How to repel kids from science: By shackling curiosity in cuffs
One year, I gave an assignment in my Objects and Design class (in Squeak!) to construct a personal newspaper by reading bits of news (based on user interest) from local news sites. The night before the assignment was due, so many students tested their buggy fetch-and-scrape code on one poor site that they killed the site — a pedagogical denial-of-service attack.
Should I or my students have been arrested and taken away in handcuffs? It seems like the direct computing world analogy from the story quoted below.
Fortunately, the student has now been cleared of charges. It’s still a scary story.
It’s a sad commentary on our alarmist society that a similar deed would probably land a modern day budding Oliver Sacks in jail. That is exactly what it has done to a young aspiring scientist named Kiera Wilmot from Bartow High School in Florida, and in the process it has almost certainly deprived this country of exactly the kind of scientist whose shortage its politicians and educators are so fond of lamenting. The student conducted a common experiment mixing Drano and aluminum foil on the grounds of a school. The exact details are unknown but the incident led to a minor explosion, hurt nobody and damaged no property. This relatively harmless bit of curiosity led to Ms. Wilmot being handcuffed, arrested and expelled from the school. Irrational State Overreach: 1, The Much Touted American Edge in Science: 0. Whatever else the school was trying to achieve, it definitely succeeded in squelching independent scientific curiosity in its students.