counsel, however, is most effective where there is active listening by the parent. This allows them to detect that creative spark, and begin to actively nurture it. In this arrangement, the child becomes the explorer with support from parents. In many cases this involves both parent and child jointly investigating the child’s expressed interests and goals. Furthermore, engaging teachers in this process further insures a growing support for the child’s successful and essentially independent development. WARNING! Some teachers and some education systems are so forcefully structured by regulations (vs theory and practice) that a new barrier presents itself. Here is where the parent is vital. They must not let a distorted system discourage their child’s potential.

The Learning and Inspiration Team: Ideally the process of nurturing and supporting a child’s intellectual and behavioral development is accomplished by what can be regarded as a learning and inspiration team. The team’s key members are the child, the parents and the teachers. Because it is a team, there is no independent actions, even by the child. All are focused on fulfilling the child’s potential and creative spark. Unfortunately, now, these teams rarely exists for a variety of combinations of the problems presented above.

Change is vital and despite the best efforts of the parents in advocating for and supporting their offspring, the education system simply cannot work as a fully committed team member. This is because of the aforementioned regulatory misdirection of the education process. Committed parents often resort to “home-schooling” which has strong benefits from a nurturing standpoint, but deprives the child of the social contacts essential for full development. Additionally, most parents, despite dedication, do not have the total experience necessary to fully ensure the support of their offspring’s creative spark. Similarly, the education system, seeking standardization, rarely on its own will meet the desired level of support and nurturing.

A balanced compromise by the team that acknowledges the necessary rigidity of the educational system, while preserving the overall goals of the team, can produce a successful nurturing of the child’s intellectual  and behavioral development. Engaging the teachers within this compromise structure can be effective and highly supported by the teacher. This is particularly true where the parents and the teachers arrive at a common goal in which they share joint responsibilities. In those cases where this is put in place, the entire attitude and performance of the child is both astounding and mutually rewarding. This is true especially in the case of special needs children. Suddenly the adversarial relationship between parents, teachers and the child disappears. So does the stress on all the team members. Unfortunately this is not a common practice, but where it happens an entire school is both inspired and enhanced. The concentration by the team to fully support the independent development of the child keeps the child an active team member and enforces active listening and wise counseling by all parties. Yes, even the child will actively listen and give astounding wise counseling to the adult team members.

At last, elementary education of a child ceases to be an ordeal for all parties and instead becomes an environment of mutual progress and reward. The future has become more secure and humankind all the richer.

There are many ways to sing the praises of the joyful benefits of a unity of child, parents and teacher in nurturing our future, but the following video link says it simply and from the heart to all who seek to ….!



To all those youngsters I had the pleasure and honor of working with. Each of them “raised me up beyond all I could be.

BONDING WITH “WHY”: The Citizen-Scientist

November 12, 2010

“We are unlikely to survive if we do not make full and creative use of our human intelligence” The preceding and prophetic observation was made by astrophysicist Carl Sagan in his book,The Dragons of Eden. We quote it here to emphasize the increasing need for the citizen-scientist as an evolutionary energizer.

It is usually a very rapid event after a young child begins to talk that he or she will, one day, use the why word. This is the vital and first step of both an inquisitive mind and a potential, future citizen-scientist. Oh yes, some of those children will go one to become professional scientists, but many, many others will follow different life patterns; however, in each case that inquisitiveness exists and if properly cultivated lives on as an agile mind.

Oh dear, this is one of those techy talks that expect the reader to run and gather up scientific paraphernalia in preparation for some unique little experiment, right? Actually no, although some of those programs or exercises can be both interesting and instructive. We are writing this blog to acknowledge the value of appreciating those who chase why and the benefits it can bring to all of us.

The basic, all-purpose citizen-scientist: Becoming a citizen-scientist is a nurturing process that, as we have indicated above, begins in childhood. That natural curiosity is encouraged by parents and later by teachers to the point where the youngster feels very comfortable asking why and following its implications. As we also stated, some of these youth will go on to become scientists or teachers of science. We, however, want to consider those followers of science not as an intellectual pursuits, but as ongoing delights in their exposure to the revelations and issues that come from answers to why. Just like the child that gets responsive explanations or demonstrations from a supportive respondent, the basic citizen-scientist looks for and responds to the products of scientific exploration.

The amateur anthropologist, archaeologist, astronomer, biologist (ecologist), botanist (horticulturist) and so on are specific and highly defined examples of the citizen-scientists that go beyond the basic stage. We are talking about the individual or even family that takes a very broad interest in science in different ways. They can be described as generally responsive to all scientific revelations and are usually eager to share this information with others. Their excitement comes from both reports of the exploration process and generalized reports of results. They identify with the explorers and often regard them as heroes. On the other hand, they can often become disappointed, even losing interest, when there is a stifling of the flow of science progress’ exciting exploration stories. We write more on this issue, below.

Simple joys from personal discoveries: The broad, general, scientific interests we are discussing here often encourages its followers to explore on their own. This can produce stunning and memorable moments and rewards. The image included in our blog header for this issue is an example.

Walking along a narrow trail in a deep, shadowy forest the citizen-explorer follows a trail that leads to a sunlit patch of wildflowers. There, in bright humility, a jewel of nature shares its breathtaking beauty. It is an awesome moment that is never forgotten. Most importantly,  the encounter exposes the citizen-scientist to the same kind of exultant reactions that the professional scientist often experiences. This is when his or her research yields breakthrough results. Both are “eureka” moments.

The scientists share their discoveries in very formal and careful ways with colleagues and the science community. The citizen-scientists with a generalized interest tend to share their discoveries or new information with friends and family and usually with a handful of fellow citizen-scientists. The more specialized citizen-scientists listed above tend to officially present their findings within an organized group. A group that can be global in size and reach. Regardless, the products of chasing why are shared and invigorated by this extended, public interest.

The art of sharing: So why is there not more of those exciting citizen-scientist discovery exchanges, and why are there not more generalized citizen-scientists? Now, we are considering two interactive why’s. A common factor is the need for broadly effective and interesting information exchanges. In some cases the exchange is too tightly wrapped in the learned vocabularies of the special interest citizen-scientists. These tend to either overwhelm or even coldly exclude the general interest citizen-scientist. This can be quite off-putting.

In the public venue, the media (print, radio and television) have produced some totally astounding science programs that capture both the generalist and specialist citizen-scientists. The problem is, these highlights are random and vary in the quality of their content and accuracy. This problem is confounded by some presentations that are more editorial than informational. The results in these latter instances distract the audience with sociopolitical issues forcing their followers to lose their link to the basic scientific content. Informational and inspirational outcome is shut down! This can cause more than an incidental reaction it can, sometimes, push a fledgling citizen-scientist away.

For many of us, finding answers to why has taken on spiritual connotations that offer soothing but also often inexplicable answers. At the same time, either through a fear of science with its direct statements asserting it does have an answer or our needs for reassurances about life on Earth, we turn to the orderly structure of a religion. This should not prevent our desires to follow the why’s in life while also getting many answers from the sciences. The net personal effect is peace of mind and personal fulfillment as we understand more about all that surrounds us. We also come to find that although we are not eternal as humans, we are forever eternal as a glorious composite of energy that goes on, and on long after our human shell has expired. We are, and always will be one with the universe.

Let science abound: The more involved with science, to any degree, that we become the greater evolutionary strength and progress we make as humankind. As this happens, and as Carl Sagan has advised, our awareness of a host of issues that threaten that progress inspires us to unify and speak-out.

Oh no, you mean we have to become political activists? I don’t like that at all. No, activism in that respect can be expressed in one simple act – voting. The political system looks to dominant influences (dollars, political theories, and even public interests). A unified electorate that have a large population of citizen-scientists can gain important influence that serves to both save our home planet, and assure that humankind will continue to evolve. In short, we become more comfortable with our neighborhood; the Universe.

We are so busy. Family life is scattered and demanding. How can we do this too? It seems just too difficult. Yes, it can, but within a family, an ideal starting place is with your children. The younger they are the better, but age should not be a barrier. Let science come to dinner, let it also join the soccer, or baseball or football team your child is involved with. As you, the parent, look for general science links to share, you are on your way to becoming a citizen-scientist too.

Science is not drudgery. Visit a science museum, a planetarium, an aquarium, or even watch good (not wacky) scifi TV or movies that don’t necessarily educate, but do stimulate questions. In this latter case, your responsibility is to have or know where to find the correct answers.  Guess what? Your family is becoming a citizen-science enclave.  See over there, Einstein is doing a happy dance.

Well, that is interesting and I agree possible. My problem is our kids come home telling us their teachers got angry with them when they tried to use their new science awareness to correct the teacher. Yes, that will be a challenge, until you as citizen-scientist, parents take positive action to improve education in our schools.  No, don’t cry about not having enough time. If your child is gravely ill you rush to the doctors or hospital. Likewise, when your child is suffering from cognitive starvation you must rush to your school systems and get them fixed.

Science seems so remote and distant from our daily lives. We suggest that is wrong, and urge you to think about it obviousness and simplicity as did Galileo when he wrote:

” The Sun, with all the planets revolving around it, and depending on it, can still ripen a bunch of grapes as though it had nothing else in the Universe to do.” – Galileo Galilei

Get started today on your journey to becoming a citizen-scientist. When you hear or read the word why, follow through and seek the answer or if not that seek those who seek the answer and follow them.

On that wonderful, day-off,  fishing trip, while you wait for that exhilarating moment when a fish takes the bait, let your eyes follow the flight of a bird. There before you is nature’s mastery of what we still struggle to perfect.

Be amazed; seek answers; share answers, and welcome science into your mind and heart.


Cartoon Image of Child with Questions: Courtesy of Parents in Education: Link>>

Wildflower image in header. From photography collection of Waddell Robey (c) 2007