Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Science Education and Science Literacy

A recent article in the Washington Post reports that the United States is stagnating in terms of Science education. Recent test scores that compared the United Stated with other countries showed that our 4th and 8th-graders were improving in math, but that our science scores were the same as a decade ago. For the 8th grade, the countries that scored higher than the United States were Singapore, China, Japan, South Korea, England, Hungary and Russia.

Why is this important? Educating our youth in science (and math), boys and girls, is going to be increasingly important for the US to remain competitive in a global economy, an economy that is driven by technology. Look at your own life, for example. We are positively drenched in various forms of technology. But, it goes even deeper than the economy of a nation and future employment opportunities for the individual.

An understanding of the basic principles of science, rooted in skills such as critical thinking, the ability to separate of fact from opinion, and problem solving is essential for decision-making. As adults, we are increasingly faced with decisions about how to live our lives, what kind of footprint we want to leave on this planet, and how we want to vote on policies that will affect that footprint for generations to come. We face issues such as meeting the world’s food and water demands, global warming, energy production, waste reduction, and homeland security. No matter what opinion you hold on these issues, they are, at their core, science-based. A science education will be essential for evaluating the options and making an informed decision at the polls.

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