Tuesday, February 3, 2009

School Science Fairs: Right-brained obstacles to left-brainer recognition

When my autistic son first started participating in the mandatory city-wide middle school school science fair, I figured this scientifically-minded kid would naturally distinguish himself--after all, he's been doing science experiments since he was about 2--and thus enhance his chances for admission to a decent magnet high school.

But two years have gone by, and he's won no prizes.  In fact, he hasn't even gotten past the first hurdle: being chosen as the one or two students to represent his class.

Perhaps some of his classmates are very strong competitors, I'd simply assumed.

Then, this morning, a friend of mine who happens to be a school science fair veteran explained to me how it works.

To make it past that first hurdle, it turns out, you have to be elected by the majority of your classmates.  And for this, you are evaluated not on the scientific merits of your experiment, but on the quality of your presentation.

Thus, graphic design and public speaking skills trump scientific talent, further reducing what few opportunities remain for left-brainers to distinguish themselves.


Obi-Wandreas, The Funky Viking said...

Given the fact that sensationalism has trumped fact and inquiry in some of the most famous fields today, this would seem to be an accurate representation of today's scientific climate.

Although left-brain work in science tends to be that which endures, that's a small consolation to those having to deal with science as a popularity contest today.

lgm said...

My kid's team didn't even participate in the school contest - since the team chose not to participate, the students assigned to that team were barred from entry. Perhaps you might consider other contests that don't have political barriers to entry. Your son could then get the experience to improve his speaking and presentation skills. The graphic design on the tri-panel doesn't really have to be more than cookbook, from what I've seen.

your county fair via 4H

Good luck.

lefty said...

Thanks, lgm, for the science competition suggestions. My son does like rubber bands...

Obi-Wandreas, I hadn't thought of the grade school science classroom as a microcosm for today's science community, but perhaps (yikes!) it is.