I was thinking about teachers I’d had over the years, both good and bad. I decided – no real idea why as I am usually not an archaeologist of even my own past – to look up Larry Joye, a great science teacher of mine from 9th grade.
I was surprised to see that he had died.
He was only 63 years old.
I knew I’d never have a career in science as I am terrible at the operational side of math, but even before his class I’d always loved science.
Larry Joye recognized – unlike most educators, seemingly – that 99.98% of people, even very smart people, will not have a career in science and it’s more important for them to understand the concepts than work out equations that are and always will be utterly meaningless to them*.
Thus in his class we did great things like using precise scales to measure how much a pencil mark on a piece of paper weighed, and then attempting to work out how many atoms it took to make up that pencil mark.
Or we’d use a dichotomous key to identify some organism that he’d brought in. Or we’d go outside and gather as many plants as we could on school grounds and try to identify them all. (I found and identified the most! Ha.)
He basically threw the entire curriculum out the window and taught real science intended for folks who won’t ever be scientists, instead of an entire year of memorizing some musty equations from 1910.
He was a great teacher – passionate, extremely knowledgeable, and who knew that only seeing something actually in practice would mean much to those who aren’t just math geeks.
I learned more science in his class than the entire rest of my school career combined.
*Not intending to impugn math or its practitioners at all. Though I have a really good conceptual understanding, I am not good at it and never will be, hence why I knew I’d never be a scientist. That said, it is very useful to the 0.02% of population who need higher math for their careers. For the rest, it is mostly harmful as currently taught. It could be different, but it’s not.