Believe it or not, the junior/senior high school that my sons went to graded on “sense of wonder.” Realistically, no one expects a seventh-grade boy to score too high in this regard, but by ninth grade the expectation is that this sense should be observable and growing, and by senior year, it had better be a palpable driving force. The theory behind taking the temperature of each young man and woman’s growing sense of educated wonder is that it is wonder that will keep him or her learning and discovering when teachers and transcripts no longer require it. Wonder will keep them pushing back the boundaries of what has been done or known by themselves or others, to go further and deeper, to uncover yet more in every realm.
Last month the New Statesman carried an article, “Why science needs wonder,” by Philip Ball, author of the soon-to-be published Curiosity: How Science Became Interested in Everything. I hadn’t realized that "wonder" has historically been a controversial attribute, with a past false dichotomy between the kind of wonder that makes you curious and sends you exploring and the kind that makes you awed and speechless. In elegant fashion, Ball argues that science needs poetry and not just objective inquiry.