Friday, July 7, 2017

What we learned: High School Senior, Science and Math edition

This is a continuation of Younger Daughter’s answers to my perennial question:
What did you learn this school year?

Organic Chemistry
YD:  In O-Chem [said eagerly, with arms spread wide] I learned what ‘chiral’ means.  I learned what Grignard reactions are…  that molecules are spinning at a million times a second, and they are 3D! And you have to think of them that way because it helps you in biology!  You can understand enzymes better.

YD:  Next is bio!  Yay!  OhmiGod, bio is so awesome! 

It is hard for me to convey in print the enthusiasm with which YD described what she learned in bio.  She spoke quickly, in a high-pitched tone, so fast that I couldn’t get the words down.  And there were a lot of words.

We learned about cellular respiration and…. photosynthesis… allosteric inhibition…..enzymes spinning around…. another substrate… binds to another site, which … active shape….. so awesome……. the body has so many different types of inhibition, …. 33% of energy....neurons…. immunity.  … Oh, my God, the body is SO COOL! 

And evolution sucks.  Because it is not about cells.
Cell model in jello format

I learned so much that I cannot even say it all!  I learned about the inside of a fetal pig… gel electrophoresis… , and the thing with the plate! You put, like, a bunch of DNA from a bunch of different organisms on a plate, and then you wash it with different types of RNA to see if the RNA matches with the DNA, and then you have all this hydrogen bonding that goes on and you can wash it out and find out if the DNA makes those kinds of proteins so you can make connections across phylogenic trees and then you can just find everything and you can just do everything!

   whenever DNA replicates … end of the DNA chopped off….telomeres… infinite… telomerase…replicates over and over again… if we could find a way to turn it off or on whenever we wanted to…immunity problems….would help us kill cancer…replicate new organs…  and Oh, my God, creating new organs – there are so many new technologies for that!  Oh my God, you have to go to the McGowan Institute! It’s so great! They are growing organs in jars! They created the first human-pig blastocyst that lasted for twelve weeks!!!!  How are you not excited?!  This could be a new revolution in organ engineering!! [She pounds table for emphasis]. 

Me, demonstrating again that the most important part of parenthood is not overreacting:   Wow. I take it you like bio.
YD:   (excited squeal, contented sigh).  Oh, my God.  (Lots of contented sighing)

[Deep breaths to calm down.]

Cell model birthday cake

Me:   Let’s move on to the next subject.

YD:  Okay.  In Calculus I learned that Mrs. Teacher is a fantastic teacher.  I learned that calculus is so much easier than pre-calculus, thank goodness.  It’s much more easy to understand. It finally brings together concepts so you don’t have to ask, “Why am I learning this?” Many biological functions are derived using integrals.  I learned how to do a derivative, and an integral, and a limit. And … I learned that it is okay to get a B.

Me:  Yes, it is.  … That’s what you learned in school.  You did other things during the school year, outside of school.

YD: [deep sigh of concern] I learned that whether I think so or not, I am ready to go to college.

Me: Sometimes if you wait until you feel ready, it’s too late.

YD:  I know.  I heard a quote from Thank You For Arguing.  [The author is] talking to a parent of four kids.  All of them went off to college and got great jobs.  The author asked him, “How did you prepare yourself?” and he said, “I’m still not ready to be a parent.”  It’s not a magical sprinkling bean that you chug down, and all of a sudden you are a college kid.  You’re you, still.

Me:   So is everybody else who’s going to college.  

* * * * * * * *
And so Y.D. will be entering into the School of Life.  That leads me to ask you, Dear Reader:  When you graduated to adulthood, how did you prepare yourself?  Did you feel ready?

Younger Daughter AS a cell, on Halloween
(For Y.D.'s answers about English and poetry and such, go here.)

What we learned: High School Senior, Liberal Arts edition

It’s been a momentous six weeks here.  Our youngest child has now graduated from high school.  Our middle child has graduated from college.  My name appeared in the print edition of The Economist, that noble British rag.

Here are a few tidbits from the traditional interview I conduct with my children at the end of the school year, in which I force them to answer this question: 

What did you learn this school year?

Younger Daughter’s answers, forthwith. 
Believe it or not, these answers are abridged from the original.

YD: In English, I learned that you have to read all the way to the end of the book.  Otherwise you won’t do well on the test. 
Me: What book did you learn that lesson on?
YD:  Crime and Punishment. I also learned how to be excited intelligently about books.  I learned the word ‘epistolary.’

In Economics I learned how to draw a graph, and also that weed is the best definition of a perfectly competitive market.
Me, demonstrating that the most important part of parenthood is not overreacting:   By “weed,” do you mean… pot?
YD:   Yeah.  And I learned that foreign exchange is hard to understand.
Me:   Wait a minute.  How is weed a perfectly competitive market?
YD:   Because it is such a new market.  There are no cartels.  [She is referring to medical marijuana, which was legalized in Pennsylvania in 2016.  It is, indeed, a brand new economic market.]

In Poetry class I learned that poetry is composed of moments, not of grandiose redefining of the universe.  It is difficult to end a poem, but it can be even more difficult to start a poem.  And I learned that Mr. Teacher is awesome.

(This was a discussion that will remain off the record.  Let’s just say that for some high schoolers, lunchtime remains the most uncertain period of the school day.)
Me: So you didn’t learn anything about, say, pizza, or fruit?
YD:   I learned that I like grilled cheese and tomato soup.
Me: Yes, that’s good.  It’s a classic.

And here is Part 2, Science and Math.

Procession of VIPs, High School version