Sunday, 5 April 2009

Less than zero

My teen delights in provoking her teachers with her unconventional views. On Thursday one of her teachers asked if she had been at the G20 protests. My teen couldn't come, partly because we had the French exchange student staying. Not sure what this student thought when I texted:
"Probably won't be home in time to make dinner, held in kettle by police, might be arrested".
Shockingly some of her classmates, many of whom are incredibly straight and have views straight out of the Daily Telegraph... straight out of their parents mouths...were against any protest. We call them 'Abercrombies' because they all wear the same Abercrombie & Fitch clothes. One said that
"protesting should be banned!"
How very democratic. My teen went mad.
My daughter tells me that she manages to slip anti-capitalism into almost every subject, even biology. 
"Biology?" I exclaim "how did you do that?"
"There was this test question on the necessary elements for plants to grow. I answered it correctly, sunlight, water, etc but then I put 'This is not scientifically proven but another component helping plants to grow is love'. The teacher gave me zero even though I had everything right."
"I told him I thought it was unfair. He said that it irritated him so he gave me zero".


  1. That teacher makes me so angry! It "irritated" him???

    If she said that it was not sufficiently proven, it shows the type of mind that could go on to make new discoveries. But clearly he would prefer somebody who trots things out parrot fashion without caring about or understanding them.

    Perhaps he should join the police, where the attitude of making people conform and obey orders would be appropriate, because I certainly don't think it's appropriate in the education of young people.

    What a pig.

    Well done teen for challenging and remembering the importance of love.

  2. He's wrong and she sounds like she's got more knowledge of how science actually works than he has in his little finger

    zero because she irritated him?I'd demand it remarked,if I was her.

  3. What a sadly typical example of the narrow-mindedness pervading our society, with our educators happy to produce a nation of morons.

    Personally I would give your daughter full marks for having the intelligence to make such a profoundly wonderful and interesting comment, and then I would give you a golden star for producing such an intelligent child!

  4. A&F and the slavish, sheep-like (sorry sheep!) wearing of labels drives me up the wall!

    how sad that some people literally feel they can't get dressed in the morning without needing to please others

  5. What I find quite surprising is that it's actually unlike my teen to come up with something so ...erm hippy-like. It's not as if she's into nature or anything.
    But yes, love does make a difference.

  6. Scarlett and the others are correct. ML, you're right be very proud of your humane and non-Conformist daughter, and at the corageous way she voiced her views openly. That teacher is a character I'm only too familar with from my own school-days (centuries or millennia they felt like!) Plants do grow better if you love them. Our society, wallowing in its precious Conformist Western, materialist paradigm, laughs at gardeners who talk to their plants, but those gardeners are more successful than those who do not. We give these people adjectives like "green-fingered". When I look at a plant I feel someone looking back. They're alive! Alive by science's definiton too! And as for those kids who think protesting will be banned... one day they'll be a knock on THEIR door, and God forgive me I think they'll seserve it!

  7. In the film "Notting Hill" there's a very amusing scene where Hugh Grant's character goes on a date with a girl who refuses to eat vegetables because she belives it's cruel. She describes the boiled, chopped carrots served as "murdered". The woman is portrayed as the butt of a joke, but in fact... she's right! Plants DO have feelings. This has been scientifically proven. If you pull a cabbage out of the ground it gives off chemicals and its nerves register electrical impulses that are analogies of pain and fear in animals. So, be kind to your corriander! Don't prolong its suffering!

  8. I don't think plants have 'nerves'.. they certainly don't have a central nervous system which means pain is different for them than it is for animals.

    They can have leaves removed without suffering, and in fact even like being pruned appropriately.

    Of course tearing something up by the root and cooking it is not really doing the plant a favour (except think of potatoes and if you throw them away when they sprout you are propogating them).

    And don't get me started on eating sprouted things... THEY JUST WANT TO LIVE!!! (crunch munch yum).

    Fruit is an altogether different matter: plants intentionally make the fruit appealing as being eaten is a way for them to distribute their seed. Therefore when you eat fruit it's like you're having sex with the plant - you're helping them out and making them happy! They really do want you to eat those bits.

    However I'm not a fruitarian, for the reason explained above about plants having no central nervous system - I think they can suffer but it's not quite as straight forward as with animals. An unhappy plant is one struggling without the things it needs, diseased, etc. The carrots in my organic veg box look extremely happy, even after being grated - not sure why.

    Every food chain in the world has a plant as the first link, as they are the only ones that can convert the sun's energy through photosynthesis. Without the eating of plants, there would be no animal life on earth, so it really isn't a viable option to not do it.


  9. That's got to be my favourite comment of all time.
    "when you eat fruit it's like you're having sex with the plant - you're helping them out and making them happy! "


  10. Yes, that's why we all hated school... I can think of a few tunes too from our youth starting with "I Hate School" by The Suburban Studs, not very good and not a hit, to the great S'cool Days" by Stanley Franks (not a hit but great... "teacher says what teacher knows and in his mind you know it shows the feeling that he's growing old...")... to erm, "School Days" by the Runaways (not a hit and while I loved the earlier stuff like "Cherry Bomb" this is a bit too HM for me)... and let's not forget "Schools Out" by Alice Cooper which was played a lot at the ice rinks I skated at in 1972, fabulous being twelve and on holiday... anyone else remember the rink at Richmond? Lovely and completely demolished now, but some great memories... all the good childhood ones are out of school and away from adults too! And no wonder when my experience - and many other people's too - are that most teachers are just like the one your daughter has.... And I used to think you only got winkers (misprint) like that at shoddy secondary schools on big council estates like the one I went too... and you pay fees for this! Wow, it sucks! You ought to complain.

  11. Hello I really like your blog, I would like a link exchange with you,
    I insert your blog to my favorite blogs ;)

  12. Hahaha, busted anonymous!

    Wow, what a coward not putting a name. Pathetic.

    Ms ML, we would love to hear more gossip about why anonymous might be so bitter as to feel the need to make cheap snipes on the internet....

  13. Thank you Doctor P. I will pass your interesting comments on to my daughter.

  14. OOh, "are plants envirnmentally sensitive? Yes. Is love an environmenmtal stimulus? Yes. "

    Put that in your pipe and smoke it mr smug teacher!

    Tony, do you have any published references for plants being environmentally sensitive, even ones that might state what you stated above about love being an environmental stimulus (albeit one that we don't yet have a way to measure)?

  15. MsMarmite. Albeit a circular reference, hope your daughter questions Abelard too :-)

    Canal Explorer.

    I won't bore you with my publication list but if you Google "parsons phototropism" the first two pages comes up with most of them. The Google book by James Watnell Hart (1992)looks a good one as it is a summary not nerdily scientific detail.

    On the electrophysiology front a Google for "parsons electrogenic pumping" trawls most of them.

    Now plants and love is a little more tricky as it gets confused with talking and tending (which can be explained by increased CO2 and growth, there is of course the sensitive plant Mimosa pudica whose leaves fold in response to touch (for rain avoidance actually) Get one as they are great fun and the scientific term for that is thigmonasty. Not to be confused with the movements of the Venus Flytrap and Bladderworts (fast) or he Sundew plant Drosera (slow) which are more osmotic movements even if electrogenically simulated. I can't really comment on the "Do plants respond to love, pain, music?" debates as I just don't know. Probably but it's a question of how, effects, measurement, parametrics, emotion etc. and all quite messy really:,9171,860732,00.html

    Prince Charles has an opinion on the subject though!

    Dr P.

  16. Thanks Tony!

    I think there is another point here that we are overlooking. So far we have looked at love given to the plant by another being (humans, mainly). We are making an assumption about what Ms ML's daughter meant.

    I sort of think of love as the thing that makes us strive to live - love of life, love of ourselves, love of others, love of God... perhaps all living creatures need to feel that love in order to live. Where is the plant's motivation to grow? What is the spark of life, some would call it the soul, why not call it love?

  17. Canal - if I may be so informal,

    Yup and assumptions simply make an ASS of U and ME (been on too many management courses sorry).

    As I am @work I can comment on the biophysical over coffee as I am wearing my scientist hat.

    I need to be @ somewhere else physically and mentally to address the metaphysical so will need to get back to you on that (sorry been on too many manage... :-)

  18. Dr P

    Good to see someone who hasn't neglected their philosophical studies in their science. T.S.Kuhn is always good (Although if you really want to cause arguments in the scientific/philosophy department, then try throwing in the name Feyerabend, thats always good for a laugh)

    Can't agree more with your sayings about doubt, doubt everything and never be too sure and too atattched to your conclusions, some young bright bugger is always going to come along and make a mess of them)

  19. Feyerabend - ah yes. He who's name we cannot speak. That said most labs did have a waste segregation scheme for laboratory wastes (glass, solvents, biologicals, radioactives etc.) but the most used was the large one labelled "Feyerabend" with the subtext "Data not Fitting Theory" when Occam's Razor wasn't sharp enough to shred the evidence :-)

  20. when i have children, I hope they think as freely and openly as your daughter...

    ...well done that girl :D

  21. I try not to live any of my personal aspirations through my children in case they turn out to be Tory MP's, or worse, merchant bankers. I had an issue with my middle son's report when it said he should 'concentrate on his Physics and less on Philospohy to ensure a definite A*' He is sort of being groomed for Oxbridge, which we have discussed and he (nor I) am fussed as contrary to common belief they aren't the best education for many subjects, just peceived to be. Quite frankly I hated the whole top table bollox and passing the port the right (or is it left) way and I was only doing collaborative postdoc research there. I did walk diagonally across the green of the quad though which you can only legitinmately do if a fellow of he college. You know what- no CCTV :-)

    Live for your children and never through them and they will grow up to be the independent free thinkers you secretely wish for. Let them do it their way but let them know in so doing they are both responsible and accountable for their own actions. Don't tell them that, of course, you will be there with the safety net and parachute when they need it (they secretely know it anyway.

    And as for A* Phsyics vs Philosophy that is just daft. Ignore philosophy for physics scores and you will be highly qualified but you may not ever know what use it is. Knowing in a learned and enlightened way you 'thought' it was a good idea o get an A puts you in a much better place no only fo furthe study - but for life... TP

  22. Are you seriously telling me that Oxford (or wherever you went) has a rule about who can walk across the grass and who can't? WANK! I sooo made the right choice going somewhere down to earth.

    And how DARE a tutor tell your son which subjects he should be prioritising! This epitomises what's bad about the education system. Grrr.

  23. Oh, Oxbridge is (are) a bastion(s) of anachronistic archaic traditions of bolloxness. I pulled out of the Oxbridge stream at school and enjoyed every minute of my 10 years at a 'steel and glass' university. Not sure why York has that 'genre' applied to it as there is hardly any of either material (architects eh?)

    The UK education system is in a bit of a pickle to be honest. We no longer encourage learning but instruct youngsters in how to pass tests. It is sad really but at least the Confederation of Headmasters has finally rebelled and said they are NOT doing SATS at certain ages any more. Quite right too.


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