George Takei just posted this picture on facebook:
And this is why we have ignorant people, a failing educational system, and mediocre scores in math, sciences, engineering, medicine, etc.
People believed that science was just a bunch of facts to memorize. That’s all. Now we wonder why those same people don’t understand how science works. They never had to learn it. Oh, they probably know what photosynthesis is, but they couldn’t state a valid hypothesis to safe their lives. We see it creationists all the time. They don’t have a clue how science actually works.
My boss keeps saying that content is dead. Why do we test kids on content when 5 seconds on a cell phone can give them more answers than anyone in the history of the world before them?
What we need to be doing is teaching kids (and everyone else) how to think critically. How to research information. How to tell good sources from poor sources. How to compare and contrast conclusions. How to tell if a theory or conclusion is supported or refuted by data.
An example. I previously reported on Seralini’s crap anti-GMO paper. But just because his paper was crap, didn’t do what it said, and he made all kinds of major mistakes in it, that doesn’t mean that GMOs are safe. I get that all the time. That’s not a valid conclusion. All the Seralini paper does is show that shoddy experiments produce shoddy results. No one, and I mean no one, can draw any conclusion about the safety or danger of GMOs from his paper. Any attempt to do so is simply wrong.
Our education system is woefully inadequate to teach the kinds of critical thinking skills that we need just to live in our modern society. Teaching these things is hard (I know, I’ve been a teacher). Personally, I think we ought to just drop content after the 9th grade or so and move strictly into critical thinking. By the time students go through 3 years of critical thinking, learning to research, seeing the value of skepticism, then they will have learned the things that they need to know anyway.
For example, 4 days ago, I didn’t know anything about water softeners. But I’m planning on buying a house and I’ll need one. So, in just a few days, I’ve found a lot of what I need to know. I’ve determined that a few sources seem to be trustworthy. And I’ve learned to run the calculations to determine what size of softener is best for our new house.
That’s an ability that very few people have… which is really sad when you think about it. We have a big old brain and very few use it at all.