Monday, 9 June 2014

How to irritate primary school teachers

What a nice book
This afternoon I'm giving a talk at a primary school in Chippenham, and I'm a little nervous. Not because of the talk itself - they always make a great audience - but in case the teachers throw things. Let me explain.

Yesterday I had the great pleasure of taking part in the Channel 4 programme Sunday Brunch to talk about my new book The Quantum Age. It was a really enjoyable morning, and the segment appeared to be well received. But while I may have done pretty well on attempting to get people interested in quantum physics, I put my foot in it when it comes to junior school teachers.

We had discussed the way the current curriculum is essentially Victorian and I'd pointed out how it's not a problem of the subject, because I talk about quantum physics to junior school children and they lap up its weirdness with more easy acceptance than adults. What I then wanted to say was something like 'Unfortunately the curriculum doesn't make a mention of quantum theory, and the teachers don't receive any training to talk about it.' Let's be clear, the criticism was supposed to be very much of the science curriculum, not teachers. But what I actually said was something like 'Junior school teachers don't have a clue.'
Anyone for a quantum coin trick?
The moment I said it, my stomach dropped - but in this kind of high speed, live discussion, it's so easy to not say exactly what you mean. Taken in isolation it sounds terrible - but all that I intended was to say that the teachers don't have the preparation and the material to put across what is now one of the two fundamental aspects of physics, which is a real shame.

I also ought to say that I now have a genuine sympathy for politicians and others who say something rather silly in a TV interview. When your brain is working double time, it can be very easy to lose track of exactly which words come out.

To finish on a lighter note, I was appearing on the same show as the Australian boy band Five Seconds of Summer, which meant that some of the tweets received during the show were not the usual things I'd expect. I leave you with this to contemplate:

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