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Old 04-14-2010, 08:37 AM   #1
kennyc
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Science Literacy in the U.S.A.

Why does the U.S. get a "FAIL" in science literacy?

Is a cover up by the government in the works to try and hide it?

http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress....fic-illiteracy

From that Page: "Today’s issue of Science contains a news article (first pointed out to me by Matthew) about a clumsy (and now failed) attempt by the US’s National Science Board (NSB) to suppress a finding by a National Science Foundation (NSF) survey that Americans’ knowledge of evolution and cosmology remains poor, and well behind that of European and east Asian industrial nations. I am shocked and disconcerted that the NSB, the governing board of the NSF and official science advisers to the president and Congres, would do this. "

Have we become totally complacent and have lost our drive?

Here is some pretty detailed information from the National Science Foundation:

http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/seind10/
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Old 04-14-2010, 10:18 AM   #2
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hmm, interesting post - let's hope we can keep it civil . I did not read both articles in their entirety (I should do a little work today) but I don't know that just these two questions can constitute a failure. However, I think the US does pretty poorly in general in these two subjects overall compared to other countries, and that I would say is a failure.

The problem I have with these two specific questions is that there are significant differences of opinion across the country and even from one local community to another. That is the whole big bang and evolution vs intelligent design debate.

In some parts of the country the emphasis placed on these will be completely different despite having to be given equal weight in the classroom. And I'm not sure any amount of legislature or mandated curriculum will change that. And that does not lie solely with the educators either, a large part of it is in the home as well. Some people can be so entrenched in their ways and beliefs that even if their children are being taught according to curriculum, they may be having it drilled right out of them at home.

Also for the big bang question, I don't know that I would agree with the wording of the question. In a lot of cases I've read most people say that it was probably not an actual explosion as we know it so I'm sure some of that comes down to the kids answering the questions. Of course, I can't think of another way to put it either
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Old 04-14-2010, 10:24 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kennyc View Post
Why does the U.S. get a "FAIL" in science literacy?

Is a cover up by the government in the works to try and hide it?

http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress....fic-illiteracy

From that Page: "Today’s issue of Science contains a news article (first pointed out to me by Matthew) about a clumsy (and now failed) attempt by the US’s National Science Board (NSB) to suppress a finding by a National Science Foundation (NSF) survey that Americans’ knowledge of evolution and cosmology remains poor, and well behind that of European and east Asian industrial nations. I am shocked and disconcerted that the NSB, the governing board of the NSF and official science advisers to the president and Congres, would do this. "

Have we become totally complacent and have lost our drive?

Here is some pretty detailed information from the National Science Foundation:

http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/seind10/
Does it really matter that people don't know that information? I would think the details of cosmology are extraneous to most people's lives, and thus one of the first facts they forget (unused memories are lost the fastest).

If a piece of information has no relevance to someone's life, then it is just trivia. Why get worried over people not knowing it?
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Old 04-14-2010, 10:58 AM   #4
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Does it really matter that people don't know that information?
You could say that about every single fact that is not directly related to operating your day-to-day life and performing a trade. Some would argue that it is nice to have people who live above the educational level of a medieval serf, though.

Here's the peezy take on the matter from a few days back:

http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2...rassing_co.php

bonus:

http://whyscience.co.uk/

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Old 04-14-2010, 11:03 AM   #5
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Quote:
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Does it really matter that people don't know that information? I would think the details of cosmology are extraneous to most people's lives, and thus one of the first facts they forget (unused memories are lost the fastest).

If a piece of information has no relevance to someone's life, then it is just trivia. Why get worried over people not knowing it?
I think to have a functional country, yes. The problem is that most of the population have relegated the management of their lives and the government to others and they just follow along like sheep.

Given that scenario then no, but what if those leaders don't know basic science, history, literature.

Recipe for disaster in my book.

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Old 04-14-2010, 11:12 AM   #6
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The problem I have with these two specific questions is that there are significant differences of opinion across the country and even from one local community to another.
There may be a difference in opinion around the country, but there are the same facts everywhere.
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Old 04-14-2010, 11:15 AM   #7
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Given that scenario then no, but what if those leaders don't know basic science, history, literature.
You mean, for example, leaders that don't quite grasp the concept of "islands"?

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Old 04-14-2010, 11:38 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Nate the great View Post
Does it really matter that people don't know that information? I would think the details of cosmology are extraneous to most people's lives, and thus one of the first facts they forget (unused memories are lost the fastest).

If a piece of information has no relevance to someone's life, then it is just trivia. Why get worried over people not knowing it?
This reminds me of a conversation between Sherlock Holmes & Dr. Watson (I am paraphrasing from memory) in which Watson is appalled at Holmes' ignorance of seemingly basic facts - while knowing exactly how many steps were in the staircase at Baker Street, types of cigar ash, etc. Holmes compared the human brain to a lumber room (attic) and explained there was only a finite amount of space to store knowledge - so he chose to be very selective as to what he remembered/memorized/learned.
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Old 04-14-2010, 11:55 AM   #9
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I think to have a functional country, yes.
The country seems to be functioning, so that information must not be that important.

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The problem is that most of the population have relegated the management of their lives and the government to others and they just follow along like sheep.
And when in recorded history has that not been true (aside from brief revolutionary periods)?
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Old 04-14-2010, 12:10 PM   #10
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Quote:
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The country seems to be functioning, so that information must not be that important.
Some might argue otherwise.

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And when in recorded history has that not been true (aside from brief revolutionary periods)?
I would like to think quite often, particularly as participation is a primary focus of most democracies.

My point is that the lack of basic knowledge and the willingness to be a sheep in society go hand in hand. If we are to have a strong democracy, we much have an educated and knowledgeable population.
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Old 04-14-2010, 12:21 PM   #11
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I have a degree in physics, but the older I get, the less I care about things like evolution and cosmology. These branches of human learning have nothing to do with bettering society or improving anyone's life, so I rather suspect that the ones decrying the sad state of these useless fields of learning are mainly the ones who benefit from them: if enough people don't care, then precious funding to keep a lot of pointless archeology projects might get pulled, and a lot of archeologists might have to actually go out and get a real job. Perish the thought. Knowledge for knowledge's sake is a laudable goal, but only when all the other serious needs of society are taken care of. Otherwise, it's like sitting around reading a book when you have bills you can't pay because you haven't gone to work yet today. And even with all bills paid, in the end, who really honestly gives a flying rat's behind how many people understand evolution or cosmology?
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Old 04-14-2010, 12:24 PM   #12
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The country seems to be functioning, so that information must not be that important.
I'd call the country dysfunctional, myself. And I'd consider lack of basic scientific knowledge (and that resultant impact on practical knowledge) to be a major part of the reason.
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Old 04-14-2010, 12:33 PM   #13
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I have a degree in physics, but the older I get, the less I care about things like evolution and cosmology...
I tend to agree that most aspects of cosmology are good to know, but aren't likely to impact us on a realistic or practical basis... but evolution theory has direct ramifications on scientific and medical progress, so I wouldn't agree that knowledge of evolution is pointless.

I don't think those in the U.S. all need to have science or engineering degrees to get along. However, I'd consider a well-rounded basic knowledge of science to be essential to Americans' daily lives. When people walk around not understanding the need to hydrate themselves, not understanding the impact of various drugs in their bodies, not understanding why a car cannot actually "stop on a dime," and not understanding how to prevent unwanted pregnancy, they, and we as a society, stand to suffer.
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Old 04-14-2010, 12:33 PM   #14
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These branches of human learning have nothing to do with bettering society or improving anyone's life, so I rather suspect that the ones decrying the sad state of these useless fields of learning
Being that human beings are biologically based, I hold the opinion that evolution is the single most important field in all of science, and the basis of all biology and medicine.

(See, this is an example of where the "let's be civil" thread comes into play-- your response as a whole, not just the part I'm quoting, is blood-boilingly offensive to me and it is only through conscious will that the adjectives aren't flying.)
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Old 04-14-2010, 12:40 PM   #15
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I don't think those in the U.S. all need to have science or engineering degrees to get along. However, I'd consider a well-rounded basic knowledge of science to be essential to Americans' daily lives.
There is a big difference between not knowing fine details of science and not even grasping the very most basic of overall concepts. It is the difference between not knowing that the average orbital distance of the Earth from the Sun is 93 million miles and not knowing that the Earth orbits the Sun. It is the difference between knowing that the speed of light is around 300,000 km/s and not knowing that the speed of light is higher than the speed of sound. It is the difference between (to touch on other fields, any will do) not knowing the names of all the major battles of WWII and not knowing that the Allies won it. Not remembering the fine details is understandable-- not knowing the very roughest outline is an inexcusable, unforgivable failure of the educational system.
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