Saturday, February 5, 2011

Scary Videos Proving Science Literacy is an Uphill Battle

Despite President Obama’s emphasis on innovation and education during the State of the Union Address, science literacy in the United States is facing an uphill battle.

A recent survey of 926 high school biology teachers reported that 60% of them avoided teaching the topic of biological evolution in the classroom. Even more worrying, 13% of those surveyed indicated that they "explicitly advocate creationism or intelligent design by spending at least one hour of class time presenting it in a positive light." The teachers participating in the survey weren’t employed at private religious institutions – they all worked at public schools!

President Obama may have spoken to the importance of education but, in the last two months alone republicans from several state governments have proposed new legislation in hopes of maiming their state’s current education standards. New Mexico’s House Bill 302, Oklahoma’s House Bill 1551 (document), Missouri’s House Bill 195, and Kentucky’s House Bill 169 all aim to grant teachers the ‘right’ to instruct students on ‘alternatives’ to evolution, and to teach the ‘scientific controversy’ behind climate change science.

Still not convinced of the seriousness of the science literacy situation? Consider the below video evidence:

Georgia Representative Jack Kingston proudly boasted on a recent episode of Bill Maher’s Real Time that he did not believe in evolution. In presenting his uninformed thesis, Kingston supported his position by claiming that there are “missing links” in the fossil record and that “[he] came from God, not from a monkey.

Hear Kingston's flawed reasoning:

In fairness, republicans aren’t the only politicians waging war on science. Kentucky’s democratic Governor Steven L. Beshear has publicly stated that he supports the idea of providing government subsidies to a company planning to build a religious theme park in his state. According to a recent article in the New York Times, the goal of the park is to “present accurate, factual biblical information to people about a subject that they’re really interested in.” Accurate and factual, really? The park is the brain child of Answers in Genesis Ministries - folks that teach children that the earth is only 6,000 years old and that humans use to ride saddled dinosaurs. How is government sponsorship of such nonsense not in complete opposition to the goals of education?

Have a look at Anderson Cooper's interviews of the parties involved:

Of course, science literacy isn’t necessarily a prerequisite for a fruitful life and successful career. For example, political commentator Bill O’Reilly is fairly well off - and he couldn’t pass a high school science class if his life depended on it! He has no understanding of biology, geology, or astronomy.

Check-out his defense of a previous statment about humans not knowing why ocean tides flow: