I went to the Science Museum in London today for the first time in ages.
The visit brought back memories of past trips as a parent, an adult and a child. What is it that fascinates me, and now my daughter, about the place? Here are some possible answers:
- the museum is an international ‘temple’ to human achievement over the ages.
- within it you can find exhibits that are unique milestones of scientific and technical progress.
- it tells fascinating stories about individual lives, for example through the exhibition about Alan Turing, the inventor of modern computing, the centenary of whose birth was celebrated last year (he took his own life after forcibly undergoing hormone replacement therapy to ‘cure’ being gay).
- it includes interactive exhibits such as one about the Apollo moon missions of the 1960s and 70s (you get sprayed by seawater when the command module finally splashes into the sea!) or a chance to ask questions directly of Antarctic scientists and see how they manage against the extreme cold.
But the overriding message for me is that humans must be inspired by the past to explore our future limits – and we need to do this to ensure that as a society we have something better to aim for than just the present.
My big fear is that the proposed new History National Curriculum in England, especially as taught to children between the ages of 7 and 11, will end up stultifying this sense of inspiration – it is a clear case of political meddling in education – we must all make sure this doesn’t happen.