Posted by: thediygeochemist | July 21, 2011

curiosity killed the cat…

…but a lack of curiosity that kills budding scientists.

I will forever be grateful to the pediatrician I had when Lew was a baby. (I would have loved to have kept him, but he ended up retiring before Lew was 2.) I loved Dr. K because, in addition to 30+ years of experience as a doctor, he had a lot of pearls of wisdom gleaned from raising a bunch of sons himself.

When Lew was 15 months old I took him in to his normal checkup-and-immunization appointment. As he checked my little boy for physical abnormalities, Dr. K asked me: “Does he get in trouble?”

“Oh, YES!” I exclaimed, rolling my eyes. Because Lew was more trouble than both his older brothers had been, combined.

“Good!” he said happily. “That means he’s smart.” He went on to explain that getting into trouble was a sign of curiosity–and that curiosity was the surest sign of intelligence.

I’ve reflected on this a lot over the last 13 years, and two things have struck me: first of all, that Dr. K was right; and secondly, that almost everything parents/teachers/caregivers of young children do is designed to shut down curiosity.

Yes, we have to keep young children safe. But most of the time, we kill their curiosity not because it is unsafe, but because we are sick of rolling up unrolled rolls of toilet paper, re-organizing the tool box, answering questions, etc.

And then we complain about the state of science education in America.


  1. YES! This explains why I got in so much trouble as a kid!

  2. There should be more of Sir Ken Robinson ( around!

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