Is Being Bad at Science a Badge of Honor

I would like to recommend a very interesting profile on which provoked several lines of thinking for me. Check out the profile of this cancer researcher who is also a professional musician.

What started out as a post on an interesting person has expanded into several other domains including:

  • thoughts on segregating arts and sciences;
  • the creativity necessary for leading scientific inquiry; and
  • that there are people who wear how poor they were in school in math or science as a badge of honor.


Here are some quotes I found interesting:

“There is little science in my music, but I have come to believe there may be music in my science. There is a kinship in how I do science and how I make music that flouts the division of science and the arts that our education system promotes.”


“Science and music make me feel like I’m swimming in infinity pools of possibility, but within structures that keep me from drowning. The potential and expectation to keep delivering new things can be daunting to scientists and artists. “


“Science and music are the mediums in which I happen to create, undoubtedly an unusual combination. But maybe only because we are relentlessly conditioned, from an early age, to believe we must choose whether we are in the science or the arts camp. People from the “arts camp” routinely tell me they were hopeless at science, sometimes apologetically, sometimes as a badge of honour, a mark of their creativity. Likewise, scientists worry that any proficiency in creativity might be interpreted as a deficiency in objectivity, the bedrock of science. It seems our society has lapsed into considering activity in the sciences and the arts a zero-sum game. It is not.”


As educators and parents, I think it is worthwhile to remind ourselves that even if our own experience of science or math education was lackluster, this does not need to be the same experience for our kids. If we are supportive and creative, then the heights reached by our students may surprise us.

Our focus on ensuring that core curriculum concepts are achieved sometimes seems at odds with facilitating creativity. Certainly, this was my personal experience.

As an addendum, there were recently reported some issues of bullying by the person in this profile. We do not condone such behaviours but I found the above points thought provoking and I hope you will too.