I have found myself lately writing about science as much as anything else. I did not intend that to be the case with this blog, but that is what has happened and I will go with it.
The problem perhaps is that it is becoming more and more clear that we are a collection of people who cannot independently think. For example, our political campaigns rely on a blind acceptance of what is said and do not readily give us time to analyze what is said, what is promised, and what is offered.
We are called unpatriotic if we question our present administration and their tactics and ploys. We are quickly called racists or sexists if we so much as question what a politician says or does. We are asked to forget what we were taught in school about the history of this country so that others can justify their positions and thoughts.
There is evidence to suggest that global warming is more than a fancy power point presentation but we are told that the evidence is either circumstantial or limited in scope. It is also evident that the present administration is used political pressure to drive scientific debates.
We demand accountability from our schools but accountability has quickly become nothing more than scores on a test at the end of the year. If we want to really determine what a student has learned during a particular school year, test them three months after the end of that year, not at the end of the year. If learning really took place, then it will be evident later.
We have become accustomed to “sound bites” and it becomes evident that the typical “sound bite” is becoming shorter and shorter. Our attention span is decreasing and we don’t want to think. In my post, “Ages of Wisdom”, I noted that President John Kennedy was possibly the last president to speak in literate paragraphs and with references to history. President Kennedy expected his listeners to understand those references and understand what he was saying. His words could not be easily reduced to “sound bites”; his thoughts were not simple statements easily forgotten but ones that stayed in our minds and challenged us to respond.
Now, I am not arguing for more science in the classroom (I just wish that they would teach more science in the classes that are offered). But science offers one way to teach thinking skills. You can teach thinking and analysis in other courses, as well, and we should do that also. But we need to have a knowledgeable and thinking society if we are to solve the problems that we currently have and to solve the problems of the future that we don’t even know of yet.
Craig Barrett, chair of Intel, stated
“The future economic success of the United States depends on out-performing the competition with smart people and smart ideas. Without the best education system and investments in basic research and development we will become a second rate economic power.”
I write this because there is an opportunity presenting itself to change the direction of the society. There is a call going out to all political candidates to participate in Science Debate 2008 yet no candidate has accepted the invitation to participate and tell the public how they plan to use science to inform their policies. This debate is being organized for April, prior to the Pennsylvania primary.
We have seen over the past eight years political interference that has threaten our nation’s ability to respond to complex issues involving public heath, environmental, and national security clearances.
Given the many urgent scientific and technological challenges facing our country and the rest of the world, the increasing need for accurate scientific information in political decision making, and the vital role scientific innovation plays in spurring economic growth and competitiveness, it is imperative that we hold Science Debate 2008 on April 18 and that all political candidates participate. I would even go so far as to suggest that we make it a debate without party distinction. Let us think about what is going to happen; we have responded out of fear too often.
If you want more information concerning Science Debate 2008, go here