I am starting to incorporate video in my large enrollment course for the fall, Anth 143: Biology and Human Behavior (more on that another time, and yes, I will share at least some of them with you). The video expert on campus that I met with today pointed me to this talk by Theo Gray (Ig Nobel prize winner, founder of Wolfram Research).
The video quality isn’t great, but the topic is, and I encourage you to watch the whole thing. Gray makes a number of interesting and important points about how people understand and assess risk, and how we appreciate science education and research.
At about the twelve minute point, he refers back to an amusing quote about how science is most exciting to the student when he thinks the teacher may die. He says that boys in particular are drawn to science when there are explosions (he was absolutely not saying anything about differences in abilities, or making value statements on men and women in science – this was a benign side comment within an excellent talk).
It got me thinking, and I wanted to interrogate this for two reasons. First, I imagine there are many girls who are also drawn into science with explosions. And second, I wonder for those girls (and boys) who aren’t drawn to science with explosions, what would draw them into science?
My hope is that this series of videos I am starting to make for my 100-level, general education core requirement class will draw the student in with stories, interviews, and ways where I test assumptions that students hold about the nature of being human. I wonder, is this one of the other ways we can draw non-scientists into science?
But what are other ways? Those of us who are faculty and grad students are about to return to the classroom for the fall. What would you have us do this semester to do a better job exciting men and women, people of different ethnicities, class backgrounds and sexualities?
(Also check out a few of the other TEDxUIllinois talks from last year: May Berenbaum, famous entymologist; 90s rockers Rose Marshack & Rick Valentin; Leon Dash, college of media professor, Pulitzer Prize winner and wartime correspondent.)