Monday, February 06, 2012

Portraits and Concrete

In the weeks right after I ditched grad school, I walked across the street from Caltech, my home of five years, to PCC (Pasadena City College.)  What I saw in the huge PCC library made me nearly cry - there was art on the walls, a series of paintings (acrylic sketches?  photographs?) of people, different ages, different races, all sorts of people.  It was like a hug saying you are welcome to this community, or at least we will like to try to welcome you.  If there had been pictures like that on the walls at Caltech, life might have been much easier.

Soon after, I was a volunteer judge at a local elementary/middle school's science projects.  It was not a white school.  I noticed that whereas American kids were drilled (drilled, truly) in the scientific method from an early age, I was not.  Aha!  This explained why I found research difficult - compared to the Americans - in spite of having obvious academic talent and preparation.  In my own primary and secondary schooling, the research process was not emphasized, but teaching and learning and 'rithmetic and 'riting were.

While I admired the kids' ingenious projects that day - comparing sounds and colours and whatnot - I couldn't imagine having to drag through doing them myself.  The stories interested me; the process did not.  I actually do not like "the process." Experimenting following a recipe reminds me of what my mother called cooking and gives me a nasty headache.  Recording and reporting results, I always found dumb and obvious.  This is partly because you already know what's going to happen: "it's a straight line, Newton's law holds woo-hoo!"

One of the co-judges was an arrogant and rude scientist.  I was glad to be rid of his type.  Then the school, I thought it was quite harshly built - very large, very sturdy, very unlike a hug.  Children need colours, they need fantasy, instead they had the set of Prison Break, and unfriendly photographs of very dead white people.  Poor babies.

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