Corruptin’ the Youth

Fortunately, I haven’t been made to drink hemlock yet, but I did get this nice message.

Over a decade ago, I found your blog. I was an English major at the time, but I found the debate over science more intriguing and changed my major to biology. The course work was so fun, I sailed through to an MS in ecology still in love with the field and unable to shake the feeling I never “earned” my degree. Now I work in epidemiology and just got half-pulled from a cohort study to help on COVID research (actually, I still have to do all the cohort stuff, so…).

I’m happy that I can now use the job you helped inspire me to to offer you this small return, and I hope you continue to inspire.

In addition to the science, you made me rethink, and improve, I hope, my ideas on sex, gender, race, and human rights in general. So now I get to work in a very prestigious lab while very vocally supporting diversity and equality.

There’s nothing wrong with being an English major, I may have just tweaked him in the direction of his true calling. I’m not in the right discipline to do anything about the pandemic, but it’s good to know that maybe some of my students and readers are going to be better able to contribute.


  1. JoeBuddha says

    I once mentored a kid in the Saxophone who’s now a professional jazz person. (And, no, I’m not that good; right place, right time) Nothing more satisfying than to see someone you taught excel and credit something you taught them as one of the reasons.

  2. brightmoon says

    I sorta cured a neighbor’s son of fundamentalism . He used to spend so much time at my house I call him my 3rd son . He’s actually got a real biology degree now . I know he’s no longer a fundamentalist I’m not sure if he’s still a believer.

  3. VolcanoMan says

    Must feel great. I know because this happened to me more than once, when I was in the middle of my first career* (as a part-time faculty member…basically a glorified sessional instructor), teaching introductory geology courses to (mostly) non-science majors who needed a science credit to complete their degree. At least a half a dozen times over a period of 6 years, I found out that a student who’d taken my course had been so inspired by the unexpected (to them) beauty and breathtaking complexity of the geosphere – which I didn’t have any trouble explaining with passion (since the passion was genuine) – that they decided to either add a minor in geology to whatever degree they were already pursuing, or actually switch universities (since there was no BS in geology where I was teaching) to study it full-time (at least one of them went on to do a MS). And let me tell you, I wasn’t about to let my course become the typical “rocks for jocks” kind of thing that geology is rumored to be amongst the underclassmen of most universities; I made it fairly hard (for a first-year elective)…I ended up having to teach a good deal of chemistry, plus some physics, to my students, most of whom had a 9th grade understanding of these subjects (people don’t realize just how much of geology is actually chemistry…which was actually my first academic love, before I discovered the geosciences and merged my childhood fascination with rocks and minerals with my more adult obsession with environmental and analytical chemistry). I challenged a lot of people, and sure, some of them weren’t willing to put the work in, but I was constantly surprised at the depth of understanding many of my students managed to gain (and note that I was usually teaching classes of 150 to 200 students in one of the largest, and most cramped, lecture halls available, so they weren’t getting the kind of liberal arts college, personalized education that tends to keep students working harder and caring more about the subjects they’re learning). Amusingly, my semester-end reviews reflected this dichotomy…people either said the course was “too hard” (presumably for a course that they weren’t required to care that much about since it had nothing to do with their degree) or they said it was the best elective they’d ever taken. There was little in between these extremes, since students who actually WRITE out comments are the ones with the strongest feelings.

    *They say people in my generation are going to have multiple careers, and I’m working on qualifying for #2 at the moment.

  4. davidw says

    As a fellow university educator (chemistry) who is also teaching online (final exams week!) – I hope you feel the pride and joy in having inspired someone. Sort of makes all this crap worthwhile – a little…

  5. nomdeplume says

    A nice story, and a good reminder to all of us to acknowledge the teachers, school and university, who helped us, inspired us, encouraged us. We have all had them, and our lives are what they are as a result of their dedication. Take a bow PZ.