Bloggingheads: Robot Superbowls, Oversized Electrons, and Other Thoughts With Chris Mooney

On today’s episode of Bloggingheads, fellow Discover blogger Chris Mooney and I talk about Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens our Future, the new book he has co-authored with his co-blogger Sheril Kirshenbaum. We definitely have our differences, or different emphases, but I hope our argument ended up being enlightening, rather than demolishing.

One big difference was over high school science education. I just can’t see any long-term solution that is superior to doing a better job of teaching high school kids about science and getting them to feel that it’s part of their lives. Part of this involves getting really good teachers out into all schools, not just the ones surrounded by McMansions. Part of this involves a program like the one I mentioned in the bloggingheads talk, called FIRST, which was developed by Dean Kamen as a kind of robot-building Superbowl. And guess what? Kamen actually fills football stadiums with kids, and those kids are more likely to do better in school, get into science and engineering, etc.

Frankly, I don’t buy the counter-argument that there are lots of people with advanced degrees who don’t believe in vaccines, etc., and so “just more science education” won’t matter much. Let’s really unpack what we mean by “advanced degrees,” really. I know plenty of people who went to top colleges, and then on to top law schools or got higher degrees in literature or such–and the last time they took a real science class was in high school. It’s not as if the science seeped through the walls of the chemistry or biology departments and infused them while they were listening to lectures about Derrida or modern politics.

Now–if I could just find that $50 billion I had set aside for improving high school science education…I know it’s around here somewhere…

Chris will be coming to my neck of the woods (New Haven) on Tuesday, July 21, to give a talk. I’ll be introducing him. Details here.