WHAT IS SCIENCE LITERACY AND
WHY SHOULD WE CARE?
2004 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the historic Brown vs.
Board of Education U.S. Supreme Court decision declaring separate
facilities inherently unequal. Headlines in newspapers, magazines
shows across the country focus on education and how well US students
or are not doing. Great emphasis is placed on education reform
districts across the country. The mantras chanted range from “Leave
behind” and “Every child can learn” to “School
accountability” and “Measurements.”
Yet amidst this interest, the results of the Third International
Science Study (TIMSS) follow-up investigations reveal that across
the board, US
students continue to do poorly in math and science when compared
students. This sub-standard performance occurs in a world in which
economic success, but overall societal prosperity is predicated
more and more on
its citizens’ understanding and comfort with technology.
In short, education reform
must include improving science literacy.
The point of a science literate society is not for everyone to
readily solve physics
equations or design genetically engineered organisms. Rather the
goal of science
literacy is the universal capacity of our citizens to read an article
in their daily
newspaper about global warming, for example, understand it, critically
it means to their lives and what steps they should take as individuals.
ranging from hairdressers, licensed vocational nurses and workers
semi-conductor factory need a general knowledge of pH and acid/base
Problem solving and critical thinking, the most important aspect
of science literacy,
is key to daily life. Whether one is a politician, automobile mechanic,
secretary or aerospace engineer, it is important to “think
your way through the