Jamie Hale

Jamie Hale

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Story of Science

The Story of Science
By Jamie Hale

One night while watching TV I stumbled across a program that featured Joy Hakim.
Hakim is an award winning writer who has written a series of book on US History and Science. After a couple of months of email exchanges I decided it was time to do an interview with Joy Hakim.

What does a day in the life of Joy Hakim look like?

When I'm writing (which is most of the time) I read the NYTimes with breakfast and then get to my desk (usually about 8:30 a.m.). I work until noon, trying to remember to get up every hour and stretch. Then lunch and--this is where my schedule varies--sometimes I do errands, or swim, or go to a yoga class, or go back to work. Sometimes I write into the evening, sometimes I play.

Of the books you have written do you have a favorite?

The book I'm currently working on is always my favorite. But I'm perhaps most proud of "Einstein Adds A New Dimension." It stretched my head and gave me a chance to get to know a wonderful MIT author/physicist, Edwin Taylor.

Was it harder to write the US History books or the science books?

The science books were harder to write because I had little background in the subject. I was trained as a journalist, so no subject intimidates me, still, quantum theory and relativity were tough. I'd like teachers to feel they can tackle any subject by being willing to learn along with their students. The old model of teacher as ultimate expert is out-of-date. Knowledge is increasing at exponential rates, no one can keep up. Teaching students how to find information and process it needs to become the ultimate school goal. If we can create real learning communities in our classrooms we can handle the abundance of information that is now available to all of us everywhere.

Did you have a team of researchers working with you on the history and science series?

I don't have any researchers helping me, I do contact lots of experts and have them read copy and answer questions. It's wonderful, when you are writing for young readers the best people are willing to help

What can we do to improve America’s History and Science programs in our schools?

We need to stop thinking of history and science as isolated stand-alone subjects. History is a great mother discipline. Everything that happens today will be history tomorrow. So history can tie all subjects together. It should be central to curricula. As to science, we live in the greatest scientific era ever. The scientific discoveries of recent times underlie and guide our society. And yet we keep today's most exciting science as an elite subject for a small percentage of our population. No wonder school seems irrelevant to many kids. Black holes, dark matter, dark energy are all out there ready to entice young minds. For heavens sake, why aren't we teaching physics and genetics to all our children? Teachers aren't trained in those subjects? Then they can learn with their students and tie the subject to history and literature too

Why is there such a huge lack of critical thinking courses offered in most school systems?

I don't think much of critical thinking courses. You learn to think critically by researching and writing. I have some experience in those disciplines. I promise--demand more research-based writing and critical thinking scores will soar.

What is your favorite book? Who is your favorite author?

I'm an eclectic reader and love to mix the ancients with 19th century fiction, but mostly I read current books for information, so it is in nonfiction that I spend much of my reading time. We have a group of science writers today who are astonishingly eloquent--they include Hans Christian von Baeyer, Alan Lightman, Richard Feynman, Marcia Bartusiak, and Brian Greene--for starters. Stephen Hawking and his daughter have written adventure books for young readers on space exploration, and they are page-turners. Among historians, David McCullough and Joseph Ellis are favorites. Christopher Buckley's recent book about his parents is a writer's gem. I just finished Jenny Uglow's wonderful book The Lunar Society, about a group of outrageous and amazing 18th century thinkers and doers.

Are you currently working on any new projects?

Yes, right now I am working on two books that are complementary approaches to biology and its process of change. I'm learning a lot.

Visit Joy Hakim's site at www.joyhakim.com

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