Scientific literacy will improve our education system, is necessary for life

Feb. 29, 2016

Hannah Harvey
hharvey@uccs.edu

I hated science as a kid.

While other kids came up with a hypothesis and enjoyed collecting data, I hung back and let my partner do the work.

Fast-forward to the first biology class I took in high school.

It was love at first sight.

Something flipped a switch in me and all I wanted to do was learn and communicate scientific subjects effectively to my peers.

Science is a tough topic to learn, and students get discouraged because of how difficult it can be. I know I did, and still do. But because this subject is so difficult for many students, it often gets pushed aside.

There is a lack of scientific literacy in the United States and the problem starts with how we are educating our children.

Science is often ignored in elementary and middle school to develop reading and math abilities. Knowing how to read, write and do simple arithmetic is important, but science teaches you how to think critically about the world around you.

Ignoring science or not teaching it effectively sends underqualified people into the workforce. It impacts science, technology, engineering and math fields, but also other areas where problem solving and critical thinking are important.

According to the National Science Education Standards, scientific literacy is the understanding of scientific concepts required for decision making, economic productivity and participation in cultural affairs.

By this definition, scientific literacy doesn’t just mean that you have to be able to identify what a protein looks like or that you know how to calculate a wavelength.

In a broader sense, it means that you have the ability to think critically about the world around you and contribute to your society.

Unfortunately, many Americans can’t do this as well as they should.

A survey by the Pew Research Center tested scientific knowledge with a 12-question quiz on a variety of different scientific topics. The average score was a 7.9 out of 12, or 66 percent.

That’s a failing score.

We need a system where science is emphasized instead of ignored. We need a society that can think critically and question differing viewpoints on a topic instead of arguing.

We cannot avoid science. Whether we like it or not, science makes an appearance in our daily lives.

It’s in issues like politics, economics and our health. We need to understand the basic science of these issues in order to come up with solutions and help each other.

But instead of basing our opinions on scientific research, people tend to follow uneducated, sensationalized views on an issue without getting the facts. That’s a huge problem.

Let’s take R&B star B.o.B’s assertion that the earth is flat. Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson corrected him on Twitter and an argument divided social media for hours.

The evidence proves that the earth is round, but B.o.B was stubborn in his opinion.

This type of thing is dangerous because it not only speaks about a lack of education, but can also spread misinformation that could have easily been avoided if someone understood science.

Scientific literacy isn’t just about science, it’s how we understand our world and contribute to it to make it a better place.