Field of Science

Amazing Discovery! Botany is interesting!

Elective courses were at a premium this fall, and several transfer students were "forced" to take the Phactor's economic botany class or be short on hours. Now by mid-semester two of them have approached me to express their "surprise" that botany is interesting and both wanted to know how to pursue it as a course of study, something that is not all that obvious or easy in a department of biological sciences (a new plant science sequence is being prepared to fix this). Why is it this was such a surprise? Their answers were exactly, precisely, and fundamentally what the Phactor has always said: never before were they exposed to any botany in their "biology" classes or what little was covered was boring terminology and memorization (i.e., teachers without any background in botany being forced to include some plant stuff in their course). Gad! This is the human-biomedical/animal bias that permeates biology in the USA. It's why there can be 3 snake-chaser programs on TV, and when a clever student of mine pitches a program about botanical discoveries, like the oldest forest in Lincolnland, a mile below ground in a coal mine, he's turned down flat with a three-word rejection, "plants are uninteresting", to which we add, to the below average intellect of most TV producers. This problem starts way down in grade school where teachers poorly prepared in science any how don't realize that the best stuff around for teaching biology are plants. They simply don't know what or how to do it, even easy stuff like tree identification. Then in high school, the biology teachers, thoroughly steeped in the prevailing bias, either leave plants our or teach about them poorly. A few of my students do counter this and introduce lots of plant biology, and their positive results support my contention, there is no innate bias against plants, it's learned. The Phactor remembers when an 8th grade science teacher told us the F1 was doing poorly in science mostly because the botany she had to include was so terribly boring. She was on the cusp of retirement, the damage done, but you find yourself wondering if homicide to improve science teaching would be justifiable? Maybe, but only if there was a jury of my real peers.

1 comment:

Jason Rogalski said...

You should post 3 short articles to this that illustrate examples of amazing botany.