August 30, 2001, I walk up concrete steps to a high school a block from where I live, cold canvassing for a job with a future, sit on a wooden bench outside the principal’s office, like I’m in trouble, handing over my resume in hopes of teaching five classes a day until next June. As the rule goes, all you need is a pulse to teach math in an inner city high school. A week later, I’m listening to my students in Room 410’s rollercoaster screams, together watching the Twin Towers burn to the ground with a smoke so dark, I’ve never seen before, or again,
At the same time, I began teaching science classes at Boricua College. Although my doctors recommend otherwise, I continue to teach, there, now because when I teach about global warming, Hurricane Maria, and hear about third world conditions still commonplace in Puerto Rico, I feel compelled to serve.
Pushing my PowerPoint slides up on a white wall allows me to communicate what scientists dedicate their lives to, perhaps triggering my students’ beta waves to direct their lives towards living how science dictates we all ought to live.
Scientific facts change almost daily, so trying to memorize your way towards the path of science never works. Its theories can be bedrock certainty for centuries, then its foundations suddenly crumble and reform in less than a generation.
We cannot see organic molecules shaping our DNA, in turn the color of our eyes and skin; we cannot see the far side of the universe, but we scientists are confident we know their shapes and sizes. Science not only offers us a way to expand our own awareness, but also measurably improves our communities’ quality of life, now, and in the future.
If we close our eyes to almost 14 billion years of scientific perspectives, we risk blinkering our eyes on moonless nights, seeing nothing but darkness, when in fact twinkling starlight from millions and billions of years ago just now reaching out eyes can guide our actions towards an understanding of how insignificant we all are.
Within its strictures is an openness to the world that few perspectives offer. If we close our eyes and ears to what it has to offer, we risk losing our humanity. Five million years ago, we humans finally severed our ties to rest of the great apes. For 99.9% of the last 5 million years of the 13.8 billion years our universe has been accelerating to its end, we have all been humans of color. In other words, all of the people in England, Germany and Swedan have been people of color, for the past 5 million years, until the last 5 thousand years, that is what science teaches us.
Of all the fields of knowledge, scientific knowlege is uniquely modern, appearing like Athena from Zeus’s head, but on certain dates and from known human beings. Scientific knowledge is free to any human regardless of race, belief or bank account. To value science is to value life.