le cahier de kev

le cahier de kev

adventures fresh off the press

The Strength of Simplicity

In one of my previous entries (the one on February 10, 2014), I provided some reading recommendations from my continuing education.  (Oh by the way, the Pharmacy Tech Board approved my renewal application a few days ago so that's one less thing I have to worry about!)


One of the books that I mentioned was How the Immune System Works by Lauren Sompayrac.



The great thing about this book is its easy to understand approach.  The language is very conversational and presents the information clearly.  Although it may seem like it would be watered down, on the contrary, it covers a lot of the foundational concepts of immunology that can provide working knowledge for more advanced topics in cell biology.


This is an interesting topic in scientific literacy.  Many times (as it can apply to in any field), we would equate complicated descriptions or terminology with sophistication or a higher level of knowledge.  It may not always be the case since the lectures could go around in circles and end up being far from the point.


In order to gain interest in a field of study, we have to start somewhere.  In this case, it would be an introductory topic (such as general biology or principles of literature) which would provide an overview of the material.  This is actually a good time to garner interest in the material.  However what usually happens is that in these introductory courses, there is the mentality to maintain their reputation of being difficult (thus, subtly putting pressure on the instructor to make explanations more complex) as well as using them as weeder courses.


With these approaches, it can intimidate the individual to pursue the field or attempt to perform well (if they feel hopeless with any prospects of getting a decent grade on the exams, survival instincts kick in to just try to pass by regurgitating material or conforming to the testing system to get as many right as possible).  Instead of learning the material, it becomes a tactical approach to an academic battle or just another "requirement" to get through.  The material doesn't have to be easy as cake, but it also shouldn't be impossible like trying to get the hidden treasure in an Indiana Jones movie.


For the general population, imagine an individual who does not have a background to navigate through complex health literature or the new requirements for the Affordable Care Act.  People will get intimidated to ask questions so they will do what the students in the scenario discussed above will do and try to just find a way to get through the system without fully comprehending what they're engaging in.  Instead of providing them with the resources to solve their problems, complexity becomes the antagonist to make them feel like it will be a battle to gain proficiency in scientific and health literacy.


Since I also like to give applications from shows and media, I want to share an example from a current favorite show of mine called Steven Universe (the animation reminds me of my childhood with the 70's Japanese animation and bright colors from the 80's Saturday morning cartoons!).  A big contrast from The Walking Dead! haha (Season 1 definitely captivated me)


Go Steven and the Crystal Gems!


In one of the episodes, Steven and the Crystal Gems were inside a pyramid puzzle.  As they entered there were a multitude of doors that they could explore to find the gem that they were searching for.  No matter what door they entered, they always ended up in the center room.  They were over thinking the solution, but Steven remembered their trip to an amusement park where they rode the teacup ride that rotated in a circle.  Steven then suggested that the solution was a lot easier than they had thought.  He hypothesized that what was happening to them might be similar to the teacup ride in which regardless of where they enter, they would be spun back to exit to the center room.


Steven ended up being right when Garnet (the strong fist fighter of the group; the one to the right of Steven in the picture above) punched the ground in the center room which then revealed the path to the gem that they needed.


So moral of the story, there are usually more straightforward approaches to the solution than we realize.  With the examples of American health care reform and the approaches to scientific education at the university level, there is this trend to overcomplicate things to get to the solution.  In most cases, the heart is in the right place, but the execution is where things stumble.  For me, I remember when I would first try a recipe, I would picture in my mind that the dish is beautiful and cooked properly, but what ends up happening is that the final result is not what I expected.


There is constant evolution in these different fields.  If individuals and populations feel left out as a result of this "weeder approach" to health care and the science fields, it will only dissuade them from pursuing medical services or studying that field.  But if they understand the benefits from seemingly simple things such as annual checkups or see how their skills can translate into another field (whether they want to move up or make a career transition), they will be more comfortable in going on that "adventure."


We can see again that complexity does not always lead to that final point that we want to reach.  Simplicity can certainly go a long way when it gives these individuals the confidence to handle more difficult tasks.  Without the simplicity to give them the tools to approach these battles, individuals wouldn't be as motivated to develop their skills.

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