Science-deniers may be the result of poor science education

Published 3:47 pm Thursday, June 2, 2022

Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, I have found myself incredulous and puzzled by the appearance of so many science-deniers, given that most Americans have attended high school where they would have been required to take multiple courses in science. How could that possibly be? Since then, I have had the following six suggestions from others, all educators.

One suggestion, obviously true, is that some people follow, even in matters of science, a variety of authorities (perhaps a minister, a parent, a friend) rather than a science teacher or institution. A second suggestion is that students may not be taught or understand the epistemology of science, yet teaching the empirical nature of science is one of the standards that must be met for graduation.

A third factor may be that there are no longer commonly required textbooks (or any textbooks) for the teaching of science. Rather, each teacher is permitted to teach to the standards in their own way, leading to varying outcomes.  A fourth possible factor is that, surprisingly, not all science teachers have completed a college major in the science they teach, and their teaching may suffer as a result. This was a surprise to me. Moreover, teachers lacking full certification may somewhat easily (I am told) get a provisional certification that allows them to teach anyway.

A fifth suggestion was that science is taught in a silo, i.e., scientific knowledge is not contrasted with and compared to knowledge in other fields, for example, historical or theological knowledge. Hence the uniqueness of scientific knowledge is not made evident.

A sixth, and final, possible factor is that school salaries are so low that more fully qualified teachers simply cannot be found.

Whether the reason for science deniers is one, several, or all of these factors, there should be cause for great concern.

— Milton Scarborough