Monday, January 15, 2007

Never too late to learn

I left school six weeks before my high school graduation. In the intervening years, I have gotten my diploma and am no longer stigmatised as a "dropout." But the sensation of intellectual inferiority remains. I frequently encounter "holes" in my public school education. (This, despite having received what JCPS called an Advanced Program education from the third grade to the twelfth.) I learned more about US history doing genealogy research in adulthood than I had ever learned in school. (Aside from "Wash Ad Jeff Mad Mo Ad Jack Van Har Ty..." I learned nothing of our presidents. I'd have been hard pressed to discuss with certainty anything that occurred after the Civil War. And we can thank my grandfather for my familiarity with that period- not my teachers.) I learned my meager math skills calculating change and tips in my first few jobs.

That is not to say that I am stupid. Far from it; I consider myself relatively bright, and fairly well educated on a number of subjects. I read extensively, and have perseverating interests in a broad variety of topics that permit me to bore my friends and relations on a regular basis. But those holes, they remain. And I trip over them all too often.

One of the areas of confusion for me has always been earth history/geology. I did not take classes in the subject. Back in elementary school, I recall cutting apart a map and gluing together Pangaea for an assignment; that was my first and last childhood exposure to continental drift or plate tectonics. Later, I would have half a semester of "earth science"- which nicely informed me that some rocks form from molten lava, some from smushed sediment, and some from alterations of the first two. That's pretty much all I took away from that class.

But I don't live in a vacuum. I read, I watch Tv. I talk to people with better academic backgrounds than my own. And so I understood, academically, at least, the idea that continents had once been united. But I didn't really comprehend it. I'd often wondered "but what about what was under the water? How does Pangaea relate to that? What topological features would have existed there? If earth is a sphere of rock, floating on a molten core, where does continental drift come in? Where would the LAND go? Where did all that land at the bottom of the oceans come from?"

Only I was much too ashamed to ask for an explanation. I am allergic to looking stupid.

Bear with me. Y'all had the benefit of learning this stuff in school; I didn't.

So I am all excited to say that, as of an hour ago this morning, I get it! I have a mental picture for the formation of seafloor. (But I still want to know what Pangaea's seafloor would have looked like.)

Lovely, lovely website.

It's like the science textbook I never had. I bookmarked it, and plan to read much more. But the best thing so far?

Have a look-see at that. Nifty animations that show how it all works! I can't wait to show this to my children.

1 comment:

Cpt. Midnight said...

I took the Chapter 1 test and did rather well, considering that I didn't study any of the materials beforehand. Silly question about boats in a Geography book....

And the animations are very nice.