Wednesday, 29 January 2014


The Girl knows not to call me at work unless it’s important, and today it was, from her perspective.

“Daddy, I was watching my history programme, and they talked about the death of Francis Bacon!” she said.

This wouldn’t mean much to some kids, but The Girl and I have been talking about the scientific method, which Bacon helped codify. I asked her to remember the acronym WET-P: First you Wonder whether something is true, then you work out an Experiment to find out, you Test your findings and you show it to your Peers for criticism. She knows that Bacon – the lawyer, author and knight-philosopher– was one of the first true scientists. She also knows how he died – from pneumonia contracted from being out in the cold with a dead chicken, trying to find out how cold could keep meat fresh.

So when her favourite history programme re-enacted Bacon’s death – in a part called “stupid deaths” -- she was so chuffed she wanted to tell me right away.

“And it was a very stupid death!”she said.

Oh, I don’t know, I said smiling. He was a great man, who died for a good cause, and that’s why you have a refrigerator.

"I knoooow …" she said reluctantly.

Do you think there was also a scientist named Chicken who died freezing bacon? I asked, and she laughed. 

"Daddy," she said more seriously, "I’d like to laugh about Francis Bacon, even though I know he died. Is that okay?”

As long as you’re respectful enough of the man, I said, you can be amused – I don’t think he’d mind. I’ll see you tonight, okay? I said.

“Love you,” she said, and hung up the phone.


Jo said...

I see you have a Horrible Histories fan in your house. My kids love it, but for me the jury is out. I love that they are learning about history, but I really object to the fact that they make history into an 'us and them' situation. As in, look at all the silly things those amusingly ignorant people did in the past. It is patronising in the extreme. I think maybe it should be balanced by a current affairs show, highlighting the insanity of the current generation who haven't seemed to have realised that their lifestyles based on a non-renewable, fast disappearing resource is doomed, for instance. Fiddling while Rome burns seems like a sensible pass time in comparison..

Brian Kaller said...


Yes, mine goes nuts for Horrible Histories, and I know what you mean -- it does emphasize the worst parts of the past, and its dark and irreverent humour walks a fine line sometimes. In the end, though, it has made my child want to read as much history as she can, and I praise it for that.