The Joy of Astronomy

February 05, 2004

Yesterday's class went well. I called it Starry Messengers after Galileo's book, and we talked about the scientific revolution of the 15th-18th centuries.

The kids had homework, "Why was astronomy so dangerous?" and were thus primed to speak, but that was not the only reason class went well.

I think that the big differences between this and my two previous classes, which did not go well, are that this time I
- was working with a defined and manageable chunk of material
- was largely paralleling the textbook
- used no maps
- was really psyched about the material.

I like ideas and the history of ideas, and this class was all about ideas and about the interplay between science and religion. I even got to teach John Locke's psychology of experience and ideas, one of my favorite little sub-lectures. I even used props to make Locke's point - I borrowed a yellow block from the baby's toybox and then held it up as an exampe of the color yellow and the shape of a block. I then used it to make Locke's point about the absurdity of religious prosecution, threatening to punish the class if they did not assert that the object in my hand was a blue ball. And, of course, they could say it was a blue ball but they still saw a yellow block, for external force and coercion can not change our ideas, only reason, logic, and new evidence can change an idea for Locke.

Perhaps on Monday, when we talk about the enlightenment, I will give them Franklin's approach as a contrast - practice and experience can shape behavior, and morality is a matter of behavior and habit; you can train yourself to be more nearly perfect.

Posted by Red Ted at February 5, 2004 07:18 AM | TrackBack