Thanks to Dr. Daniel Colón-Ramos, a Yale researcher of nematodes and founder of CienciaPR.org, I received a copy of the outstanding science essays collection titled ¡Ciencia Boricua! And the best part? It was personally dedicated to Me!
Okay, to Mrs. Jenius and Jenius, Jr, too.
The purpose of the collection was to present Puerto Rican scientists and sciences in a Puerto Rican context. Now some of you gringos and other-than-Puerto-Ricans out there might think this is silly, "sciences in a Puerto Rican context." But let Me ask you this: how many plant species do you know from Brazil? How many insects can you name that are common to Japan? Can you name 3 scientists who have no direct links to the U.S. of part of A.? Go ahead: name three.
"But Jenius, who cares about Brazilian plants, Japanese bugs and scientists not from the proto-fascist U.S. of part of A.?!"
Brazilians, the Japanese and every nation that takes pride in the achievements of its people.
You see, an interest in science is developed by observation and thought, by observing the world We live in and are surrounded by, linked to a questioning, probing thought process. But if the science you are exposed to is from "somewhere else," if it doesn't connect directly with your experiences and help you answer the questions you encounter in your own environment, then you develop a sense that science is not for you, that it has nothing to say to you, and you look for other things to occupy your mind.
And that's where ¡Ciencia Boricua! comes in: it gives sciences a Puerto Rican look and feel. Every author is Puerto Rican and every essay--each about 2-4 pages long, making it a breezy read--is about an aspect of science explained with local geology, flora, fauna and examples.
The essays range from microscopic life forms to a time when the Earth was almost constantly heaving lava, from the need for improved science education to a personal exploration of what science means. The essays explain their topics simply, not in the offensive "dumbing down" way favored by modern media, but directly, almost conversationally. There's something for everyone, and better than that, it's all important.
I was so enthused by ¡Ciencia Boricua! that I offered to help turn it into an e-book. I know Dr. Colón and CienciaPR are trying to create a broader range of science-based channels to bring the wonders of science directly to the masses, from school-age children to curious adults. In this arena of creating connections, Dr. Colón received a prestigious American Association for the Advancement of Sciences (AAAS) Early Career Award for Public Engagement with Science.
The goal would be to create a series of textbooks for all grades, covering all major sciences, with a Puerto Rican-centric context. We certainly don't lack the scientists, and to those who say that "science is not cultural," My response is "Explain any science without a cultural context." Why can't you do it? Because you'd need to use a language...and where does language (word usage and terminology) come from if not a cultural context? We understand sciences better because We internalize them according to Our cultural norms and mores.
¡Ciencia Boricua! is a small book as many science texts go, but it is a giant leap for Our educational system and cultural context. It might seem odd that the the juxtaposition of "small step, giant leap" made popular by Neil Armstrong on the Moon--placed there by NASA and a huge national effort--is used in this context, but when you realize that NASA is literally jammed with Puerto Rican engineers and scientists, you see why I used it.
There's plenty of Puerto Rican presence in the sciences; the time has come to make that fact known to a wider audience and to encourage a new generation of Our scientists to discover the wonder of the Universe We live in...no matter where We choose to look for it.
The Jenius Has Spoken.