Slashdot | US Adults Fail Basic Science Literacy

March 13, 2009

THis is cute: Slashdot | US Adults Fail Basic Science Literacy. It leads on to…

Science Literacy – American Adults ‘Flunk’ Basic Science, Says Survey

The good news; U.S. adults do believe that scientific research and education are important. About 4 in 5 adults think science education is “absolutely essential” or “very important” to the U.S. healthcare system (86%), the U.S. global reputation (79%), and the U.S. economy (77%)….

If you’re already confident in your knowledge, here’s what other people do not know:
Only 53% of adults know how long it takes for the Earth to revolve around the Sun.
Only 59% of adults know that the earliest humans and dinosaurs did not live at the same time.
Only 47% of adults can roughly approximate the percent of the Earth’s surface that is covered with water .(*)
Only 21% of adults answered all three questions correctly.

And you know what? The course that I teach that is presently required, will no longer be required for graduates in our program who will work with children. And it seems that there are very few elementary science education courses out there. I’ve had some comments about my course, because I don’t teach science facts. This is one telling point about this article… Who cares how long it takes for the earth to go around the sun.

Ten million tons worth of light hits the earth from the sun every second (facts may be slightly off, as I’m remembering a class I took in 1989). Nice to know. But it doesn’t have much impact on anything.

What would be cooler would be to ask people how they would figure out how long it takes for the earth to go around the sun. I don’t want children, or adults, to know science facts. I love knowing them myself, but that’s just my own personal obsession. No. I want people to BE SCIENTISTS. I want them to do science. I want them to be curious. I want them to experiment. I want them to theorize and test their theories. I want them to co-construct new knowledge about themselves and the world around them. Children do that naturally. And the first thing we do when they get to school is to kill that curiosity and replace it with objectives and standards. One more victory in the institutionalization of lived experience. Le Sigh.

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