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In-School Help Not Wanted

August 19, 2013 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 91, Issue 33

At times, C&EN has urged ACS members to offer help to local high school chemistry teachers. Suggestions have included passing on new developments, donating chemistry equipment, addressing science clubs and career night assemblies, mentoring students in advanced projects, and even helping to straighten out the laboratory stockroom. I remember reading in your pages, “They will welcome you with open arms.”

Ha! Or in today’s text code, LOL.

I wrote offering such help to my high school alma mater. These were carefully worded letters to chemistry teachers, the head of the science department, the school principal, and finally to the superintendent of schools. I got no response at any level. A polite “thanks, but no thanks” would have sufficed for me to give up on my efforts.

Eventually, the message sank in. The school does not want outside help. I have tried to figure out what might lie behind this apparent policy. Is no person who lacks education credits from a teachers college fit to interact with children? Or maybe for school administrators it’s the potential downsides: A student might get hurt conducting research, an eager mentor from the community turns out to be a pedophile, and so on. The school may be trying to avoid a potential lawsuit?

Arthur Bradley
Floral Park, N.Y.


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