Chemical Retraction

If you want my opinion (and I can’t imagine why you would), I think high school science should be an elective so we don’t have to take it. I guess the reason they make us take so many different classes is so we can be exposed to a lot of things so we can make Wise Career Choices, but anyone who actually wants to go into science professionally already knows it by the time he reaches high school, and anyone who doesn’t can’t be changed because that kind of dorkiness cannot be taught in four years. It requires a lifetime of practice.

For instance, I have a friend we’ll call Bob who wants to go into physics, or some other kind of white lab coat-related profession. One time — and this is true — I heard Bob engage in a heated debate over why, when you put your finger over a straw and then pull the straw out of the glass, the liquid stays up in the straw. What’s frightening is that someone was actually discussing it with him.

“Come on, Bob,” I said. “What difference does it make?”

“My name isn’t Bob,” he said. “It’s Colby.”

Regardless of what his name actually is (I’m still not sure), you can clearly see that one does not get like that from a mere four years of high school. It requires gobs of practice and lots of mind-altering substances.

Another thing I don’t like about science is my chemistry teacher, who is under the impression that chemistry is the most important subject on the face of the earth and that he is therefore duty-bound to make us hate it by assigning ten times as much work as we get in other, more relevant, classes.

His rationale for being the Science Teacher from Hell (which is kind of a contradiction in terms since science teacher are atheists and don’t believe in hell) is that chemistry is all around us, every second of the day. He fails to realize, however, that so is dirt, but you don’t see me taking Dirtology just so I can earn enough credits to get out of Elsinore High School and move on to a place of greater intellectual depth, such as Mayberry.

Yet another thing I don’t like is how everything they teach us, science-wise, is not only irrelevant to our everyday lives, but is also usually untrue. Take, for instance, Dalton’s Atomic Theory. Dalton’s Atomic Theory states — get this — that atoms are always moving. Isn’t that the stupidest thing you’ve heard since Miss Iowa announced that she wanted to be a podiatrist “because I love children”?

I think the way this came about is that one night Dalton and a bunch of his science-geek friends were sitting around the lab, getting plastered and throwing up in the hydrochloric acid just to see if it would boil or something, when Dalton said, “Hey! Look at that table! All the atoms are moving!” Then they all had a good laugh and threw up some more, except for one particularly nerdy scientist (you’ll pardon the redundancy), who took Dalton seriously and published his “theory.”

The last thing I don’t like about science is having to do a science project. I have a very amusing anecdote about that, but I’ll have to tell it after I’ve passed the class and my teacher can no longer take revenge, as it makes him look kind of stupid, which believe me is not hard.

I did have more recommendations, but I seem to have forgotten them now. Maybe I’ll think of them if I get bored again.

"More recommendations"? Apparently, I originally wrote this in the format of "recommendations" on how to make high school science classes better. At some point in the editing process, I guess I changed that, but left this ending. No matter, because the last paragraph was cut out in publication anyway.

The amusing anecdote regarding my science project is that I didn't do any of it -- I made the whole thing up, didn't conduct a single experiment, didn't have any actual research -- and yet still got a "B." Trust me, that's very funny.

My chemistry teacher, Mr. Mata, read this column and didn't seem to mind it, thus displaying a sense of humor that most of us considered to be non-existent. I think I got a "C" in the class, which isn't all that good, but considering how much work he made us do, and how much I hated the class (does that come through strongly enough in the column?), it's pretty decent.

The line about Miss Iowa talking about podiatrists and children is stolen from somewhere (I forget where), and it's a poor joke anyway. It would have been much funnier if I had used an actual stupid thing that someone had actually said, rather than making one up. I can't explain the physics of it, but scientifically, that joke just doesn't work the way I've got it, aside from being stolen.