Subject: Manse Diaries: Science Fear
Date: 25 Apr 1998 00:00:00 GMT
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (MegaLiz)
Organization: MotPU: Where Binary Moodswings are ALWAYS on the Menu
Newsgroups: alt.foot.fat-free, alt.slack
It's over, and there will just have to be Slack in THAT. The Science
Fair was and ever shall be over for now. Amen.
I decided to go easy on Sparky. She chose the research question, I
suggested the sponges, she designed the experiment and I assisted and
did her bidding. We took turns throwing wet things of various sizes
out of the window and watched them splat on the deck. We took notes,
and she ignored most of what I had to say, which was JUST FINE.
Striving always to remember that it was HER project, I shut up and
took dictation, recording her precise words to be printed and pasted
exactly where she wanted them arranged on her enormous display unit.
When it was done, I consulted the stack of instructions and asked her
whether she would say that her results supported her hypothesis. Her
conclusion: Galileo was just plain WRONG--heavy things fall faster
ANYWAY. Never mind the muddy data; inertia means nothing to her. I
figure that's okay. This is just the first grade and inertia will
catch up with her eventually.
The night of the fair, I was exhausted. The previous day had included
a surprise visit from Mr. Slumlord, who came to "check" the toilets,
pronounced them broken--as I had already TOLD him they were--and went
away quickly when I started to tell him all about the crack house
investigator. The entire visit was HATEFUL, but I suppose that is the
most RELIABLE function of a landlord, to inspire hate. He has no
choice but to be the receptacle of my ancient dishwasher frustration.
ANYWAY, Sparky was thoroughly excited about the Science Fair and the
promise of snacks afterward in particular. We wound our way through
the school along with dozens of others, and managed to avoid bumping
into anyone else while carrying a huge folded cardboard display. It
was very much like an anthill where all of the ants carry ridiculously
over-proportioned leaves through the tunnels. All would be lost if one
of them decided suddenly to turn around, bruising antennae and
creating a cataclysmic accordion effect that would fling at least half
of them back out of the entrance. I really wanted her to turn around,
to test my assumption, but she never even hesitated. She's an
efficient little marcher now.
We found Sparky's nest without difficulty, and found that one of her
very best pals had been assigned to the adjacent area. Emily was even
more excited than Sparky was about showing off her hard work. I
studied it, with helpful interpretation from Emily's mom. Emily had
grown waterbugs, which died and were then lovingly frozen and
displayed in their dripping blocks of tupperwared ice. A large punch
bowl full of murky water was present to show where the critters would
have lived, had they lived. I may not be properly conveying the charm
of this, but it really was science at is cutest.
All of the kids' displays were above average. No kidding. I'd seen a
typical first-grade science fair before and this one was better than
that one on the whole. There was evidence of plenty of parental design
sense, but only rarely did I suspect that Dad had been sweating over
the Mechanism, shooing junior away to "play video games or something"
while he worked. The displays were colorful and nearly all of them
included some shaky magic marker work and sporadic scissoring.
Once the set-up phase was mostly complete, "adult scientists" began to
crouch with the "kid scientists" to discuss their projects. This took
a very long time. They appeared to be very thorough and thoroughly
When Sparky's turn with the big scientist came up, I had dutifully
backed away to watch and not listen. After all, I was just the
research assistant, the unpaid and unheralded second banana to the
real scientist intent on galloping all over Galileo. Watching Sparky
jut her chin and nod grimly during their discussion of gravity, I
goggled at her budding confidence and wondered to myself how the hell
After making her notes for Sparky, the big scientist moved on to the
next little scientist, and I raced on tiptoe to scan her remarks. They
were a bit vague but clearly complimentary. "Good job" is a favorite
uneducational educator phrase, I have learned, and it was there a few
Soon it was time for the awards ceremony. Careful positioning in these
situations is essential, since I'm a tad claustrophobic. I stubbornly
maintained a spot near the exit and refused to respond to a few
exasperated exhalations from people who wished me even skinnier. It
wasn't my fault that the Science Fair had a record turnout.
The small scientists received medals of participation, very, very
slowly. Some of them didn't recognize their names, and others seemed
unsure of what to do, even after they had, theoretically, applauded
for fifteen others.
I have a bad brain habit that manages to annoy those who know me, and
certainly would have annoyed these parents had I muttered aloud as my
hands went numb from happy clapping. The Big Picture is forever
forming and reforming in my mind, I zoom out and play connect the
dots, while I would imagine normal people are thinking about how
hungry they are. This habit may actually be the reason that I don't
get hungry the way normal people do.
Instead of thinking about how much I wanted a donut, I was thinking
about those medals. At first, it seems terribly sweet and helpful that
everyone was a winner. This experience would boost their scientific
selfesteemies! Everybody knows that that is IMPORTANT. It's our duty
as parents to stroke and stoke those little egos and volunteer to maim
the first person who honestly tells them that they are mediocre at
I was beginning to have a GOOD time, clapping in the blank spaces so
as to wear out my companion fans. Damn the manicures, girls! Clap 'til
I wondered what Sparky would have thought if her big scientist had
added a valid criticism for her to digest. I'm confident that it would
not have caused her to renounce science forever. In fact, it might
have improved her methods for next year or even inspired her to try
the whole thing again, flinging things from a taller building in the
name of better, taller science.
Maybe they know something that I don't. Maybe little people can't cope
with criticism until they are of a future developmental age. Maybe
this isn't making them into a bunch of praise junkies who will be
happy to hear that their science is "good enough" as they calculate a
rocket trajectory that is "pretty close."
To the Science Fair, I can say heartily, "Good Job!"
"Is it just me...or do I have tape in my hair?" - Spunky