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Archive for November, 2009

I write like…

I write like
Stephen King

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are you serious?

So I had a little conference with my biology teacher today. I did this little assignment and she was handing it back today. She said to me that she wanted to keep my assignment and that she wanted to see me after class. ‘Obviously,’ I thought, ‘I must’ve done well on it.’ I’m always getting compliments from my English teachers because they always want to keep the stories and essays I write. Naturally, I thought I did well on this biology assignment as well and that my biology teacher wanted to congratulate me, or praise me, or SOMETHING. Apparently not.

She said she wanted to keep a copy of my work as an example of what a student should not do on a scientific lab report. I was literally stunned. I was in such shock that I just stared at her. I didn’t want her to think I was okay with this. Because I’m not okay with this at all. This has never happened to me before. No teacher has ever put me down before. But naturally, I agreed. I really wonder what would’ve happened if I gave her my dirtiest look, muttered a ‘NO,’ and stormed off. A part of me wishes I could’ve done just that. But always the crowd pleaser, I gave her a smile and said, ‘Yeah, sure, of course!’ as if it were something good – as if it were something to be proud of. As if.

She told me, and gave me an entire lecture in the margins of the pages of my assignment, that my scientific lab report – it wasn’t even a lab report, it was a report discussing GLOBAL WARMING – sounded like a well-written English paper. She said that I added too much fluff – which can also be construed as useless information. She even criticized my word choices! She isn’t an English teacher. Don’t be criticizing my work. My English is perfectly fine, thank you very much. If you didn’t want it to be written like an English paper, don’t mark it as if it were one. Not only am I personally offended, but I am also extremely insulted.

I love English. I also love science. I’m taking a chance and saying that I’m pretty strong in both subjects. Most students can either be classified as a science student or as an English student. Well, I’m both. The general trend – general – is that students who are strong in science are often weak in English and vice versa. Now, this is the problem that I have with what my biology teacher told me. And not even with my biology teacher but with the entire infrastructure of scientific lab reports.

No offense, but when people – non-science people – read my lab report, they actually found it interesting. They actually understood what I was talking about. Point being because I wrote my lab report like an English paper. I used metaphors, imagery, and smart rhetorical devices. I thought that it only contributed towards the overall flair and added an edge to my report. It didn’t skew any findings, facts, graphs, or figures. It didn’t mess up anything. I didn’t make anything ambiguous within my report. I didn’t question things like most people studying the humanities do. I stuck to the facts. I just wrote it like an English paper.

I honestly don’t see a problem with this. I really don’t. People in science are so close-minded that they can’t open their minds to accept different ways of doing things. They’re forever doing things the old fashioned way – the same way every time. I have a nauseating feeling that the reason why scientific lab reports are so straight-forward is because scientists, science students, and science teachers can’t write – for the most part. Most science people can’t. However, there are a select few, like me, who CAN. I love English. I love science. So obviously, the people who can’t write, can’t write beautiful lab reports without being boring and bland. So they choose a format that is straight-forward and vapid.

However, isn’t science about discovering things? New ideas? Inventing? Implementing new methods? Technology? How do they convince the general public – most of us whom haven’t seen a science textbook since our senior year of high school – that nuclear radiation is actually less harmful than the public thinks because nuclear reactors have barriers surrounding the nuclear fuel bundles in CANDU reactors when they’re undergoing nuclear fission? Therefore, the radiation is generally stopped by the concrete material and controlled by the moderators, coolants, and control rods enveloping the nuclear reactor core. It doesn’t reach the workers working at the reactor site. How do we tell the general public that medical radiation and nuclear radiation are essentially the same? They’re both radiation. You can’t. You can’t convince the general public if they aren’t even willing to read your findings. You can’t convince the general public if they are willing but give up because your report is awfully long and filled with words they don’t understand. They have to be able to understand what you’re talking about. They have to be able to comprehend the text and form educated opinions from the information you have given them. Or else they wouldn’t care about what you’re proposing. Did you understand everything I said about nuclear radiation, medical radiation, and how a nuclear reactor works? No, you didn’t. If I didn’t know shit about it, I wouldn’t have understood it either. You have to catch their attention. That’s the main goal of science so people won’t unconsciously ignore our hard work. And that’s when English comes in.

I see no problem with writing my scientific report as if it were an English paper. It caught people’s attention. People enjoyed reading my lab report. It held their interest and it captivated them. They actually understood it. No one’s going to bother reading a boring scientific paper by some old scientist or science teacher. And that’s why I stay true to what I wrote in the beginning for the report. Obviously, I didn’t achieve a good mark but I sure think I deserve much more. I’m science and English combined into one body. What more could you ask for?