As some of my readers may know, I was a schoolteacher before I became a doctor. And before I was a schoolteacher, I earned a degree in Zoology (a science), and before that, I was pretty much a science nerd my whole life. Makes sense, as my dad and his brothers are all engineers and construction types, guys who like to measure and cut and fabricate and do it the right way, so that stuff doesn’t fall apart.
Making stuff that doesn’t fall apart requires science. So does healing people. In fact, the entire fabric of modern civilization is founded on a huge and incredibly solid foundation of scientific knowledge, and its continued progress is quietly advanced by millions of people working to advance technology through the application of science.
Nations such as China, Singapore, Russia, Germany (well, most of Europe, really) seem to understand this and they stress science education in their education systems from primary grades onward. Kids who do well in scientific disciplines in elementary school advance to special middle schools where they get further education and then they move on to the highest level of secondary education, where science (and math, the primary partner of science) is strongly emphasized. These nations have decided that their national interests, including their economic well-being, depends upon having a large population of persons who understand science.
Not so in the United States. Science education prior to college in this country is sadly lacking, and it’s getting worse.
Compared to our neighbor to the north, Canada, our high school science curriculums are pathetic. Canadian students have to complete three years of science class just to get a basic high school diploma. If they want to attend university, they need more than that. If they want to study engineering or sciences at university, they need at least 5 year-long science classes, and many kids will have 9 or more credits in biology, chemistry, and physics at the very least.
American kids have to obtain 3 credits, if that. And the quality of the classes is almost comical. Let’s take chemistry for an example. (I taught chemistry at the high school level in Canada for 8 years, so it’s the subject I’m most familiar with.) When my kids were in high school in Wisconsin, I reviewed the courses available to them. I was amazed to see that the Chemistry subject material being taught at the highest level was equivalent to what Canadian kids learn in 10th grade. And I know from my training that Canadian kids’ science education is about a year behind that of kids in European schools. And I understand from my teacher colleagues that this applies to Biology and Physics as well.
Think about it: this means that American high school graduates are 3 full years behind their European counterparts in the sciences.
Let’s take it one depressing step farther: I was an adjunct insructor at a Midwest college for a couple years, teaching Pharmacology. This was supposed to be a 3rd-year level class, which means the kids taking it had to have at least 3 credits in sciences already, at least one of which was freshman Chemistry. I had to “dumb it down” for these kids as they did not have Organic Chem or Biochem background; nonetheless, I was amazed to find that most of my students had only a vague grasp of such fundamental concepts as hydrogen bonding, electron valences, and polarity, let alone more advanced (and necessary!) concepts such as chirality!
I concluded long ago that Americans are in large part scientifically illiterate. And it’s only going to get worse.
The current Anthropogenic Global Warming hysteria is a classic example. The only reason this absurd hoax has gained a toehold in our collective consciousness is that Americans are simultaneously addicted to the greatest swarm of electronic “information” propagation in history (mainstream media and social media) while simultaneously being almost completely clueless about the fundamentals of science.
Dr. Patrick Moore, a highly respected ecologist, gave a speech recently that I have posted on my Facebook page. In this short speech, Dr. Moore ripped back the curtain of obfuscation and lies perpetrated by the AGW alarmists and presented some very plain, very solid scientific facts that conclusively demonstrate that there is nothing whatsoever to worry about… except that the powers that be may well wreck the global economy by buying into the lies. Dr. Moore just touches on the fact that the AGW hysteria could never have got off the ground if most Americans were not scientifically illiterate.
As he points out, the popular view of ecology has gone from viewing mankind as an integral part of the global ecosystem to viewing our species as a blight on the planet which the planet would best be rid of. This is simply insane. If the people who believe this were in any way rational, they would immediately apply the logical solution to the problem and commit suicide. But they are not logical. Their eco-view isn’t based on science, it’s based on what they feel, what they believe.
In other words, it’s become a religion. And apparently they want the rest of us, the ones who don’t believe as they do, to die first.
Unfortunately, it may be too late to reverse this trend before disaster strikes. I am deeply concerned that this new anti-human religion is about to take a page out of the Koran and, following the examples of Islamist zealots, spawn a rash of ecoterrorism against the rest of humanity in the name of Gaia.