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Here We Go Again

With depressing regularity we are treated to reports of the scientific illiteracy of our fellow citizens. One such salvo comes from the National Center for Education Statistics. It compares the science and math scores of U.S. 15-year-olds with their counterparts in other countries. In one recent survey American kids were (predictably?) below average for the group, scoring below 16 of 29 comparable countries on the science test.

Rather than bemoan the results, or brag about all the good things CHF is doing about science education, I thought I’d try my hand at taking the test. You can do so yourself online, but a couple of typical questions are below:

Are the Following Questions Answerable by Scientific Research? (yes or no)

  1. Should the scientific uncertainties about the influence of CFCs on the ozone layer be a reason for governments to take no action?
  2. What would the concentration of CFCs be in the atmosphere in the year 2002 if the release of CFCs into the atmosphere takes place at the same rate as it does now?

To score this as correct you have to answer no for the first and yes for the second question. The U.S. and comparison group actually performed pretty close on this one (a bit over 60% getting it correct). My hunch is that readers of this blog will do much better. If not, you don’t have to confess, but you might consider pondering a wee bit more about the interrelationship between the scientific method and application of public policy.

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Periodic Tabloid is an ongoing record of the activities of the Chemical Heritage Foundation’s staff and scholars, whose work tells the story of chemistry over the centuries up to modern times. Stay tuned for behind-the-scenes coverage of our events, exclusive supplemental materials to our publications, analysis of pressing contemporary scientific issues, and much more.