Subject: Manse Diaries: Science Fear

Date: 25 Apr 1998 00:00:00 GMT

From: (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

that happened.


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

you bleed!


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