How is it that the american public school system managed to make chemistry and physics feel so stale and boring?

I'm so angry about that.

Like, we could have connected history to science by tracing the developments of various technologies through human history, and followed those up with practical demonstrations.

Built up to modern technology in schools to understand how society formed.

In the process, you learn Math, History, Physics, and Chemistry, plus you get to Make Stuff.

Imagine that on day one of class in fourth grade your teacher walked in and said:

"This year, we're going to recreate 20 major technological advancements of human society from Ancient Rome through the industrial revolution."

And then every week, you did that?


Like, we did lemon batteries, you know?

But my teacher couldn't even explain what we were doing or why it worked.

We did basic circuits with switches, but again, it was just "do these things"

We could have learned about geology by collecting various elements from various locations (Field Trips! The school system loved them, most of them were just corporate bullshit) and then watching as our teachers/volunteers refined those elements and taught us how they would have been used.

So I'm playing with this idea of a math/science/history curriculum for adults that tracks the foundation of modern technology/society from pre-history to the foot of the industrial revolution, and then another that starts at industrialization and tracks forward to the information age.

Pre-history to the roots of industrialization is straightforward.

If you focus on food, commerce, and war you can cover basically every major advancement over the course of like 10 months? With each one building on the last.

Industrialization to the information age is harder, because things get more complicated and because the demonstrations and applications get harder.

Combinatory Explosions.

I can probably build a furnace and do basic smithing well enough to demonstrate how it works. Everything in the pre-industrial age is pretty much like that. Time, effort, and tools, but it's reachable.

But in order to unlock lots of the industrial and post-industrial age stuff, we're looking at a level of finesse that will require that we cheat.

I think that's fine.

If I'm going to build a film camera, for example, I'm going to use modern tools to do it. Laser cutter, 3D printer, etc.

But more than that, if I'm going to build a film camera, I'm going to be buying film.

I might demonstrate the rough principle, and do a daguerreotype style wet plate process, but I'm not making film.

We might build a wire recorder, or make basic magnetic tape, but I'm not going to invest the time and energy building the machinery it takes to make magnetic tape for audio and video (except that I totally might, but that's another story and unrelated to my frustration with education.)

@craigmaloney I'm way more interested in the camera than the film.

Film is gross.

Maybe we'll just make video cameras.

@ajroach42 it's not making the film itself, but Caffenol developer (made from coffee & other household ingredients) would go great with a homemade camera project

@observer Sure, but without some kind of fixer, it's not going to do much for you?

@observer I could have said that better.

Let me try again.

Yes! It's super neat.

I have found frustration with it in the past because there isn't an equivalent method for producing a film fixer.

@ajroach42 have you read Ryan North's *How to Invent Everything*? it covers a lot of those inventions with a fun framing device. (This is the guy who wrote Dinosaur Comics and a recent run of Squirrel Girl in case you don't recognize the name)

It doesn't go in depth on everything but it does provide a good introduction for most technologies.

I would suggest that you at least include it as a recommended reading to your students

@ajroach42 yes please.

And this sounds like something that could be used for homeschooling, too, or in combination with an unschooling experience.

Did you ever read "The Teenage Liberation Handbook"? By Grace Llewellyn? They use similar ideas, but never got to the "what if we just recreated human progress in the first few years of school, and then allowed kids to specialize once they figure out what they like", but it's heavily implied.

@ajroach42 school can be sooooo amazing with proper resources and well educated (in both subject AND modern pedagogy) teachers. (I'm working under the assumption that competent and enthusiastic teachers more or less follow from that)

Positive example: I remember my favorite 7th or 8th grade teacher tying balloons around each other to visualize the orbitals electrons sort themselves into when circling a nucleus. That's pretty advanced stuff to teach to 14yos, imo.

@ajroach42 if you want to get to the bottom of it, I recommend The Ultimate History Lesson, a five hour interview with John Taylor Gatto. It culminates with his bizarre story of how he discovered the six true functions of public education. Spoiler alert: none of them are to foster a love of learning.

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