ScienceSkepticism

'Ello!

‘Ello! I’m Elles. Of course, that’s not my real name, but it’s the Internet pseudonym which I have grown quite fond of so just call me that. It’s pronounced like saying the letters “L S”.

When I was first born, I used to live with my parents and hang out all day in a crib. Then, when they were at work, I’d go to a daycare center to hang out with other kids my age until I could go hang out with my parents again. At this time, I was a huge fan of Arthur, Barney, and the Magic School Bus TV show and book series. I partly blame this for my early love of science and astronomy. Then, I went to a Montessori school for the rest of my preschool education. After that, I went to a K-8 charter school where I got a proper education in all things from the humanities to mathematics and the sciences. Science was always my favorite class because you always learned something new about the world around you, but it was either too “boring” or too “hard” or too “contradictory to my religious beliefs” for the other students around me.

Despite my social ineptness, life was good at the school. I had mostly great teachers (the occasional idiot) who enriched my learning experience. I learned loads of new things.

And then, my 8th grade year ended and I continued on to high school. I’d known for years that I was going to dread the public school system, but I went in thinking of it as a new opportunity to make new friends, start fresh in my academic life.

It turned out that the public school system was meant to create workers, not intellectuals. I received quite a bit of mocking every time I brought up a topic which they weren’t familiar with. There was still a lot of attitudes which leaned towards anti-science. “Why do you hate science?” I once asked a fellow classmate. “I hate science, I just hate it. It’s so hard. I just hate science, ok?”

“But why?”

I also get a lot of unsplendidness from my classmates because I’m an atypical teenager. I have decided that it is important that you know what I feel makes me an atypical teenager.

First of all, I’ve been watching science fiction since I was four years old. I would stay up until 11 pm just so that I could watch Star Trek: Voyager. If you see me make any references which you don’t get, that’s probably because of that. This science fiction nerdness distanced me from my peers during middle school, but I hope y’all won’t mind.

Secondly, I read books. According to a study done by the National Endowment for the Arts, only 57% of adults read a book which wasn’t required for school or work in the year 2002. Seeing that my bedroom floor is covered with books, I guess that makes me really atypical. I read loads of books about everything, especially philosophy and science. Evolution is awesome, by the way. So is astronomy. I figure that since I like astronomy so much and biology so much I should put the two together and become an astrobiologist. That would be completely awesome.

And finally, I’m not into the same stuff as most teenagers. I’m not a huge fan of popular music (some of the songs I like), I have no idea who Brad Pitt is (well, I know he’s some kind of actor), I’m not really into shopping (my fashion sense allows me to know what to put on to cover up my lower body and what to put on to cover up my upper body), and I get told by my friends that I occasionally use big words without noticing.

I’m going to try to tone down my use of big words, but if I ever let slip something which you don’t know, do go ahead and ask what it means or look it up on Dictionary.com instead of staring at me blankly. I’m hoping not to have to face that here, but I occasionally get mocked when I say something my classmates don’t understand.

Oh, one more thing. I accidentally downloaded the British version of Firefox 3 so it underlines words like “favorite” if I don’t have a “U” in it. I must obey the Firefox, so if anything is in British English that’s why.

It was around the time when I realized that I couldn’t fully express myself intellectually in school without getting picked on that I discovered blogging. I started a blog called “Splendid Elles” because I thought that splendid was a really completely awesome word (fyi, I, as well as my co-author, also use some words besides splendid which your parents may not approve of). It’s mostly a place where I go when I’m screaming in agony at the general ignorance around me, or when I need some time to reflect, or I need to debunk something. It’s my way of shouting at the world.

And so, it was through this blog that I gained some sort of an existence in the “blogosphere” and people came to know of me. One day, Rebecca Watson from old “Skepchick” e-mailed me to tell me that they were starting up a spin-off of Skepchick called “Teen Skepchick” and I immediately knew that I wanted to do it. I got excited and replied “I honestly think that that is a totally splendid, awesome, wonderful, bunnyful, funtastic, magical, brilliant idea!”

Granted, I’m still a teenager and I’m hoping not to sound foolish because of my youth… but I feel that I have gained some wisdom and knowledge in the fifteen years which I have spent wandering aimlessly around the planet. Someone on Splendid Elles once commented to say…

“Teenagers, like creationists, think they know everything.”

I’m going to go ahead and say for the record that I don’t think that I know everything. Why would I love learning if I did? But, like I said, I don’t know everything… If I ever do say something foolish, I hope that somebody will politely correct me so that I may continue to learn.

As for the little wisdom which I do have, it is my intention to share this with others of my age (and hopefully above it too), and to maybe gain some wisdom from them as well.

It is also my intention to inspire teenagers. People often tell me that self-help gurus who have barely achieved even a middle school level understanding of science inspire them for whatever reason. I think that science can be just as inspirational, if not even more so because it’s true. I guess I’m going to become the Wayne W. Dyer or Eckhart Tolle of science.

I want to inspire them to be all that they can be, and no, just because you’re a teenager doesn’t mean that you can’t be very much. I want to inspire them to think skeptically. And, most importantly, I want to inspire them to be curious and try to learn something about this splendid planet we live on.

So, let me share my explorations of the world as I come of age with you. Let us, through science, reason, skepticism, and wonder together, create a brighter future.

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Welcome to Teen Skepchick!

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elles the vampire slayer

elles the vampire slayer

28 Comments

  1. reedbraden
    July 2, 2008 at 4:38 pm —

    Great intro!

    Also, learn to embrace the British spelling. I imagine that you won’t want to stay in the States very long after you finish your education and all other anglophone countries use real British English.

  2. July 2, 2008 at 4:52 pm —

    Hi! As one of the people whom the security guards kicked out of Rebecca Watson’s latest party — I have no other grand status in skepticism — I’d like to extend my greetings to you on this, the momentous occasion of your joining the Skepchick orbit.

    I also discovered that the Firefox version installed on my computer speaks only English English. It demands the extra i in aluminium and the a in encyclopaedia, even. What an aesthete it will make me. I might have to start calling myself a sceptic who comments on the Scepchick website. Not only is Firefox Britishing me, but also the weather applet on my Ubuntu status bar is reporting the outside temperature in kelvins — soon, my computer will make me completely incomprehensible to normal society!

    Oh, wait, that already happened.

    Hi, anyway.

  3. SteveT
    July 2, 2008 at 5:03 pm —

    Welcome, Splendid! I intend to introduce my daughter (soon to be 11) to this site at some point soon. You remind me a lot of her.

  4. SteveT
    July 2, 2008 at 5:04 pm —

    P.S. Yes, that is a rat on my shoulder.

    Her name is Cimorene.

  5. Ziggy66
    July 2, 2008 at 5:07 pm —

    If you grow tired of the “britishism” I think you can change it under Tools/Options/Content tab/Languages/Choose/Select a Language to Add.

  6. July 2, 2008 at 5:12 pm —

    Haha. I actually find the Britishism to be quite twee. I think I might keep it that way, but I don’t want too many people confused by the occasional random U.

  7. Shalini
    July 2, 2008 at 5:20 pm —

    Twee? Oh, you Dawkfan!

    Great post!

  8. July 2, 2008 at 6:06 pm —

    Now wait one second. I’m not putting up with any Britishisms on this site! We had to put Teek through a 6-week course before allowing her to post on Skepchick.

    Well, maybe I’ll give you a break for your first few posts . . . welcome to the site, Elles! So happy to have you here.

  9. July 2, 2008 at 6:10 pm —

    Humph! 😛

  10. July 2, 2008 at 7:36 pm —

    Elles,

    Great first post! I wish you much success and look forward to your future writings.

    You already know I love ya, but let me brag on you to everyone else:

    Elles is the real deal and deserves all the praise she been getting lately. Like me, you should encourage your daughters to get involved with this sight and rest assured Elles is a great person for them to look up to.

    I for one am one “old” skeptic that hopes he can be like her when he grows up!

  11. July 2, 2008 at 7:55 pm —

    Hear hear.

  12. July 2, 2008 at 8:56 pm —

    Is wonderful to see you around. Hopefully,you’ll help inspire a bunch of up-and-coming young skeptics. The word could certainly use more.

  13. vreify
    July 2, 2008 at 9:55 pm —

    Ah, I’ll never forget the day my peers in English class mocked me for using the word “verbose.” They said it was a “big word.”

    Luckily my teacher jumped to defend both me and intelligence as a value in general when he said, “A big word? It’s only seven letters. Look it up in the dictionary.”

    Good luck to you, Elles!

  14. July 2, 2008 at 11:19 pm —

    I was put through fundamentalist Christian education in junior high, it was an absolute nightmare. I felt like Charleton Heston in planet of the apes.

    I’d love to talk more about it but as I’m neither a teen nor a girl I’d best save it for someplace else. Good luck with the spinoff site.

  15. July 2, 2008 at 11:21 pm —

    Rebecca declared,

    Now wait one second. I’m not putting up with any Britishisms on this site!

    What is this place — Conservapædia?

  16. July 2, 2008 at 11:28 pm —

    The way you described your years in charter school isn’t all that different from my years in public school. Mostly, high school just sucks, and teenagers usually don’t like science or reading or learning big words.

    By the way, I love astronomy, too. My home page on Firefox (the American version) is NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day. 🙂

  17. w_nightshade
    July 3, 2008 at 4:23 am —

    Elles, nice to meet you. I expect you won’t get too much flak for using big words around here. I mean, you are quite obviously a better writer than most adults I know. I look forward to reading your contributions in future.

    And Rebecca, I want to see you try to expunge the British flavour of our comments. You will see what happens when Brits get cross (a stern letter to the Times, that’s what!).

  18. w_nightshade
    July 3, 2008 at 4:25 am —

    (double-posting FTW!)

    Also, I hated the Catholic high-school I was in so much, I dropped out after my sophomore year and went right into college. Not for everyone, but I expect there will be a higher threshold for these types of people on this blog, so check out Simon’s Rock (http://www.simons-rock.edu/).

  19. July 3, 2008 at 9:07 am —

    About the Firefox thing:

    Go to https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/browse/type:3 and install the “English (US)” dictionary. You may need to restart Firefox. After that just right-click in a text edit field (e.g. the one in this blog) and select “Languages -> English / United States” from the menu.

  20. July 3, 2008 at 10:32 am —

    No Britishisms?

    I’ll get my coat then.

  21. July 3, 2008 at 12:34 pm —

    Whether you are all Britished up or not, glad to have you posting, Elles. I no doubt will have to squint in the direction of your brilliance.

  22. Joy Wang
    July 3, 2008 at 2:47 pm —

    Elles–
    Bring on the Britishisms! Glad to have you posting here. I’m another teenage skeptic and science (and math and history) geek, albeit on the East Coast (suburb of Philadelphia). I don’t get ostracized per se for excelling academically, but sometimes I am feeling like I’m the weirdest kid in my school. I read a lot of “big” books with long technical and intimidating titles, for one (My mom has been pitching a fit about the amount of books in my room. I have this habit of reading multiple books at the same time. Right now I’m in the middle of SJG’s Structure of Evolutionary Theory, THe Ancestor’s Tale, The Killer Angels (Mike Shaara)…the list goes on.) For two, I’m a violinist, which is not so strange in itself, but I spend 2-3 hours practicing every day, which labels me as freakishly devoted. Aditionally, I hate shopping (my mom has resorted to bringing a friend along to placate me, or to keep me sane, or both) and have no grasp of popular culture (yeah, that Brad Pitt guy…um, I think he’s some kind of actor…I’m not sure though), polysyllabic words just seem to flow off my tongue (or keyboard) very easily, and I have this classical music fetish which causes me to walk around humming vaguely familiar songs with titles in different languages. I also take 10th grade math classes, which, in the popular opinion, has “NERD” written in chartreuse all over it (hey, geometry is AWESOME). I could continue the list, but figures nobody wants to hear about microscopic details of my nerdy existence.

    Sadly, I’m seeing the same type of anti-science attitude over here as well in our middle and high schools. In our middle school, there’s really not many people who bother to expend the effort to learn something that’s out of their comfort zone. I can count on one hand the number of fellow classmates in my school that truly love academics as much as I do. Regretfully, the schools in our district aren’t particularly encouraging to students who want to take more challenging courses either, which is why I’m taking high school biology right now so that I can take more science classes in the future. Also, for every year that one moves forward in high school, the number of girls taking hard courses is decreasing almost exponentially. In our Honors Geometry class, there’s an almost 5:1 ratio of boys to girls, and something that resembles a 20:1 (I’m one of the femle minority) ratio in Analysis (Pre-Calc).

    I’m really glad to see teenage skepchicks like me that have spoken out. I bow in the face of your radiance and eagerly anticipate more posts to come!

    Cheers!
    Joy

  23. Joy Wang
    July 3, 2008 at 2:55 pm —

    didn’t mean to write a dissertation there. whoops.
    I really loved the Magic School Bus when I was little. And Arthur. Barney just creeped me out, though. Sesame Street was cool. Since then I’ve graduated to TV shows like Wired Science (which ended prematurely), NOVA, NOVA Science Now (which I can’t watch b/c I have piano lessons when it’s on), and Masterpiece Theatre (you have to love the Britishness that just permeates all of their stuff).

  24. July 3, 2008 at 4:07 pm —

    Elles, use all the big words you want here. It’s your spot, and your audience is either already in the know, or willing to learn 🙂

    You’re obviously a great writer and thinker, and I’m so glad you’re on board!

  25. Pato2747
    July 3, 2008 at 5:49 pm —

    We truly need rational thinking and skepticism on we, the teenagers. And I believe that Elles will do great in this job.

    Congratulations, Elles, and bring on the woo bashing!

  26. Cassie
    July 3, 2008 at 6:45 pm —

    Awesome post! It is comforting to know that there are more skeptical teens out there. I look forward to reading more!

  27. MaggieMoo
    July 8, 2008 at 9:49 pm —

    yay for books! and, i agree that science is super special awesome!/spifftastic, but sorry dude i like chemistry because i like mans greatest invention (i.e. fire). and britishness….totally rocks my lack of socks!

  28. enochthered
    July 19, 2008 at 3:58 am —

    Elles, hello and welcome! Your intro post is great.

    “So, let me share my explorations of the world as I come of age with you. Let us, through science, reason, skepticism, and wonder together, create a brighter future.”

    Hell yes 😀 That’s so eloquent, I doubt Carl Sagan would have put it any differently.

    PS: I will continue, unrepentedly, in my use of UK English (actually, Australian English, although I strongly doubt that anybody could tell the difference) in all my Skepchick comments, irrespective of Firefox’s (I think my Firefox is using a US English dictionary anyway…) or Opera’s position on the matter.

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