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From: "LaMontagne, Bob" <RLAMONT@providence.edu>
Most of my adult friends and acquaintances[snip]
do quite well in life knowing none of the items on this list.
I really don't understand why we spend so much time teaching science to
the general population. Please don't respond by saying that it makes
them more responsible citizens and better informed voters.
To some extent, two philosophies of science education exist.
1. Science for Everyone. Everyone benefits from learning science just as everyone benefits from English or history. The trick is to find the methods that best teach the most important ideas to the broadest range of students.
2. Talent Search. High school science classes are a talent search for the kids that will become the best scientists. Classes should encourage and educate them even if it means that other students learn less or nothing.
The US as a country is definitely in Camp 1. Everyone takes science and all the other classes.
Many European countries are in Camp 2. Students start majoring in a discipline in what Americans consider high school.
Most teachers fall somewhere in between. I'm closer to Camp 1 and spend some of my time doing public demonstrations of science for no pay. I think that it helps, but it might not. On the other hand, I run a robotics club that is closer to Camp 2 as I go around inviting students that I think will be good at science to become members.
Knowing science has advantages. It makes it harder to be deceived, especially in car ads. It can prevent you from burning down your house when you rewire it. It can make the world seem more marvelous and less mysterious.
But hey why believe me? I use science all the time. The house I once owned in New Orleans survived Katrina and took no water from above or below. I know how to read a US Geologic Survey Quad. I wasn't taken for a ride in the housing boom because I can do math. I don't own a house in SF, but I do understand what will help it survive an earthquake and how I should be prepared.
Marc "Zeke" Kossover
Forum for Physics Educators