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A proposal to combat “science alienation”

Over on Slate, science writer Deborah Blum (who happens to teach journalism at my alma mater) has a thought-provoking piece on how science is taught in this country and how it leads to what she calls “science alienation.”

She writes:

The way we teach K-12 science, with its emphasis on the intricacies of formula and mathematical structure necessary for the next generation of scientists and engineers, shuts too many people out. I don’t mean just shut out of the “priesthood” here; there’s no reason for everyone to become a scientist. But shut out of the comfort zone, of the ability to think of science as something useful in daily life.

And it’s the science-alienated who matter to me. Partly because as a science writer I find them the most interesting audience – I love the idea of seducing someone convinced that science is boring or meaningless into reading a research-centered story. Partly because I worry that what The New Yorker’s Michael Specter describes as a culture of science denialism is having a profound – possibly dangerous – effect on public policies. Think, for instance, of recent moves in Virginia, Texas, and North Carolina to deny that sea level rise is related to global climate change. And partly I just think that the filtered-out are cheated. They endure the mandatory classes, but they never really learn the main lesson – the way that science helps us understand ourselves and the world around us.

Read the rest of Blum’s piece for her proposed solution.

Previously: Study gives U.S. high schools low grade on standards in genetics education, The need to rethink science education and Do high school papers hint at the state of science education?
Photo by West Point Public Affairs

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