Sunday, June 19, 2011

It’s poetry in motion

Blinded me with scienceFirst of all, I wish a happy Father’s Day to all those good dads out there. I’m missing mine quite a bit today, and I feel especially for all those who have lost their fathers. My Dad’s birthday is coming on up Tuesday, too, so I’m feeling his absence rather acutely at the moment.

A week or so ago, I posted a Pew Research Center quiz about science knowledge on Facebook. I took it and got 12 out of 12 questions right (same for Ken), but of course if I hadn’t, I would have had to turn in my scientist card.

Several of my friend took the quiz, and all of those who commented got either 11 or 12 answers right. I understand that that is far from an accurate assessment of how all my friends did; perhaps some took it and chose not to comment or share their score. As one friend pointed out, the questions didn’t seem to be difficult, but that was kind of the point. It was designed to test for familiarity and knowledge of basic scientific concepts. What was astounding to me is that if you got 11 of 12 right, you did better than 90% of those Americans who took the quiz.

Although I also lament a general lack of knowledge about art, literature, and grammar, I find a lack of knowledge about science especially disturbing. In our current culture of embracing inadequacy and thinking that a good education somehow equates to “elitism,” I fear that we will soon fall behind the rest of the world in innovation and technology. What am I talking about? It’s already happening. Other countries are embracing alternative fuel sources, investing in their development, and pumping money into things like high speed rail. We are dropping the ball.

It’s not just that we need those with higher educations to do research and find innovative solutions. We need to train people for high-skilled manufacturing jobs, because there is an increasing gap between jobs that require little to no skill and those that require extended training. An effort to increase vocational tech colleges would help in this regard, and highly skilled manufacturing jobs are a crucial part of the success of a country like Germany. We could learn much from them.

Agar platesI’ve been accused in the past of being some sort of know-it-all when it comes to science. (Not that the source of such ignorance and shortsightedness was credible.) I’m the first to admit that there is much out there that I know little to nothing about. I have a good working knowledge of microbiology, and a passable knowledge of other laboratory and medical disciplines, but don’t bother asking me about string theory or quantum physics! However, ridiculing others for their knowledge, for obtaining a good education, and for working for many years in a field that is there to help a patient get better seems to me to be the height of stupidity and pettiness. Those throat cultures you keep having your doctor run on your kid don’t just read themselves, you know!

Anyway, I don’t know what is going on with our country right now that it seems that ignorance is seen as some sort of virtue, or that a lack of knowledge somehow makes you a “regular person.” I don’t know about you, but if I ever have to have to have brain surgery, I don’t want my neurosurgeon being a “regular person.” I want one smart son of a bitch drilling into my skull. Michele Bachmann recently said that she thinks intelligent design should be taught in schools. She thinks all science should be put on the table and then let the students decide. No, you idiot. Intelligent design is NOT SCIENCE. It’s a religious belief, and science is not taught by raising your hands and voting on it. If we want to attempt to make a comeback and be globally competitive when it comes to science, we need to tell ignorant assholes like Bachmann to at least attempt to understand something about science. I know that’s not possible, but those of us that get it can make sure that such stupidity doesn’t pervade our education system.

I think I have smart friends. Our goal should be that everyone understands the basic principles of science, not just some of us.


  1. It is amazing to me to have people put evolution and intelligent design into the same category. They need to get "Science for Dummy's" and read the introduction.

  2. What really got me during my last year of teaching was that at the elementary school level, I had one hour a week for science instruction and one hour per week for history. The only way my students got more instruction in these areas was if I figured out a way to incorporate these areas into our reading and math instruction. The thing is that in many school districts there is a pacing guide that must be followed in math and reading. This is why I loved teaching middle school. My job was to teach the state standards -- and I actually covered them all as opposed to what I see in elementary schools. The sad thing is that the standards build upon previous years. This was not a problem when I went through the public school system. I think that politicians and others who know nothing about education need to stat out of the classroom and let teachers do their job.

  3. "Our goal should be that everyone understands the basic principles of science, not just some of us." Oh, well said! And, if we work to further that end, we'll be far busier than I am currently, just taking potshots at the dummies.

    But, really, (whine) do I have to get off my ass and help? Really? Because I don't love elementary school or middle school all that much and high school gives me the willies, but that's where I need to be putting my volunteer time, if I take your offered wisdom seriously...and it deserves at least that.

    I think I just answered my own question, dammit.

  4. P.S. Twelve right. It's a sign, dammit.

  5. Elitism is right! Corporate America really wants us to be dumb about things, especially history and science, so they can rewrite history, and tell us what science to believe.
    Otherwise, we won't buy stuff we don't need, or can analyze the silly "science" that advertisers use. We wouldn't get tricked by stuff like "specially formulated to clean you hair more the dirtier it is...", or "stop smoking with this stuff...side effects include headaches, back pain, nausea, bad dreams, disorientation, potential bladder cancer, risk or heart palpitations, loss of balance, dizziness, and frequent inability to control your bladder...".
    And the dumber our society gets, the least likely they are to want to learn more. In comes privatization of the education system (a Repub wet dream)and education becomes indoctrination to consumerism.
    And the rest is history, rewritten to make the corporate takeover sound like a heroic deed!
    It's 21st Century feudalism, in a nutshell....

  6. I got 11 of 12 right- the only one I missed was the one about stem cells- I thought they came from bone marrow. I always liked science in school- it was my favorite subject. I lost interest when it got all "mathy" in high school!

  7. The dumbing down of America began in the 80's... which i think was a conservative reaction in the 70's to the intellectual radicals of the 60's. After that, being 'smart' was demonized and creativity was stifled. I wager the whole education policy of the right, codified under 'No Child Behind' was an effort to make public education inadequate.

    As a conspiracy cat, I could rant on about how the elimination of the middle class has left America so destabilized socially that we have the elites and small gentry with a large underclass to produce and purchase the good they produce for a relative pittance.

    Well, I won't drag on with my inane speculation... but the dystopia predicted by so many science fiction writers is the on the horizon...(and if Bachmann got elected, that would be the 'event'!)

  8. I just took the test and also got all 12 right. The questions like you say were pretty general/not that tough.

  9. kailyn's on to something- in the self-contained classroom, science and social studies/ history notoriously get the short-shrift because of the pacing required in the math/ reading curriculum, plus the fact that only a handful of states have their NCLB testing linked to the social studies/ science curriculum- that's why i love teaching on a 'bell schedule' because each subject gets equal time. kudos to kailyn for using that reading time to teach science- many kids don't 'get' how to read nonfiction and it's a skill that must be taught as part of critical thinking development

    keeping the nation in the dark makes it way easier for the michelle bachmanns of the world and the sarah palins of the world to make their way to power.....


  10. I'm truly surprised that I got 11/12. Math and Science were never my strong points.


  11. She's tidied up and I can't find anything!

  12. Beth, 12 out of 12! Now I'm depressed. Only ten percent were able to answer THOSE questions? Doomed, we are all doomed!

    As usual Miss B doesn't have a clue and couldn't buy one is she had 25K and a free spin of the wheel. She's been told to call intelligent design science to advance ultra-conservative ideology, so she does. The only people on the planet that consider it science are religious zealots, and almost all of them don't have any background in the sciences. Those that do have the background have been discredited by scientific peers in their fields.

  13. Beth, sadly as we both know, education is becoming less and less valued in our society. Need proof of that? Just look at countless postings on Facebook, Twitter and other social media.

    Look at some blogs out there that promote thoughts that I (and I am sure you) just have to scratch my head and wonder from what planet some of these people came? And sadder still, it makes our public education system look really really bad.

    Look at the misspellings, disjointed thought processes and plain old stupid bigotry. You taught these people how to think? Or did they at all?

    It has become almost a crime to defend science, intelligence and good old fashioned common sense. Even debate has become instead of defending one's thoughts and beliefs, it is now a match to see whose voice is louder--and who can belittle the other.

    I, too, scored a 12 on the test, and like you, I didn't think it was too hard. Knowing we rank higher than 90% of our fellow Americans truly scares me.


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