I must confess that I have never been very interested in science. Conversations on scientific topics tend to make my eyes glaze over.
My only good science experience was in first grade. We had a lovely teacher named Miss Garcelon, who had just graduated from teachers college, and we were her first class. She decided, for whatever reason, that she was going to teach a bunch of six-year-olds about the human body. So she borrowed a model from the local high school, since they apparently weren’t using it, a human torso that opened up and you could see all of the organs inside. Our first surprise was that a human heart wasn’t shaped like a valentine heart. Also, the heart wasn’t way over on the left, like where you put your hand when you are saying the Pledge of Allegiance — even though that is called putting your hand on your heart — it was actually right in the middle. Further discoveries amazed us. And she taught us a song, to the tune of Witch Doctor, that went “Esophagus and heart, windpipe, stomach and lungs.” Try it, instead of “Ooh eee, ooh ah ah ting tang, Walla walla, bing bang.” It works!
In my seventh grade science class, we each had to construct a chicken skeleton. This meant going to the butcher shop, buying a whole chicken, cooking it, recovering all the bones, and then putting them together into a full skeleton. I don’t know how we fastened them together. I have a feeling everyone’s parents did most of the work. It was a grueling experience, and I have not liked eating chicken very much ever since.
In high school, I managed to take only one science class in my whole four years, which was Biology, and I didn’t do very well in it. My main memory of that class is sitting there looking at my long hair and biting off the split ends. (My husband, a Yalie, is amazed that I could have gotten into Radcliffe with only one science class on my transcript. I point out that I had five years of Spanish and four years of Latin, which surely made up for the paucity of science.) I loved math, as well as English, history, and languages, but science just did not do it for me.
In college, I foolishly decided to get my Nat Sci requirement out of the way freshman year. This was a bad decision because if I had waited, I would have learned about the various science courses that were geared to non-science types like me, such as “Rocks for Jocks” and “Physics for Poets.” My freshman adviser, who was pretty worthless, suggested taking Nat Sci 5, which was a biology course, since, after all, biology was the one science I knew something about. It was taught by George Wald, who had won a Nobel Prize the previous year, and a lot of my friends were taking it, so it seemed like a good idea. It was a disaster. Wald spent as much time as possible reminding us about his Nobel Prize. For instance, when he was lecturing about Watson discovering DNA, he said “and he won HIS Nobel Prize for . . .” Also, it turned out the course was not just biology, it was actually biochemistry, and assumed some knowledge of chemistry. I had absolutely none! Help! We had to memorize the 20 amino acids, and the Krebs cycle, and god only knows what else. It made absolutely no sense to me. On the final exam at the end of the year, there were 10 questions, worth 10 points each. I only understood 3 of the questions. The other 7 might as well have been written in Greek, they were completely incomprehensible to me. So I answered the 3 questions that I understood. I also wrote a note in my blue book begging them to pass me, because if I flunked I would have to take another Nat Sci course, and that would be too awful to contemplate. I ended up getting a 29 on the final, and a D+ in the class, which was good enough. Actually, I was very proud of that 29. Since I only answered 3 questions, the highest score I could have gotten was a 30, so a 29 was pretty close to perfect!
After that I never had anything more to do with science. If the kids needed help with any of their science classes, I turned them over to my husband. And even now, if somebody starts talking about Higgs Boson or other such topics, my mind just shuts down. I don’t get it, and I don’t want to!