Why parents don’t want their kids to become a scientist and win a nobel prize?

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I have asked the following question many times to parents in the past:

What do you want your kids to become when they grow up?

Typically I get very well-meaning answers initially…and let me say politically correct answers.

I want my kid to become a good citizen…

I want my kid to become an honest person…

I want my kid to become a role model for other kids…

etc. etc.

 

The first thing that invariably comes to my mind after hearing all this is that if every parent wants their kid to become a good person then why is that so much of wrong is there in the world around us. Maybe I am asking question to a wrong subset of the population. Anyway that is a point for consideration sometime later. For this question I was looking for a different kind of answer. So typically after sometime I have to put a stop to these well-meaning answers and rephrase my question as follows:

What kind of career you want your kid to take up?

Sometimes I get well-meaning answers to this pointed question also but more often I get responses like this:

I want my kid to become a bigger cricketer than Sachin Tendulkar…

I want my kid to win an Olympic gold in 100 mt race…

I want my kid to become a more popular actor than Amitabh Bacchan…

I want my kid to become a best doctor…

I want my kid to become a very renowned author…

I want my kid to become the most successful CEO…

and son on…

The first thing that comes to my mind after listening to all these answers is that this is probably the best time to be born in this country. If I had asked the same question even 20 years back to parents then I am reasonably sure that a majority of answers would have fallen into one of the three buckets – engineering, medicine and accounting. So it’s very heartening to know that today parents are giving their kids a larger arena to play in.

But I am very sad also – the reason for that is that till today I have not come across a single parent who wants their kid to become a ‘Scientist’ and win Nobel Prize. If we look around, everything we use for running our life conveniently – fridge, TV, AC, car, train, plane, bus, house, etc. – all of these things have been invented based on the scientific knowledge discovered by scientists, especially in last 300-500 years. Despite the fact that we can’t imagine our life without these conveniences, no parent wants their kid to become a scientist. Why?

I am sure a lot of answers would have already come to your mind, but let me come back to this question after sometime again.

Let’s first try to understand why is it that so many parents are today open to their kids taking up sports as a career as opposed to few years back? I have heard and read a lot of answers but broadly they can be grouped under two categories – sporting career is decent in financial terms now & sporting career is a respected choice in the society. Completely perfect answers. But I would say that respect and money would come later – first someone has to initiate a step in that direction. And in the past parents didn’t even consider, forget initiating a step in that direction.

The fundamental problem is something else. To understand that let me give you an example to explain how your brain works. David Ropeik, a risk consultant says, “Many people report that when they move from the driver’s seat to the passenger’s seat, the car in front of them looks closer and their foot goes to the imaginary brake. You’re likely to be less scared with the steering wheel in your hand, because you can do something about your circumstances, and that’s reassuring.” I am sure lot of people would have faced such situations in life. So you will see parents telling their kids to not talk on phone while driving but the same parents will do otherwise. This is the fundamental problem with our brains – our brain is much comfortable taking risks which it is able to measure and believes it can control (even if that risk is large) than risks which it has no idea about or it believes it has no control on (even if that risk is small).

Today if any parent wants to pick up any sporting career for their kids the avenues for gathering information are large – Internet will have all the information available, schools today have coaches who themselves would have played at some meaningful professional levels, lots of successful sportspersons have started their own coaching academies on lands generously gifted by government, clubs organize coaching camps run by professional players and so on. It is the availability of this information that makes a parent feels that she knows what her kid is getting into…it is this knowledge that makes a parent feel that they are in control of the situation. It all of a sudden appears as a calculated risk. The parent just has to make up his mind and post that all the information is available with small amount of effort. Till even few years back this information and supporting infrastructure didn’t exist. In the absence of that the risks of picking a sporting carrier appeared far bigger than they actually were. In the past it was like going into a dark room with no idea where the obstacles are…today it’s like going into a dark room but with reasonable idea where obstacles are placed. The room is still the same but now we feel we are control of that darkness as opposed to being at the mercy of that darkness. Agreed that monetary compensation have improved over years but for serious people opportunities always existed. Good financial returns only means that sports as a career has now become a choice of larger set of population. When it comes to picking a career, ignorance is definitely not a bliss.

It is this presence of detailed information that has primarily played a role in reducing the feeling of risk and thus have played an important role in making sports as a career of choice. All other reasons, though important, are ancillary.

Now let’s come back to our primary question – why people don’t want their kids to become a scientist and win a Nobel Prize? The answer is simple – absence of information and thus a heightened sense of perceived risk. Today if I ask people what can their kid do after becoming a scientist? I am sure most of the parents won’t be able to think of anything beyond teacher/professor. If I ask a parent how their kids can win a Nobel Prize? I am sure I will get a mute gathering. On top of it somehow scientists are always portrayed as people who are not normal people…they are extra smart individuals…they are crackpots…they are people who can’t live a normal live because they are eccentric…etc. etc. And if any chance was left then that’s also destroyed because in all likelihood majority of parents themselves never enjoyed their sciences because of the way it was taught. So sum and substance…I don’t like…I don’t understand…I can’t see any financial rewards worth the mention…I don’t know this…I don’t know that. It is this absence of knowledge that has led to becoming a scientist being perceived as a very risky proposition for an average parent.

This is the most surprising part in our country – we produce engineers by lakhs and doctors by thousands – both these professions require Science as a primary discipline and yet we have no love for Science. More than one-third of NASA is probably made of Indian scientists…probably more than a million engineers and scientists working in USA are people of Indian origin…and yet we hardly know of many famous Indian scientists. It is no wonder that since Nobel Prizes were first given in 1901, India has produced only one scientist, Dr. C.V. Raman who won Nobel Prize in Science in 1930. Yes there are few more…Nobel laureates of Indian origin but the list is so small that it’s not even worth mentioning. What more can be expected? In a society where parents don’t want kids to become scientists, how can we get Nobel Prizes by dozens.

So this brings us to the next obvious question – What can be done to make science a loved subject? What can be done to make becoming Scientist a normal person’s job? What can be done to ensure that people understand Science is very fascinating and interesting field…not as boring or as complicated as it’s made out to be?

The answers to all the above question lies in the following quote:

 

“Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.”

– Albert Einstein

 

We have to make science education interesting enough that kids retain it after they leave their schools. If that happens then picking Science will become a matter of choice for a number of kids. And if that happens Nobel Prizes are not far away. Just the same way that today Olympic medals, medals in Tennis, medals in Badminton, medals in Wresting, medals in Shooting etc. are coming in frequently.

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DreamNobel is an education initiative to teach Science subjects to kids in a way that “original & independent” thinking becomes an integral part of their personality. We have developed a unique and revolutionary course whereby a kid can be taught broadly all the Science subjects (Physics, Chemistry, Biology & Geology) that she will learn during her entire schooling life, through a unique story and rationalization led pedagogy.

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2 replies
  1. Shreyance
    Shreyance says:

    Couldn’t have imagined that a technical topic like this can be explained in such a crisp and lucid way which do force me to think upon it:)

    Reply
    • dreamnobel
      dreamnobel says:

      Thanks Shreyance. This is what DreamNobel believes in and aspires to deliver – Understanding Science is not as technical as it is made out to be. Its fun, its interesting and above all it’s a fulfilling journey.

      Reply

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