Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Science for '50s kids : little 'microbe made' life-savers and manmade 'Big Science' life-takers

Science for kids in elementary school at anytime is - well - pretty elementary.

My science memories as an elementary student (September 1956 - June 1963) were probably as much derived from my home life as from my teachers.
On one hand, my mother talked a great deal of the marvel that it was the little slimy bugs in the jungle soils that gave us all the antibiotics that saved the lives of sick little kids.

I definitely remembering picking up the symmetry of the two 'littles' even if my mom hadn't intended it so deliberately.

The other science I remember picking up so readily was perhaps closer to engineering than to hard science.

The TV news and newspaper pictures I got at home only reinforced what I saw in the school geography textbook pictures - all about of the exciting massive civil engineering projects of canal Seaways and Kitimat townsites.

They fed into more excited talk about all the massive new rocket and airplane projects planned for the 1950s.

The biggest of manmade Big Science in the 1950s of course was atomic power and atomic bombs ---- where cheery news stories about nuclear powered submarines and nuclear electricity 'too cheap to meter' was balanced by Sci Fi TV and films worrying about nuclear and other scientific holocausts destroying all the world.

Starting in 1962, I definitely felt a pronounced change in the atmosphere regarding the value of progress and science : the Thalidomide disaster and Rachel Carson's Silent Spring arrived together with particular force in my home, though still invisible in my school work.

The reason I believe we boomer kids questioned our parents' faith in science and progress well before they did is because we little kids missed the mass of subtle details - the mixed good and the bad - of real life science and only got two widely contrasting extreme highlights : little bug 'kid lifesavers' versus Big People 'kid killers'....

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