Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Thursday, October 27, 2005


Where have all the nerds gone?

By Aniqa Moinuddin and Raya Mahbuba

Has anyone noticed how the desire of children (or brats, as we like to call them) to know, to understand and to learn about their environment, has declined significantly over the years? Why, when we were kids (you know when we walked ten miles to school), it wasn't unusual to see second-graders going through the chapters of their science books and digging up 'experiments' that simply used a mirror, water, and sunlight to demonstrate the formation of rainbow colours. The results challenged the mind and instantly brought up questions that would not rest until their answers had been sought out. This sort of healthy curiosity was common in the past but is gradually decreasing with time.

Nowadays science has become just another boring subject that one must study in order to pass the year-end examinations. The sub-divisions that are introduced in the higher levels are even more challenging which makes the subject a burden on the mind rather than the element of intrigue and fascination it once was. So the obvious question arises: WHY? What is the reason behind the sudden loss of interest amongst the youth of today? And more importantly, whose fault is it? Is it an attitude problem amongst the young; is it the present science curriculum …or simply a change of trends? We conducted a survey in hope of finding the answer. The following is an account of how it went:

To understand the current reading trends, we went to a few bookstores. A glance at the bookshelves was enough to show us that the collection of science and general knowledge books was not insufficient. We then took a look at the textbooks from the school booklists…boring. The explanation was simple. A child first comes in contact with science at school. A look at the textbooks is enough to drain the inquisitiveness right out of them. So it's inconceivable that they would buy expensive and colourful and fun science books. If there isn't an effort to generate an interest about science at a grassroots level, how can we expect the little brats to want to know how a pinhole camera works?

Perhaps it's the age-old phenomenon: when you actually study something at school and have to give tests on it, the fun is just sucked right out of that topic. Most students nowadays will agree that science is the worst thing that happened to them, that it was forced upon them by their parents and was completely based on bookish knowledge.

The biggest problem seems to be the lack of lab equipment and real lab classes. At its core, science is not a theoretical subject. It is based on physical experiments. A boring lecture on refraction can never replace the wealth of practical information and visual feedback obtained in the lab. Through practical lessons, kids will be able to cultivate an ability to think by themselves through experiments in physics, chemistry and biology. 'Even in the A Level course, we don't have the opportunity to conduct our own experiments but we race to finish the questions in the question paper and pull at our hair when the answers don't come out right. The teachers are so bent upon completing the syllabus that they seem to forget that they have a responsibility of making the subject more exciting to us.' This was the general combined opinion of most of the senior students of English medium schools.

Even the teachers agreed. The unanimous opinion was that even if a student, purely through his/her interests, wants to pursue the ways of science, the unavailability of the right books and equipments poses a barrier. When I asked a teacher at this institution whether students were losing interest in science, she replied, 'Not at all. They have lots of practical classes, so they are able to see in the lab what they're taught in class.' In other words, seeing science in action is definitely more interesting than reading it from the monochromatic pages of a textbook.

The media has obviously contributed to this aversion towards science. Television has taught us that any kid who likes science is an asthmatic idiot who runs after teachers all day, has snot trickling out of his noses and a bad case of acne. No; being a science freak is not cool at all. What kind of a loser would want to read about what's-its-name-o-saurus when there's a marvellous creature called Pikachu that can shoot out lightning bolts? Here's what a teacher had to say: 'Nowadays there are alternative sources of entertainment to those that require exercise of the mind.

The addiction of online chats takes up a lot of the youngsters' free time and attention. What with the pressure of studies, the little amount of spare time is spent either watching television or online. Another point is that science is not 'advertised'. Its importance is not flashing in front of our eyes, like the billboards of Barbie dolls and Beyblades. Gaming zones, malls and cafés are mushrooming throughout the city, but there aren't many decent public libraries. So nothing encourages the mind to wants to gain knowledge.'

The fact that there's a growing apathy towards science during the 21st century when technological breakthroughs are commonplace is not comforting at all. So here's hoping that the number of nerds doesn't decline, that schools perk up their science curricula and that five years from now some genius kid figures out a way to manufacture really cheap mp3 players.


By Constantini

It was past midnight when Lisa and Sayeed left the party. Parties at the club are generally pretty boring. But this was one of those rare occasions when the authorities had actually managed to come up with a good idea a masquerade party to celebrate Halloween. The place had been decorated nicely and the dim lighting and pumpkin heads were a nice touch to give the place an eerie ambience.

The food was also delicious and the drinks were absolutely top class. Even Lisa, who's normally a non-drinker couldn't resist a couple of glasses of champagne. And as a special attraction, a dance competition had been organized after the dinner. Lisa and Sayeed both had good reputation as dancers, and it was no surprise that they won the first prize of air tickets and hotel fare for two days' stay at Dubai. 'What a night!' Lisa thought to herself as the car sped down the empty road.

Their home was a fair ten kilometers away from the club, and exhausted after the party. Sayeed wanted to get there as fast as he could. His vision only a blur because of the excessive alcohol he had tonight and the speed at which he was driving, he didn't notice the boy crossing the road until the last moment. He braked as hard as he could, but it wasn't enough to stop him from hitting the boy in front of his car. The couple watched in horror as the boy hit the car, tumbled down the street for a few feet and finally lay still in a pool of blood.

The couple nervously got down from the car to see if their victim had any hope left. The boy lay motionless, his eyes and his mouth wide open, arms straight and legs in an oddly twisted manner. Alive, he would have been a common sight in the streets of Dhaka. One of the thousands of kids you find knocking on your car window and begging for a few takas, or smashing bricks with his little hammer in the construction site beside your home, or maybe even working in your home as little more than a household utensil. But now, it was quite clear that Sayeed's Mercedes had put an end to his miserable and insignificant existence.

Realizing the hard and cold fact, it was Sayeed who got practical and urged Lisa into the car. Fleeing the scene would be a disgraceful and cowardly act, but it was the only way to keep them safe. It was at such a critical moment that their car betrayed them. Sayeed turned the ignition key as hard as he could, but the car just wouldn't start. Suddenly Lisa noticed a figure approaching them. She panicked at first, thinking that it might be a witness of the accident. A moment later, with a mixed emotion of shock, disbelief and horror, she realized that it wasn't just a witness, it was the victim himself. He hobbled along until he reached the front of the car. She could see him clearly now. his dirty and tattered clothes were a dark shade of red with blood, his arms were swinging as if he had no control over them and it seemed that he was standing on his feet with some difficulty. But it was his face, especially his eyes which scared her the most. His face was very grim and his eyes shone with an unearthly glow. He was just staring at them, and looking into his eyes she could see so many emotions anger, contempt, defiance and maybe even pity. His lips weren't moving, but it was as if she could hear him talking through his eyes.

She felt as if he was saying, "For how long will you keep running away from your crimes? How much longer will you keep killing us and get away with it? When will you start to treat us like human beings? We are the cornerstone of your society.

The steel you build your cars with is made of our bones; the wine you drink is made of our blood; your clubs, your offices, your homes are made with our flesh. Yet, while we starve to death, all you can think of are your senseless parties! But we've had enough of your cruelty. We've decided to put an end to all of this and build a new world. We are united now and nothing can stop us!"

Suddenly Lisa felt shadows creeping up all around their car. Slowly, their faces became distinguishable to her. It was a diverse collection of bodies. There were peasants, labourers and all those who died in numerous revolutions. Many of them had limbs missing, many of them grimaced in pain, many of them were bloody with wounds, but their eyes burnt with anger. They were treated wrongly, and now they wanted revenge. Lisa saw them closing in around their car. She tried to scream, but she couldn't. She felt a hand on her shoulder jerking her. It was Sayeed. "Wake up, honey, we're home," he said.

Lisa got down from the car a little disoriented after her nap. She felt weird thinking about the crazy dream she just had. She pressed the doorbell for quite sometime before her domestic help opened the door. "You good-for-nothing boy! Why did you take so long to open the door?" she shouted at him. The boy stared at her for a moment, then quietly went away. She remembered seeing that same look somewhere else. She just couldn't remember where.



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