U.S. science and math education ranked 48th

A lot of Americans are hostile towards science. With political parties like the Republicans and Teabaggers, it isn’t any surprise. (Of course, the Republicans are a contributor to the hostility; the Teabaggers are a result.) But at the root of these ugly movements is, naturally, religion. It’s fair to place a lot of the blame on religion because, for starters, it teaches that faith is a virtue. Of course, faith most certainly isn’t a virtue and it has only been made into one by the religious out of necessity, but the idea that it’s good to believe without evidence is ingrained into many American minds via religious rhetoric.

We’ve always been a religious nation, but there were times when we managed to lead in science and math. We can attribute a lot of that to economic superiority or importing scientists from elsewhere or, especially during the Cold War, nationalism. But I think we can also attribute a lot of it to the fact that historically it hasn’t been obvious to a great many people that there is a deep conflict between science and religion. Without people being widely aware that God is not only not evident but also not needed for the Universe and for life, there’s little reason to view science with any great hostility. Unfortunately, while science has been the tool man has used to make the greatest achievements ever seen on Earth, it has also revealed that a lot of people are just plain stubborn. People will favor their long-held beliefs over accepting a conflicting fact from science. (In fact, it’s 64% that will do that in America.) That’s why we have religion to blame for results like these.

Stagnant scientific education imperils U.S. economic leadership, says a report by leading business and science figures.

Released Thursday at a congressional briefing attended by senators and congressmen of both parties, the report updates a 2005 science education report that led to moves to double federal research funding.

Nevertheless, the “Rising Above the Gathering Storm” review finds little improvement in U.S. elementary and secondary technical education since then.

“Our nation’s outlook has worsened,” concludes the report panel headed by former Lockheed Martin chief Norman Augustine. The report “paints a daunting outlook for America if it were to continue on the perilous path it has been following”:

•U.S. mathematics and science K-12 education ranks 48th worldwide.

•49% of U.S. adults don’t know how long it takes for the Earth to circle the sun.

•China has replaced the United States as the world’s top high-technology exporter.

One of the most interesting facts in the research, though a bit of an outdated one, is that in 1999, 69% of 5-8th graders received instruction in the physical sciences from teachers lacking a major or certification in any physical science. It makes me wonder how many high school students are also receiving their education from un- or low-qualified teachers. We know they’re out there (which is one reason D.C. fired a bunch of them recently), but I’m not sure on the stats. I think there would be interesting implications for Paul LePage’s plan to give away degrees.

9 Responses

  1. Its all religions fault that America is 48th, oh and probably the schools and teachers are a little part but mostly religion.

    Very succinct.

    Just out of curiosity, how long does it take the earth to rotate around the sun?

  2. This is depressing but at least gives rationalists a good talking point. When social conservatives want to cut science education and funding for research, you can say “You’re against American business being competitive! You want to make us weaker than China and Japan! You’re trying to dumb down education because you don’t want to make them feel bad in hard classes!” That kind of framing usually gives them pause.

  3. Its a liberal cause to not fail anyone not a conservative one. Its a pretty hard time finding any kind of conservative influence in education these days anyway.

    The United States spends as much and in most cases more than the 48 countries above us in test scores. I don’t think cutting funding is really the issue here. More likely where that money goes and what its used for and the quality of the “teachers”, who prove almost impossible to fire even with failing classes.

  4. I’d say that’s a liberal caricature, not cause.

  5. One that is largely true. How many sports programs have added rules about how much you can win by or have “no-cut” teams. I keep hearing about “better” grading programs under which no one can fail but just have an “incomplete”.

    That is nonsense. What a way to prepare kids for the real world.

    Real quick on the orbiting the sun thing, that’s a question designed to produce a desired result. Everyone knows it takes 365 days. Really it takes 365 1/4, of course, and I think most people know that too, but since we put it off for a whole day every 4th year…..

  6. Hold the science for a moment – how do you blame conservatives and religion for low math scores? Are you sure you’re not just aimlessly pinning blame on the people you already dislike?

  7. It’s fair to place a lot of the blame on religion because, for starters, it teaches that faith is a virtue. Of course, faith most certainly isn’t a virtue and it has only been made into one by the religious out of necessity, but the idea that it’s good to believe without evidence is ingrained into many American minds via religious rhetoric.

    and

    But I think we can also attribute a lot of it to the fact that historically it hasn’t been obvious to a great many people that there is a deep conflict between science and religion. Without people being widely aware that God is not only not evident but also not needed for the Universe and for life, there’s little reason to view science with any great hostility. Unfortunately, while science has been the tool man has used to make the greatest achievements ever seen on Earth, it has also revealed that a lot of people are just plain stubborn. People will favor their long-held beliefs over accepting a conflicting fact from science. (In fact, it’s 64% that will do that in America.)

    That’s how.

  8. I think that’s a very subjective line to draw. There is nothing there to say that religion has any effect on any part of the educational system.

  9. I’m not trying to nitpick, but your two examples are about religion trumping science in belief structures – something we agree on. I was asking about math scores and religiosity and

    This doesn’t have to be theoretical. You could back up your claims by comparing religiosity and math/science scores, as well as political distribution and those scores. You are the claim maker, so the burden of proof is on you.

    I’ve actually seen an anti-math biases in politics before, but I limited my criticism to the specific issue and politicians and not half the country. (final paragraphs http://younghipandconservative.blogspot.com/2010/03/why-is-insurance-such-difficult-concept.html )

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