RESPECTFUL TEACHING. As a former teacher and life-long learner, I found Emily Finke's Science Communication, Museums, and Teaching with Respect to be a breath of fresh air. Finke is a regular contributer to the science blog This View of Life, and in this entry talks about the contrast between science communicators and museum educators/researchers who interact from the unfortunate assumption "that not only does everybody know the basic ideas of our field, but that everybody should know the basic ideas of our field, no excuses" .... or, on the other hand, science communicators and educators/researchers who recognize the wide range of experience (or lack of experience) both among other faculty, and also among the visiting public, and view that variation as a golden opportunity to "stop and think carefully through your information to make sure that you're correctly communicating a concept. If you act condescendingly because they don't know the information, they're going to immediately call you on it and then tell you something you don't know about their field that makes you look equally ignorant. You may have a different background, but both your knowledge sets are equally worthy of respect."
Interacting with respect pays huge dividends, and should be the lingua franca in all disciplines, most especially among the sciences (from which so many people feel isolated). For all my adult life, I've been an enthusiastic explorer of many disciplines, many topics. In both learning and teaching, the process of discovery and sharing is much more effective and more fun if conducted with respect and enthusiasm, as opposed to the old pedagogical model of an expert instructor deigning to illuminate the unenlightened masses with his/her wisdom from a great height.
Increasingly, there exists a variety of venues for exploration and discovery. Among them is the social network Facebook, a gold mine for sharing science with a wide audience. Among my favorite commentors on FB are Andrea Kuszewski and Hank Campbell, both of whom freely share web links, information, discoveries, and other resources. I try in my small way to emulate their more accomplished involvement in this forum, alongside my airing of political views and snippets of awe at the richness of our universe. Speaking of which ~~
JON STEWART. The political satirist and media critic recently appeared in a very frank exchange with Chris Wallace, to discuss Stewart's frequent criticisms of Wallace's parent TV network Fox, and particularly his characterization of Fox News as being "a biased organization relentlessly promoting an ideological agenda under the rubric of being a news organization," as well as being "a relentless agenda-driven 24-hour news opinion propaganda delivery system." (A fair and even understated description, in my view, but never mind that.) What is remarkable about the interview is Stewart's composure, his command of facts and the larger picture, and the tone of amiable opposition between the two men. Though they differ in their opinions, and express them forcefully, neither Stewart nor Wallace descends into the familiar pit of name-calling or ad hominem attacks so prevalent on Faux News. Altogether a class act, and a delight to watch.
HUBBLE. Finally, here is a brief, captivating video describing what the Hubble Space Telescope discovered when its view was directed at small, seemingly black and vacant regions of deep space, the ultra-deep field (click on image below to enlarge). It turns out that even the darkest and most distant patches of the night sky are densely populated with thousands of previously unknown galaxies, each containing hundreds of billions of stars, 13 billion light years away. The video is an excellent example of respectful and informative teaching, permeated with awe.