Monday, March 21, 2011

We're Scientifically Doomed

I came across an article over yonder at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that was titled "Why does U.S. fail in science education?" My question after reading that headline was "Why does the U.S. not only fail in science education, but also in proper grammar?" But I digress. Back to science. I really find the scales that they use to be completely meaningless, as they tend to categorize students as being 'proficient' or not. The problem with that is that in order to qualify as 'proficient' one usually has to get a minimum of around 60%-65% of the material correct. Sixty or sixty-five percent of anything is not proficient. It's barely half. And on most grading scales, it's all but failing. So I like it better when I am provided with how many people could actually answer the questions correctly. But let me be clear. I like the format better, not the results.

And that's what the article over at the Post-Gazette provides us with. They give us the percentage of people who could correctly answer some of the science questions. The results are so dismally low that I really want to know what people answered instead of the correct answers, as the correct answers seem to be pretty easy to noodle through. Let's take a look at some of them.

Fourteen percent of test takers thought that sound travels faster than light. OK, that's a solid 86 percent getting it right. I'm good with that. What I'm less good with is that 33 people disagree with the fact that Earth goes around the sun once a year. What the hell do think happens? Do they think it goes around more than once a year? Less than once a year? Do they think that the sun goes around Earth? There aren't a lot of choices that would make sense. I don't get it.

Here's one of the more appalling ones: 41 percent of people disagree with the statement that astrology is not at all scientific. Almost half. Geez. Just because stars are involved, it does not mean that it is scientific. It's a load of crap. I realize that there are plenty of people out there who really believe in this load of crap. I also realize that there are plenty of people out there who really like this sort of crap. That's all just fine. You can believe in it. You can even like it. But that doesn't change the fact that it is not scientific. No matter how much you like it.

And this one is as troubling as it is mystifying. 49 percent of people think that ordinary tomatoes do not have genes, but genetically modified tomatoes do. This just makes my head hurt to even think about. Where do those dimwits think that the genes to modify the tomatoes come from? The gene store? Even if you don't know squat about genetics specifically, shouldn't you be able to noodle this one through? Apparently not.

Do I take any consolation that, while in 1988 only about 10% of adult Americans were rated to be 'scientifically literate', in 2008 that number had risen to around 28%? No. Not really. 28% percent is abysmal. And who even knows what that means, anyway? We're just doomed, that's all. Simply doomed.

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