chapter  1
23 Pages

General Orientation

Adults may choose to deny it, but children in school know very well that there is a ‘language of science’. They may not be able to say how they know it; but when they are faced with a wording such as:

One model said that when a substance dissolves, the attraction between its particles becomes weaker. (Junior Secondary Science Project, 1968, pp. 32-33)

they have no trouble in recognizing it as the language of a chemistry book. And they tend to feel rather put off by it, especially when they find themselves challenged with a question like this one. ‘What might happen to the forces of attraction which hold the particles of potassium nitrate together’ (ibid.)

If children do get put off by this, we respond, as seems natural to us, by giving their feeling a name. We call it ‘alienation’. We have now labelled the condition; we think that in labelling it we have diagnosed it, and that in diagnosing it we are half way towards curing it. In reality, of course, we have only made the condition worse. Nothing could be more alienating than to learn that you are suffering from alienation. But in responding in this way we have helped to demonstrate how scientific discourse works.