In which I am in favour of a broad science education…

…alternatively titled ‘dude I learned something useful in high school physics’ or ‘how I spent £2.30 to save £100’.

I broke our TV by cleaning it.  Unexpected, I know, to break something simply by picking it up, gently removing the dust on it and on the DVR, and putting it back down.  But I broke it and when I turned it on, no signal was available.   To those of you who know me, the TV was a relatively new technological intervention in our house, and it was purchased back in November when we got sick of BTinternet being too crap for on demand tv over the internet.  The signal has been intermittently crap since then but moving cables about helped and we were on the verge of getting a person in to realign (in reality replace) our rooftop aerial.

We would have looked pretty damn silly for people with 4 and 2/3 degrees between them.

Turns out that the coaxial aerial extension lead was rubbish with a faulty connection, hence the intermittent signal and improvement on moving cables (i.e. jiggling the end bit).  At this point things got rather strange as I sat on the sofa and related exactly how to rewire said coaxial cable.  Strange because I recalled learning how to do so in standard grade physics.

Standard grade physics was a strange ordeal.  Our teacher, bless her, had utterly no control of the class some days and I recall my (mostly male) classmates leaping from bench to bench yelling loudly, while our teacher (who I shall not name, but those of you ex-Woodmill high school types should be able to guess) squawked ‘sit down boys’ as if chasing naughty chickens not determinedly disruptive 14 year old Dunfermliners.  If I recall correctly, we had to do a number of assessed practicals and some of these were useless from a ‘life skills’ point of view, others were very useful such as wiring a plug and wiring a coaxial plug.

In any case, the coaxial plug on the end of the aerial cable took about 20 minutes to fix, longer because the white bit (above) on the first one I tried was broken.  We’ve got the TV signal back on all channels, we can now watch channels on the BBC multiplex without interference and we’ve also picked up a couple of stations on multiplex D that we have thus far been unable to receive.  We’ll probably still need the aerial person to come do some aligning because I’d like to get film4 at some point.  We did, however, retune and pick up Food Network UK, featuring programs by some of my favourite North American Chefs (Paula Deen, Bobby Flay, Ina Garten…).

And the point about science? That high school science class didn’t just provide me with the knowledge to wire the plug, but all of the science classes I have taken have taught me to problem solve.  We were able to methodically work through every aspect of our TV cables and think about whether each one could have caused the problem. The same logical process fixed our central heating boiler on Christmas eve without having to call anyone out (frozen condensate pipe, frozen up into the boiler, about 1 hour to fix), and many other common household dilemmas.  Even if you don’t recall the details of the exercises you did in science class, something of the thought processes remain, some of the training influences you even 15 years later.  That is why scientific thinking is a vital skill for all high school students, whether directly useful (learn to wire a plug properly will you?) or not.

2 Replies to “In which I am in favour of a broad science education…”

  1. Hi there Katy – I loved that post!

    My outstanding memory of science at Woodmill was an occasion in Standard Grade chemistry. At the time, a particular joker in our year (who, like you said, ‘shall remain nameless’, apart from saying Al.. Helm…) had adopted a phrase from a Dime bar advert that was on the telly at the time. It featured Harry Enfield and a comment about the difference between Dime bars – armadillos are “smooth on the inside, crunchy on the outside – ARMADILLOS”. At the time, all he had to shout was “armadillos” and everyone cracked up – one of those ‘in’ jokes. However, we had a new Chemistry teacher, very obviously his first ever teaching job was with our class. As we sat silently writing up chemistry notes in that first class with him, AH suddenly yelled out “Armadillos!” – entire class burst out laughing – I’ve never seen a teacher at more of a loss about how to handle the situation! I suppose you kind of had to be there!

    However, I totally agree with you – however positive or negative the place was at the time (all those MANY years ago!), every so often it’s impossible not to think ‘thank you Woodmill’!

  2. Yes, I now remember those ads (and also understand why every so often Richard wanders around muttering about crispy armadillos). That sounds like Mr Miller for Chemistry. I remember Mrs Sadler setting her cardigan on fire, whacking someone on the butt for being cheeky to her, and screaming at someone holding a lit wooden splint in a can of powdered magnesium. Lets not forget when the other kids sellotaped someone to the desk.
    Yes it was a very special place.
    I also remember Mr Atkin (I think) the biology teacher leaping from desk to desk.

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