The Science Un-Fair

2005-02-05 20:18:49

That's my son and his 3rd grade Science Fair project above (and yes, there really are 5 states of matter these days). I know he learned a lot while we worked on it, but I was afraid that I'd gone overboard helping him.

Then I saw all of the other Science Fair projects.

It was pretty obvious that for many of them, the sum total of the child's involvement was something on the order of keeping out of mom & dad's hair while they did everything.

I'm sorry, but I think that's wrong. Admittedly, even a motivated 3rd grader is going to require some adult guidance to put something like this together. But you could look at these projects and easily tell which ones were genuine kid efforts and which ones had been co-opted by the parents.

What bugs me is that this event is a competition. And that the judges -- at least at my son's school -- didn't appear to take into account "kid effort" versus "parent effort". There was one really good project, a hovercraft built out of a paper plate and a PC cooling fan, that won an award and deserved it; you could see dad's hand in it, but you could also see that the child was involved to a great degree. But on others it was like: why not just straightaway hand the award to the parents?

Sorry if this sounds like sour grapes. Honestly, space cadet that I am, I didn't even remember that they were judging the things until after Aidan took the finished project to school (d'oh!); in truth, I looked at it as a chance for us to learn something together, not a chance to compete for a prize. I could give a shit about winning an award, and I don't think Aidan cares, either.

But I feel sorry for all the kids -- and there is a not-insignificant number of them -- whose parents aren't especially engaged in their children's schooling. They haven't got a chance in something like this.