Science: So What?

Science got it’s monthly statutory mention on Radio 4’s Today program as part of a new Government initiative to engage the general public in science and left me wondering what sort of moronic imbeciles came up with this idea? All British children are educated from the ages of five to sixteen (soon to be eighteen) which seems to me the right place to be teaching science, but for various reasons the UK government has dumbed down the exam standards to levels where an eighteen year old in the UK would struggle with questions that would not tax a South Korean ten year old. But never mind, lets have yet another initiative an pretend that setting up a web site and telling people that science “is, yeah, y’know, really cool and useful, people.” The BBC’s science correspondent was less than impressed, noting that

Despite the millions spent and the campaigns launched since (1985) to revamp the image of science, today’s government survey has shown that little has changed. The government’s solution seems to be more of the same – another campaign.

(Although later in the day he was rather more impressed having toned down the previous criticism)

I have to agree. Whoever commissions this stuff and than signs it off must be the kind of person who bangs their head repeatedly against the door rather than opening it. I had a look at the web site and it’s the usual sort of boring patronising bullsh*t that most PR firms deliver when given this type of brief and I’d expect it to be forgotten about in weeks, or perhaps days. More money that we don’t have being poured down the drain for short term gain rather than putting it where it is really needed. Ignoring the importance of science for a decade is not going to be fixed by a snappy PR campaign, and given the lack of interest in science education, most Britons are now so scientifically illiterate that can be forgiven for thinking “Science? So What?”

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Comments 3

  1. Ruth Seeley

    So why don’t you and Andrew Maynard and a few other folks design a supplementary curriculum for those who want to be at least secondary school-level science literate? Lead on, MacDuff.

  2. Post
    Author
    Tim

    @Ruth Seeley
    We had a bash with Nanomission last year. The main problem is the lack of funding to do things properly. Most government funding tends to be focussed on web sites, meetings etc but developing some serious tools to communicate science takes some serious money.

    A supplementary problem is that most of the secondary school teachers we spoke to tended to have enough trouble getting through the curriculum as it was, so adding addition elements wasn’t too popular.

    I did come out of this convinced that gaming was a valid approach but to really engage players in the way that the offerings of the big games companies do costs serious money. Something developed for £50k is never going to look as good as the latest blockbuster from Electronic Arts.

    Now, if someone wants to get serious about education I’d be happy to give it another shot.

  3. Ruth Seeley

    Well, I do have a good friend here with a PhD in curriculum development who’s taught at the primary, secondary, and post-secondary levels – when I gave her Ben Goldacre’s Bad Science as a Christmas present she immediately buried her nose in it and ignored me completely.

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