Human Qualities And Science

By: Archmage

Brian Westgate

September 27th, 2002

Human Qualities and Science

As humankind progresses our population gets larger and larger. Not only does the population increase, but the scientific discoveries increase as well. While both population and our knowledge of science grow, teachers need efficient ways of teaching more science to more people. Is the current method efficient education or practical education? We seem to have the idea that education of the masses seems to leave out things such as individuality, creativity, abstract thinking, and initiative. Scientists need all of these characteristics in order to form hypotheses and conduct scientific inquiry. Our education system needs to be changed to foster theses characteristics.

As students attend typical class, they are first lectured, then given a few problems out of a book, and lastly graded upon the answers they give. If the answers a student provides are too different from the answer provided in the answer sheet or book, then the student is marked wrong. Sometimes, a student will have a lab class designed to give students experience in working problems they may encounter in real life. In this lab, the students are given a problem. The students usually already know the problem’s solution. Throughout the lab, the students are to arrive at the solution while recording things such as observations, calculations, laws/theorems, and their own knowledge of what is being done. This process can and is being done by computers today because it requires none of the qualities a computer does not have: individuality, creativity, abstract thinking, and initiative. Most of the human qualities are not practiced in these lectures, assignments, or lab classes.

Where in this method of education do the exclusively human qualities lie? Alexander Calandra narrates a story about a student who tries to use his own human qualities in the current method of educating science. At the end of Calandra’s essay, the student announces “he was fed up with high school and college instructors trying to teach him how to think, to use the ‘scientific method’, and to explore deep inner logic of the subject in a pedantic way…” (58). If one is to read the article, he or she will find that the student is obviously understanding of the material and is rich in human qualities. However, these qualities are being ignored and even discouraged by the student’s teacher. The ignoring of these qualities mean most students who are not rich in individuality, creativity, abstract thinking, and initiative will have more difficulty using these characteristics as they progress and finish their education. This will cause many problems.

The development of science requires the four human qualities. Individuality allows one to feel that what he or she is doing is significant. Creativity generates unique ideas (hypotheses) to be tested. Abstract thinking allows a person to be able to see what is missing or what can be improved. Initiative is a personal quality that allows one to test his or her creative idea without guidance or support. None of these is practiced or graded in the current method of scientific education. If a student is to find any significance in doing the lab, it will probably be for the sole purpose of his or her education. Students are also told the problem, how to see the problem, and how to check the problem to ensure a correct solution.

Computers and technology can easily perform the tasks a student currently does. High-level programming makes it very easy to “teach” computers knowledge. Finding answers to questions is getting easier and easier for computers to do. Correcting the computer is just a matter of a few clicks. And lastly, computers are being used for what students are doing by hand in lab classes today. The students are doing nothing a computer cannot do or soon will be able to do. If students are taught what a computer is able to do, they will never learn how to be better than the computer (meaning using exclusively human characteristics). This can cause risk for the students in finding a job, where a computer that does not require a paycheck has not filled the position.

The solution is relatively simple. It does not require one-on-one attention or education, it can be graded, and it can develop knowledge and the human qualities. Students of science should not be given the questions but prompted to find one themselves. This can also work for ideas; the student can find knowledge new to him or her without it being given. The student-developed questions can be graded on relevance, difficulty, and good judgment. The ideas or newfound knowledge can be graded on accuracy, innovation, and good judgment as well. Trying to find a problem or idea is half the work in the development of science. Most highly enthusiastic students do these very things on their own; they ask questions and try to find the answer as well as try to find new knowledge with that they already know. Should these students not be encouraged to practice their human qualities by generating their own questions or finding knowledge on their own? The answer is obviously no.

However, there is one strong reason why the solution is not implemented in most educational systems. If a student is asked to come up with questions, will he or she pick ones he or she does know the answer to, or the ones he or she does not know the answer to? It is obvious that if the student just wants to pass the class and does not care much for the education, he or she will pick the easy way. But these students will not be the ones developing our knowledge of science. Instead, they will be the ones working in a completely different field, or more or less doing “drone work” that a computer is not able to do yet. The true scientists will be the ones that have enthusiasm in what they study and ask for more. These are the ones who will be using their human qualities every day!

So, the current method of education may be kept. We need this method in order to teach a lot of students a lot of knowledge.

However, the scientific enthusiasts are not being educated the way they should. Their human qualities are not being rewarded or promoted. Often, they are discouraged as they make it more difficult for the teacher to teach. This is very hurtful not only to the student, but the growth of science directly. If giving these students the attention they need means slowing down the entire class, then these students should be taken out of the classes with thirty or more students and put into a class where they can be rewarded for their human qualities. Gifted students are being put into higher-level classes, but this is not enough. Any enthusiastic student should be complemented for showing his or her human qualities, as it will make him or her a better scientist and overall make the development of science more accurate and precise.

Works Cited

Calandra, Alexander. “Angels on a Pin.” Science and Technology today. Ed. Nancy R. MacKenzie. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1995. 56-58.


I would like to thank Dr. J. H. Gaines for her time and effort put into reveiwing this essay for me. Thank you, Dr. Gaines.

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