[Coral-List] big high pedestal

Pam Hallock-Muller pmuller at marine.usf.edu
Sat Oct 31 10:42:26 EDT 2009


I get almost nauseated every time I hear/see someone "blame" scientists 
and teachers for the lack of science education.

Americans have long been schizophrenic about education and intellectual 
issues in general (read Wallace Stegner), and science in particular 
(think Scopes Trial). As a child in rural America, I recall neighbors 
discussing higher education as something only men who were disabled 
(e.g., polio victims) or inept would pursue; a "real man" worked with 
his hands. School was for the 3 Rs. The anti-intellectual/anti-science 
undercurrent in America was reinforced in the late 1940s into the 1960s, 
with the government-sponsored campaigns and regulations aimed at getting 
women out of the workforce (where they were encouraged to go during 
WWII) and into the “consumer force”. Women who sought higher education 
were tracked into elementary education, where they were told not to 
worry their pretty little heads about science and math because it was 
“too hard”. Public university degree programs were legally allowed to 
reject women until 1972 (I was rejected from at least one graduate 
program specifically because they did not accept women - they told me 
that in the rejection letter). Thus, despite the “space race” and an 
emphasis on science and math in the 1960s, education programs were 
turning out eager young elementary teachers who had been taught that 
science and math were “too hard”, which too many promptly taught their 
students, both boys and girls. Combine that with the reluctance of 
teachers to even mention anything related to evolution or reproduction 
to avoid the wrath of parents and administrators, and we now have a 
largely science-illiterate nation.. (My sister, one of those elementary 
teachers, was forbidden by her Principal from showing fossils to her 5th 
grades because he claimed that "fossils are only theories".)

By the 1980s, the anti-education undercurrent was greatly reinforced by 
an ever growing portion of the American population with minimal 
education in science and math. That “upwelled” into the election of a 
leader whose attitude towards the environment was “if you’ve seen one 
redwood tree, you’ve seen them all”. For much of the past 30 years, 
anti-intellectual, anti-science attitudes have been mainstream 
nationwide. This has been especially true the past 8 years, when beliefs 
and “gut-feelings” consistently trumped evidence and expertise.

For example, here in Florida, many public schools essentially stopped 
teaching science for six years starting in 1999 because science wasn't 
initially included on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Tests. I 
personally had a 15-year outreach program "killed" outright by the FCAT 
- my group was not longer welcome at schools except one day per year for 
the "Great American Teach In", where we compete with every other 
possible topic for half-hour blocks of classroom time (as compared to 
the previous program aimed at reinforcing specific learning units).

Individuals and groups interested in power and resource dominance are 
threatened by an educated and informed populace/workforce. Now the 
"mainstream media" is completely owned by those groups and daily 
reinforce the "belief" that belief is more important than evidence. And 
that is who is "informing" the American public on global change issues.

Scientists are "voices crying in the wilderness", except the wilderness 
is now urban.

Pam Hallock Muller

Pamela Hallock Muller, Ph.D., Professor
College of Marine Science
University of South Florida
140 Seventh Ave. S.
St.Petersburg, FL 33701-5016
Phone: 727-553-1567
FAX: 727-553-1189
e-mail: pmuller at marine.usf.edu
Website: http://www.marine.usf.edu/reefslab

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