Posts Tagged 'Science Education'

US public opinion polls dampen my day yet again.

Polls about public science literacy in the US always manage to depress me. We are the richest nation in the world, have outstanding universities, and spend more money on education per capita than any country besides Norway. And yet, we slum it down with Turkey on the public acceptance of evolution.

The discrepancy between public science literacy in the US versus the rest of the first world is jaw-dropping. Here is a new poll from Angus Reid comparing views on evolution between the US, Britain, and Canada. The respondents were asked:

Which of these statements comes closest to your own point of view regarding the origin and development of human beings on earth?

  • Human beings evolved from less advanced life forms over millions of years.
  • God created human beings in their present form within the last 10,000 years.
  • Not sure.

And the results:

U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!

Depressing? Yep. Surprising? Not so much any more.

This poll shows that virtually half of the US population is made up of young-earth creationists. HALF! Were not even talking intelligent design or wishy-washy, God-guided evolution here. Half of the US electorate thinks the universe sprung into unchanging existence less that 10,000 years ago; this is Flintstones creationism.

Only 35% of Americans can tell hard science from a fairy tale. How does this happen? Is it all because of rampant fundamentalist religiosity and anti-intellectualism? Are our schools really that bad at teaching science? Does the media drown human consciousness in insipid drivel, preventing people from being capable of a single fleeting critical thought? The answer is probably a lot of each, and it leaves me feeling overwhelmed at the prospect of ever overcoming it.

Science literacy in the United States of America:


Et tu, Connecticut?

Mark Tangarone, a Weston, Connecticut grade school teacher, came up with an awesome lesson plan to teach his students about evolution by recreating the voyage of the HMS Beagle:

To learn about Darwin, students would have retraced the path of the HMS Beagle, the expedition that inspired a young Darwin’s theory of evolution. Each student would study a stop in the voyage, reporting on the animals and adaptations that Darwin observed.

Now, that sounds like an exciting and engaging way to teach science to children. It presents science as the adventure that it is, while exploring the central theory of evolution that unifies all of biology. The first lesson, in the first biology class should always be about evolution, not a smattering of unconnected nature facts. Mark Tangarone astutely realized this, and for his creative efforts the school administration has twice rejected his lesson plan, driving him to earily resignation.

The administrators squeamishly claimed that they rejected to plan in order to avoid controversy stirred up by religious students and parents. However, the true colors come out in this quote from principal, Mark Ribbens:

While evolution is a robust scientific theory, it is a philosophically unsatisfactory explanation for the diversity of life.

Surprise, surprise. Creationist administrators hiding behind ‘philosophy’ in order to deny their students a proper science education.

Kudos, Mr. Principal, for putting the interest of educating of your students third, behind your religious dogma and spinelessness. In addition you drove a good teacher into early resignation and put you school administration on a pedestal as a shining example of anti-intellectualism, uncharacteristic of New England.

Read more at Wired

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Arthropoda can now be found here.

Michael Bok is a graduate student studying the visual system of mantis shrimp.

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