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Author Topic: Why is science not more important in teaching history?  (Read 4449 times)

Offline cheryl j

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When I glance at history books used in public schools and universities, it surprises me how much of them is devoted to military conflict and royal dynasties, and how little space is devoted to science and inventions and  their historical impact. Notable exceptions might be smelting, the industrial revolution and the atomic bomb. Even so, I think a thousand years from now the marriages of kings and queens will seem like trivial details in comparison to how technology changed not just the daily lives of people but often determined the domination of cultures and nations. One site listed the following as the top ten inventions in history: the wheel, the nail,the compass, the printing press, the internal combustion engine, the telephone, the light bulb, penicillin, contraceptives, and the Internet.
« Last Edit: 07/02/2014 14:31:34 by cheryl j »


 

Offline CliffordK

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Re: Why is science not more important in teaching history?
« Reply #1 on: 11/02/2014 03:32:02 »
You're right, as long as I'm not marrying any kings, I could care less about which one beheaded the most queens!!!

Politics are important in that they do affect our lives, and perhaps we can learn from our mistakes and never elect another Adolf to power.  The sinking of a single ship in 1912 might hardly be a footnote in a history lesson, it does provide a lesson about the hubris of building the unsinkable ship.

I suppose I get tired of reading a list of scientist's names too, although a few like Piaget have stuck with me.  Much of he science history is taught as part of the sciences, some departments more than others.  One could certainly teach the renascence as being the "re-nascence", or "re-birth".  One does learn of many renascence scientists such as Galileo.  Leonardo would either be known as a tinkerer extraordinaire, or a noted scientist.  He did at least bring back an emphasis on Gross Anatomy.  There has been some emphasis on great explorers such as Marco Polo, Columbus, James Cook, etc.

You could certainly add to your list.  It is hard to pick out just ten.
Airplanes, jets, and rockets.
Photography
TV/Radio/Wireless Communication, and the applications to cell phones & etc.
Record Players and Recording Media.
The internet would be useless without computers, and don't forget that lowly computer mouse.
The automobile, tractors, combines, etc.
Concrete & Road Tar
Steel, Iron, Copper, and various alloys.
ELECTRICITY, & AC/DC, motors, engines, generators, electric lights, etc.
Refrigerators, freezers, pasteurization, and canning.
The telescope and the microscope.
Do viruses, bacteria, cells, and DNA count as inventions?
The diode and semiconductors.
Ships, and an understanding of displacement.
X-Rays, CT scans, MRI, PET Scans, angiography.
Sugar, Chocolate, and Coffee.
Dental Care

I suppose the list could get pretty long.
« Last Edit: 11/02/2014 03:33:43 by CliffordK »
 

Offline alancalverd

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Re: Why is science not more important in teaching history?
« Reply #2 on: 12/02/2014 16:37:53 »
The telephone represented the most radical change in human society. Other means of transport and communication are just quicker ways of getting from one cave to another but the phone means  anyone can (a) be in two places at once and (b) communicate with any other person instantly and without third party permission. This has rendered politics, national government, and the concept of tribe, obsolete - even if politicians have been slow to realise it.

I've just returned from a job in a Russian factory where we were assembling components from the USA, UK, Germany, China and Japan into a rig designed and built in Russia for export worldwide. Specifications, drawings, orders and money hurtled round the globe by internet (just another development of the telephone - a few years ago we used fax) in the universal language of technology (broken English). This sort of international collaboration works because the "nation" bit is now irrelevant, and after 2000 years in the dark age of politics, trade has re-established itself as the key to civilisation, thanks to the telephone and its offspring.   

Kropotkin and Bakunin pointed out that there is no international post office: letters and parcels get delivered anywhere in the world by common consent  because it makes sense to do so. I guess that predates the phone but there's no single technology or entity involved so beyond the "public penny post" it's hard to call it an invention, even though we couldn't have built our machines this week without parcel deliveries.
 

Offline cheryl j

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Re: Why is science not more important in teaching history?
« Reply #3 on: 12/02/2014 18:06:53 »
Even science has some unfortunate chapters. I've read that the invention of the cotton gin was the biggest single cause of the Civil War, by dramatically increasing the South's dependence on slaves and plantations, although I don't think inventor Eli Whitney foresaw any of that happening.

I liked the book "Guns, Germs, and Steel" which looks at history more from the perspective of technology.

 

Offline CliffordK

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Re: Why is science not more important in teaching history?
« Reply #4 on: 06/03/2014 23:12:32 »
As far as "unfortunate consequences", I suppose a lot of "progress" has both good and bad.

There is a chunk of medical knowledge from Nazi human experimentation that is very controversial.  Some would choose to completely ignore it altogether.  I suppose on the other side, one might choose to remember those whose lives were sacrificed by the Nazis. 

And, of course, there was the Tuskegee Experiment

Another interesting thing to consider might be how much of our current technology is directly related to the military, or might have been delayed significantly without the military.  Jet aircraft, for example, is likely directly tied to military aviation advancements.
 

Offline alancalverd

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Re: Why is science not more important in teaching history?
« Reply #5 on: 08/03/2014 20:42:31 »
And yet....
http://www.aetc.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123402740
Quote
3/7/2014 - LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz.  -- The U.S. military was racially segregated during World War II. Reflecting American society and law at the time, most black Soldiers and Sailors were restricted to labor battalions and other support positions. An experiment in the U.S. Army Air Forces, however, showed that given equal opportunity and training, black Americans could fly, command and support combat units as well as anyone.

The black fliers, known as "Tuskegee Airmen," served with distinction in combat and directly contributed to the eventual integration of the U.S. armed services, with the Air Force leading the way.

Indeed, war seems in this instance to have done more to advance the entirely good cause of racial equality, than "medical science".
 

Offline yellowcat

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Re: Why is science not more important in teaching history?
« Reply #6 on: 24/03/2014 21:44:35 »
The BBC radio 4 programme In Our Time is generally very good at covering the history of science.

If you are looking for a really good book on the history of science I would recommend The Ascent of Science by Brian L. Silver
 

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Re: Why is science not more important in teaching history?
« Reply #6 on: 24/03/2014 21:44:35 »

 

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