Friday, February 22, 2008

Science Education in the US

While we're on the subject of ignorance (see the last post), The Washington Post had an editorial this week on the "Dumbing of America":

Americans are in serious intellectual trouble -- in danger of losing our hard-won cultural capital to a virulent mixture of anti-intellectualism, anti-rationalism and low expectations.

They posit a number of reasons for this (and to my mind, they focus a little too much on the internet killing newspapers, but they are a little biased!), but the bottom line is correct.

Dumbness, to paraphrase the late senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, has been steadily defined downward for several decades, by a combination of heretofore irresistible forces. These include the triumph of video culture over print culture (and by video, I mean every form of digital media, as well as older electronic ones); a disjunction between Americans' rising level of formal education and their shaky grasp of basic geography, science and history; and the fusion of anti-rationalism with anti-intellectualism. (emphasis mine)

So what do we do about it? Well, the presidential campaign isn't helping - candidates are pandering to the lowest common denominator, as usual. We need to elevate the debate, focus on where we're losing out as a nation, where we're letting down today's kids - tomorrow's scientists who will drive the future of this country. Sciencedebate2008 is one place to start, but we also have to push at the grassroots level - at the local school board level, at the state government level to make sure that we're not left behind.

There was one glimmer of hope this week - Florida adopted new science standards that include the word "Evolution" for the first time, despite the pleas of the religious right who pushed to have creationism taught alongside science:

Florida Science Standards
There's a story on the vote here.

14 comments:

Angry Lab Rat said...

Yay for Florida and for rationality!

I'm surprised. The Flying Spaghetti Monster's noodly appendage is surely working its magic in that (highly conservative) state.

MediaMentions said...

Here is another article focusing on science education.

http://www.pressdisplay.com/pressdisplay/showlink.aspx?bookmarkid=8I9MVI8B3EE8&preview=article&linkid=6ea994bd-aed9-4147-bad2-aef0721009af&pdaffid=ZVFwBG5jk4Kvl9OaBJc5%2bg%3d%3d

best regards,
MediaMentions

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