Yet it worked, no matter what kooky progressives in science blogging choose to believe. So much so, I argued that NCLB should be expanded to include science, not killed. But it's election season and President Obama needs the education union so he gutted it in 2011. We can only dream about what might have been for students.
What we get instead of obvious changes to improve education is the usual tired lament about how stupid American kids are and how only money can fix it - it isn't true. In actuality, America is already second in the world in spending per capita and science literacy for adults has tripled since I was in college, which means people learn plenty about science, they just don't learn it in schools.
Cameron English, writing at PolicyMic, takes that fact and pushes it to the next level. He's in opposition to almost everyone (including me, though my take is different than Scientific American, which endorses the failed policy of putting more money into the bloated education bureaucracy, despite the fact that science teachers quit for reasons having nothing to do with money) but he has an interesting argument.
Americans, especially young Americans, need to be more scientifically literate. This isn't up for debate. But getting them there won't happen in the classroom.He notes that Scientific American regards the politicization of science as a worry but I will note something he did not; they are myopic about it. When the only two anti-science positions you are aware of are global warming and teaching evolution, you are out of touch with not only the world of science, but what decade it is. The left-wing anti-GM and anti-vaccine movements - and proponents of those skew more heavily left than anti-evolution and anti-climate science skew right - are far more dangerous to the world than if some crank in some local school district tries to say the world is 6,000 years old.
The temptation to mandate that people be smarter will always be there. But the problem isn't that Americans lack access to sound science education. The problem, ironically enough, is that they've been trained by the scientific community to distrust science, and they pass that distrust down to their children. Until we improve the way science is communicated to the public, our science literacy problem won't be solved.America is also a skeptical culture by nature, and distrustful of authority. Americans left their countries and came here because they did not trust governments in their homelands; government denied them representation and freedom of religion. If Europeans believe everything they are told by elites, that's fine for Europe, but it is as pointless for resentful intellectuals to wish Americans were more European as it is to wish Europeans were Asian. It doesn't work that way.
If people are not convinced, it isn't because Americans are stupid or their brains have somehow become a separate species (seriously, those are real arguments by progressive journalists trying to explain why some people don't agree with their pet positions), it is simply because the argument is not very good - or that scientists who let activists speak for science are losing the ability to be trusted guides for the public.