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This post brings to mind an experience when i first began to teach high school.  I was 55-56 and had spent the previous 10 years as a machinist at GE.  An injury had made it impossible for me to continue there where i produced good parts and rarely messed one up.  When i did i felt lousy for a few days.  So when i began teaching i came to realize it was a different game.  I had little way of determining how well i was doing, for the products i was producing were not aircraft or turbine parts but critical thinking human beings.  I had no way of knowing how they turned out because the "production process" took several years.  The second year an article appeared in the town newspaper that involved an interview with a just-graduated student.  This student praised me saying that i had made a big difference in his life.  I was as puffed up as a bullfrog.  Then i thought: "As a machinist i made maybe 200 parts and fucked-up one and was miserable.  Now 160 students pass through my classes in two years and just one says something complimentary and i'm as happy as a pig in shit."  Go figure.  herb

George Salzman wrote:
[log in to unmask]" type="cite"> Oaxaca, Monday 17 July 2007
Friends,
      I know that sharing this absolutely unsolicited and unexpected letter from a former student will be seen as boasting. Of course I'm delighted to learn of even one person whose life I've had an impact on. But the reason (maybe a rationalization) for posting it is because it might indicate the value of trying to teach science in a way that puts it in its social context. I once had as a guest lecturer Cesar Chavez, the leader of the United Farm Workers, who was travelling around the country at the time promoting the boycott of grapes from the Imperial Valley. He spoke not only of the economic conditions of the workers but of their exposure to pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides. One of the biology faculty members (Lawrence Kaplan) who scorned the Science for Humane Survival course as being 'not science but Salzman's propaganda' criticized that particular class presentation because I had invited only Cesar Chavez and failed to present the students with a 'balanced account', since I did not also invite an owner of the vinyards to participate as a lecturer. At any rate, the struggle to keep the Science for Humane Survival offering as an accepted 'science' course at the University of Massachusetts Boston Campus is a story in itself. The illusion that some participants on this listserv hold dear -- that SCIENCE, writ large, exists in some rarefied atmosphere apart from all the dirty business of making money, is the purest nonsense. Only the technicalities of real science (like chemistry, biology, physics, geology, etc.) are 'pure'. Enough ranting. Here's the letter:
__________________________________________________

Subject: A former student fondly recalls Science for Survival
From: Cat <[log in to unmask]>
Date: Tue, 17 Jul 2007 10:03:17 -0400
To: George Salzman <[log in to unmask]>

Greetings George,
 
Am a former student from Dorchester/South Boston Massachusetts. Grew up in a housing project 'Columbia Point' as a minority and the offerings in Science for Survival were wonderful interdisciplinary classes and seminars that opened up my 17 year old, white, project girl mind to what was going on in the world and connected me in a way that helped me to live a meaningful life. For the last 20 years I lived on Nantucket Island and recently have decided to move to the UK.
 
Back when I attended your courses I learned to enjoy the out of doors and to realize the value of whole grain. I realized that cockroaches were my friends and all about the types of spraying that was done in our housing back then. I learned about the role of woman in science and that we must take responsibility and learn to speak honestly and openly. It is there that I realized that I was a feminist.
 
My family now consists of my friends and my two daughters who attend the University of Massachusetts Boston, Jessie and Sarah Lambrecht. When they first applied to schools I have to admit that I was a snob about schools and was probably counter productive to their search. Ultimately my older daughter switched schools and landed at the Boston campus. My younger daughter, home schooled and physics and chemistry were learned with the help of tutors and many other people involved in the sciences on the island of Nantucket. Now she is thinking about a medical career and finishing her second year at U-Mass Boston as a chemistry major. Both are doing very well, and seem to have adjusted to a city university.
 
Anyway, I just want to say thank you for helping me back then (you probably did not know me.) Your classes were the ones I remember and grew from in my life.
 
Warmest Regards,
  
Catherine Nickerson
[log in to unmask]
[log in to unmask]
http://lifeontherockofnantucket.blogspot.com/
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I wrote back asking for permission to post the letter, which she OK'd. Maybe her daughter who's studying chemistry and thinking about studying medicine will join the SftP listserv. I see that Catherine just did.
Sincerely,
George