NY Times article on one aspect of science and parenting

Today’s New York Times has a fascinating article about the implications of parents, as scientists, using their children as subjects of scientific study. The article is “Test Subjects Who Call the Scientist Mom or Dad.”

Most of the scientist-parents discussed in this article are scientists from psychology, medicine, and sociology. In my own experience as a chemist-parent, I haven’t faced many of the ethical issues raised in this article. However, there are important issues beyond just the ethical issues.

Here’s a comment that I just sent to the NY Times (see below). I hope this will be added to the conversation and debate at the NY Times website.

——-

Leaving aside the important question of ethics (which is dealt with well by the article and many of the comments), is this trend of intertwining science and parenting a good thing for science and for parenting? I think the answer can be an emphatic “yes.”

When parents let their children share the parts of their own lives as scientists—the parts that encourage curiosity, experimentation, and direct interaction with the world through careful observation—they are giving their children a gift. In an era when science education in the classroom leaves much to be desired, these children will integrate these important aspects of scientific thinking into their lives. And society will benefit in the long run, because we need more science-literate citizens in the 21st century.

When parents (and this applies to parents of any profession or occupation) show their children that a job can be a source of deep satisfaction, a way to make a positive difference in the world, and a way to express themselves, they are giving their children another gift. Science can be a vocation and a calling. In this very human way, science is no different from many other professions (art, religion, agriculture, military service, and social action all come to mind as obvious examples). Scientist-parents shouldn’t deny their children a chance to glimpse the excitements and frustrations of their careers—which just happen to be in science.

And how does science benefit from having parents involving their children in scientific studies?

For all of us, scientists and non-scientists alike, many insights and innovations come from our daily lives. If scientists, business executives, artists, and politicians are required to check their occupations at the door of their own homes (like they are required to slip out of their shoes and overcoats as they enter their homes), we will be drying up many wellsprings of creativity.

For scientists, these initial insights and innovations must be tested and explored through objective and repeatable research. As the article points out, this objective phase of science may require parents to leave their children out of studies that will be published in the scientific literature. Nonetheless, we can’t afford to ignore the creative phase of science.

More blog reflections about my own scientist-parent experience can be found at “The Alchemist in the Minivan” (www.alchemist.pro).

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Published in: on January 18, 2009 at 9:28 am  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Hi blogger happy blogging now and keep sharing valuable info


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