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US Adults Fail Basic Science Literacy

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the ignorance-can-be-fixed dept.

Education 1038

TaeKwonDood writes "Do you want the bad news first or the good news? The good news is that about 80% of Americans think science knowledge is 'very important' to our future. The bad news is most of those people think it's up to someone else to get knowledgeable. Only 15% actually know how much of the planet is covered in water (47% if you accept a rough approximation of the exact number) and over 40% think dinosaurs and humans cavorted together like in some sort of 'Land Of The Lost' episode. What to do? Pres. Obama thinks merit pay for teachers makes sense. Yes, it will enrage the teachers' union, but it might inspire better people to go into science teaching. It's either that or accept that almost 50% of Americans won't know how long it takes the earth to go around the sun."

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1038 comments

47% (5, Funny)

Lord Grey (463613) | more than 5 years ago | (#27180325)

Only 15% actually know how much of the planet is covered in water (47% if you accept a rough approximation of the exact number)...

47%? Last I heard, it was between 70-75%. The top three results from Google for the query "earth covered by water" all say that as well.

Was that 47% derived using a different definition, or is TaeKwonDood a charter member of the Science Is Only For Nerds Club?

Re:47% (5, Informative)

Da Fokka (94074) | more than 5 years ago | (#27180347)

15% got it right, 47% came close.

Re:47% (5, Insightful)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 5 years ago | (#27180427)

That's funny. Wonder what the percentage of scientifically literate people who can identify a misplaced modifier is?

Re:47% (1)

JPLemme (106723) | more than 5 years ago | (#27180525)

We would need the results of the Grammatical Literacy test to be sure.

(I mis-read the statement in the exact same was as the OP, incidentally.)

And it's a statistics game... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27180509)

15% got it right, 47% came close.

And what is said in the summary:

"Only 15% actually know how much of the planet is covered in water"

So there's a bit of idiocy with the person who wrote this. In reality, as you put it, 15% got the correct answer--15% did not necessarily "actually know how much of the planet is covered in water." That would imply that no one guessed. A little hypocrisy in the summary, perhaps? In the article, they put it correctly: "Only 15% of respondents answered this question with the exactly correct answer of 70%."
 
  EDITORS, DO YOUR JOBS. If there is a fallacy in the summary, either correct it, or DO NOT POST THE STORY.

Aside from that... that isn't scientific literacy. (5, Insightful)

MickLinux (579158) | more than 5 years ago | (#27180589)

Just a note: Knowing how much of the planet is covered in water is *not* scientific literacy. That is trivia knowledge. If I need to know how much of the planet is covered in water (I'd guess 80%), I look it up, and decide if the definition matches my needs.

Scientific literacy would be understanding (1) how to research science you need (2) how to conduct a proper experiment (3) how to evaluate claims for obvious falsehood (4) how to check out non-obvious claims for falsehood, which is related to #1, (5) how to identify whether you are yourself competent in an area of science, or not, and (6) how to find someone who *is* competent, if necessary.

I hate it when people mistake factoids for science.

I hate it when people mistake popular blurbs for reason.

Re:And it's a statistics game... (4, Informative)

superbus1929 (1069292) | more than 5 years ago | (#27180593)

kdawson's the editor. He fucks up everything he touches.

C'mon mods, fire away on me!

Re:And it's a statistics game... (0, Troll)

kdawson (3715) (1344097) | more than 5 years ago | (#27180651)

lol, we lead busy lives..do you think we really have time to go through every submission?

So we were trying out this thing were we took upwards of a couple of days to review submissions ( a few over a month slipped through, sorry!) but got too many complaints. So as I said, either the front page is going to be empty, you will get some problems in the article every now in then, or its gonna be really, really late. I think the solution with the errors works best.

KD

Re:47% (5, Informative)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 5 years ago | (#27180365)

The problem is in the summary - not the article. The article has it right. The survey accepted anything between 65 and 75 percent as correct. 47% of the people in the survey got it right.

Re:47% (2, Insightful)

Thelasko (1196535) | more than 5 years ago | (#27180673)

So, the author uses statistics to explain basic science literacy among adults.

What's the basic statistical literacy [wikipedia.org] among authors?

Re:47% (3, Informative)

RDW (41497) | more than 5 years ago | (#27180721)

According to The Register, the calacademy guys who set the quiz originally got this 'wrong' too, basically because the 61-70% and 71-80% ranges they presented split too close to the generally accepted answer:

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/03/12/californian_science_dunces [theregister.co.uk]

Picking 71-80% would give a 'wrong' answer, even though (e.g.) NOAA gives 71% as the current estimate. The site now seems to have been changed to include a 66-75% range...

Re:47% (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27180367)

i don't know whether to laugh with you or at you. congratulations on being just as ambiguous as what you were quoting!

Re:47% (1)

hcg50a (690062) | more than 5 years ago | (#27180383)

This mistake proves the premise of the article.

Re:47% (2, Insightful)

99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) | more than 5 years ago | (#27180515)

This mistake proves the premise of the article.

Actually, it is a counter example. The article talks about how science education is lacking and how this is a problem. The summary was a case of poor language skills failing to accurately and clearly convey information the submitter almost certainly understood. The article talks about the problem with science education, but does at address that education is failing in many, many other areas as well.

Surprise. (5, Insightful)

Gerafix (1028986) | more than 5 years ago | (#27180339)

Boards of Education are trying to teach how a magic man in the sky created everything. Reap what you sow.

Re:Surprise. (5, Insightful)

0racle (667029) | more than 5 years ago | (#27180449)

Yes that's it. What has happened in a few school districts in the past few years as affected the education of people that have been out of school for 20-30 years. It has nothing to do with the general distain for education or higher learning that has existed for god knows how long. It has nothing to do with the glorification of sports and the deification of its practicers. It has nothing to do with a culture that works very hard to create the image of the 'nerd' as something to be shunned as opposed to the 'pimp' the 'hoe' and the 'playa' that everyone should try to be.

No, its all them thar religions.

Re:Surprise. (5, Insightful)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 5 years ago | (#27180609)

Well Scopes [umkc.edu] was more than 80 years ago, so you can't put a 30 year cut off on the religion argument.

Considering that this country was founded by religious refugees, and considering that historically, we've always been slower to adopt scientific theories than most other first world countries, it's certainly a plausible argument.

Frankly I think our scientific glory days are more about the waves of educated immigrants we got in the last century due to the unrest in europe (WWI, WWII, the Cold War) than in any native virtue that we had and somehow lost.

Until we start pushing actual critical thought as part of our curriculum instead of trivia and shortcuts, we're never going to have a world class educational program.

Re:Surprise. (4, Insightful)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 5 years ago | (#27180635)

Well, at least pimps, hos and playas are merely indifferent to science. They don't actively work to discredit it, suppress it or redefine it as something else.

Re:Surprise. (1)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 5 years ago | (#27180457)

Officially, only in Louisiana [arstechnica.com] .Still chilling and disappointing nonetheless.

Re:Surprise. (2, Insightful)

LoudMusic (199347) | more than 5 years ago | (#27180497)

Boards of Education are trying to teach how a magic man in the sky created everything. Reap what you sow.

I don't think that is the case. Personally, I was raised and educated in Arkansas, smack in the middle of the bible belt, in a southern baptist home, and I like to think I have a firm grasp on basic scientific facts. For example, the Earth's surface is actually closer to 3/4 water, not 47%.

What I think is happening is that people are blaming religion, specifically Christianity, for all the problems of the world. And when it comes to education the real problem is that people are just fucking lazy.

One of my most favorite and most aggravating bits of television is "Jay Walking" where Jay Leno cruises the street and asks pedestrians very simple questions and then airs all their ridiculous answers on national television.

Re:Surprise. (0, Troll)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 5 years ago | (#27180551)

I like to think I have a firm grasp on basic scientific facts. For example, the Earth's surface is actually closer to 3/4 water, not 47%.

Basic scientific facts, yes. Reading comprehension, not so much.

Re:Surprise. (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27180583)

Boards of Education are trying to teach how a magic man in the sky created everything. Reap what you sow.

And while we are on that subject, meet Don McLeroy [statesman.com] , chairman of the Texas Board of Education:

McLeroy said that it wasn't until he met his future wife, Nan, that he decided to rethink his faith. She said she would date him only if he were a Christian.

At the time, McLeroy was a 29-year-old dental student in Houston. His response was to first write up a list of reasons that he could not accept Christ. Some things he read in the Bible didn't make sense with what he was learning in dental school, he said. And he wondered why God would allow innocent people to die.

One by one, he said, his questions were answered by pastors and in Bible studies. The conversion took four months. Over the next year, he began taking seminars on creationism and biblical principles. He is now a young earth creationist, meaning that he believes God created Earth between 6,000 and 10,000 years ago.

The tenet in Christianity that says people were created in the image of God became one of the principles that McLeroy held most dear, he said.

"When I became a Christian, it was whole-hearted," he said. "I was totally convinced the biblical principles were right, and I was totally convinced that it could be accurate scientifically."

If you live in Texas, this guy is edumakatin' your kids. Look at the bright side, if they graduate they can fill those lucrative intelligent design research positions that are just bound to open up, ;-)

Ignorance is diverse as well as widespread (4, Insightful)

AliasMarlowe (1042386) | more than 5 years ago | (#27180705)

Q1: How many of them believe in astrology, Feng Shui, crystal power, and other crap?
Q2: How many of them know that the Earth is not flat, and is about 4.5 billion years old?
I would not be surprised if the answer to Q1 is larger than the answer to Q2. Unfortunately. And that's just a sample of delusions compared to a couple of simple and well-known facts.

There is a crying need for teaching the scientific method in schools. Ideally, it would be accompanied by numerous exercises in critical thought, including the examination of "common knowledge" and topical news stories.

Those questions seem more like trivial pursuit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27180351)

Than revealing of any particular scientific knowledege.

Maybe we just need better survey education.

Re:Those questions seem more like trivial pursuit (2, Interesting)

Vadim Grinshpun (31) | more than 5 years ago | (#27180657)

Understanding what a "year" is is pretty basic (how else can one interpret the fact that people don't know how long it takes the earth to go around the sun?). I wouldn't put that in the 'trivia' category.
Knowing the land to water ratio is marginally more trivia-like; I think the range they accepted as 'reasonably right' is a tad too narrow--but not by much. Anyone who's ever seen a map should be able to know it's well over 50%, but that there's still quite a lot of land -- at which point 70% would be pretty easy to guesstimate. Of course this reqiures (1) having seen (and understood to some extent) the map of the world, and (2) knowing what "percent" means. Sadly, too many people in the US would have trouble with at least one of these.

Factual errors in submission (2, Funny)

ShaunC (203807) | more than 5 years ago | (#27180357)

50% of Americans won't know how long it takes the earth to go around the sun

Heresy! Everyone knows the sun revolves around the Earth, and it takes 6,000 years for it to pass around all four corners.

Re:Factual errors in submission (2, Funny)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 5 years ago | (#27180381)

Don't blame them, they were educated stupid by their government and their schools...

Re:Factual errors in submission (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27180603)

And they thus will hopefully be stupid enough to vote "correctly".

Or even if they aren't they'll still be too stupid to figure out their votes are being diebolded.

BTW seems the highest priority for these idiots are that the votes are anonymous. Not that their elections aren't rigged.

Well I'm sure the real voters in diebolded elections would like their votes to be anonymous ;).

Go figure.

Re:Factual errors in submission (2, Insightful)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#27180493)

Agreed. OF course humans cavorted with dinosaurs! The Earth was created only 6,000 years ago, shortly after the light and the dark, so there's no other logical explanation!

Re:Factual errors in submission (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27180521)

ahh, so the Dinosaurs really went extinct because we gave them syphillis!

Re:Factual errors in submission (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27180671)

Oh come on, not this again. How many times do we want to keep having the same discussion? Yes, some people interpret the Bible literally and turn a blind eye to science. We have this conversation every time there's some story of an archeological, geological, etc. bent. Perhaps we should focus the conversation here on people who value science but nonetheless remain scientifically illiterate (which in itself is a very sizable chunk of the population).

Wha? (1, Insightful)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 5 years ago | (#27180369)

You know, I'll own up to not knowing that it was exactly 47% of the earth that was covered with water. I actually thought it was a lot closer to 70%, and, apparently, so does Google [google.com] , so its a common misconception. I wonder if one of us isn't counting ice?

You know what though, even if the number is 47%, I don't think that knowing that number means anything. That's a piece of trivia; maybe an oceanographer would use that number in his or her daily life, but that's about it.

Lot of education in this country is about trivia and trivialities. Why force someone to memorize a worthless factoid? And why judge their scientific literacy by the number of factoids they know?

I say we take the trivia out of science education, and put the scientific method in. People need critical thinking skills, and problem solving methodologies a hell of a lot more than they need pi to 20 digits, or to be able name our current geologic epoch (Holocene), or any of a number of worthless pieces of trivia.

Re:Wha? (1)

m0s3m8n (1335861) | more than 5 years ago | (#27180407)

How and the hell can a submission like this get by the slashdot moderators. Apparently they are in need of some remedial science studies.

Re:Wha? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27180437)

Kdawson

Re:Wha? (3, Informative)

Ninnle Labs, LLC (1486095) | more than 5 years ago | (#27180409)

You know, I'll own up to not knowing that it was exactly 47% of the earth that was covered with water. I actually thought it was a lot closer to 70%, and, apparently, so does Google, so its a common misconception. I wonder if one of us isn't counting ice?

The summary isn't saying that 47% of the earth is covered in water. It is a poorly worded attempt at saying that 15% of the respondents got the answer right, while 47% got the answer approximately write. TaeKwonDood is just shitty at writing English.

Re:Wha? (5, Funny)

Ninnle Labs, LLC (1486095) | more than 5 years ago | (#27180571)

approximately write

Fucking facepalm. I can't believe I typoed that. :(

Re:Wha? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27180617)

Interestingly enough if you read the firehose article, you'll see that the poorly written blurb in parenthesis was (incorrectly) added by kdawson.

Re:Wha? (0)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 5 years ago | (#27180675)

The summary isn't saying that 47% of the earth is covered by water. It is a poorly worded attempt at saying that 15% of the respondents got the answer right, while 47% got the answer approximately right. TaeKwonDood is just shitty at writing in English.

Do you know what "irony" is?

Re:Wha? (1)

hort_wort (1401963) | more than 5 years ago | (#27180453)

Scientific notation is taught in late high school and early college now. That takes care of most of the "pi to 20 digits" problems.

I always just think of the old song my calculus teacher used to sing to remember pi:
"Good olllleee American Pi -- 3.1415926535."
There is no need to know the number any further.

Re:Wha? (2, Informative)

carambola5 (456983) | more than 5 years ago | (#27180455)

Poor wording in the article... 47% of those surveyed were correct if you accept a rough approximation of the exact number... which happens to be 70-71%

Re:Wha? (2, Insightful)

OneSmartFellow (716217) | more than 5 years ago | (#27180471)

Be care what you classify as trivia. Unless you know facts, you can't collect those facts together and make meaningful statements about reality. Unless you know a diverse set of facts, you are unlikely to join two seemingly unrelated items and form a new concept. Facts are important, the ancients Greeks understood this well, and devoted a significant amount of their education to learning facts, and so produced some of the most progressive thinkers the world has ever known.

Re:Wha? (2, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 5 years ago | (#27180581)

The Greeks were fanatics for categorizing things. I suppose other people had done a lot of that before them, but the Greeks were the first people who developed systematic approaches, and in the process pretty much invented Western Philosophy. They didn't always get it right, but you are correct, without some basic fundamentals, nothing else makes sense. So, while in and of itself, knowing how much of the surface of the planet is covered in water might seem sort of a question worthy of Jeopardy, when it is related to climatology, geology, biology, planetary formation and a whole host of other fields of research, it becomes a rather important fact.

I suppose we could take the view that Sherlock Holmes did when he poo-pooed Watson for telling him that the Earth orbited the Sun, and yes, for Joe Average, information like that isn't likely to be useful on a day-to-day basis, still, there was, not so long ago, the notion that a nation in the Modern Age was going to need to have an intelligent, educated body of citizens, because, after all, democracy is government of the people, for the people and by the people. If the people are a pack of ignorant dullards who don't even know the basic geography questions, what the hell kind of government do you suppose we'll have?

Re:Wha? (2, Insightful)

internerdj (1319281) | more than 5 years ago | (#27180685)

I don't want to put words in the GPs mouth but it seemed to me that he was saying all the facts in the world would not be useful if the general population cannot think critically. Putting two seemingly unrelated facts together is not a problem with American society, it is determining if there exists a real relationship or if it is just what we want to see that is the major problem.

Re:Wha? (1)

Thelasko (1196535) | more than 5 years ago | (#27180559)

You know, I'll own up to not knowing that it was exactly 47% of the earth that was covered with water. I actually thought it was a lot closer to 70%, and, apparently, so does Google [google.com], so its a common misconception. I wonder if one of us isn't counting ice?

Why is this insightful, I thought it was supposed to be funny. The article was about how 47% of people know that the earth is 70% covered by water. Not how many people know that 47% of the earth is covered by water.

I'm curious to know how many adults fail basic statistical literacy.

Re:Wha? (2, Informative)

Minupla (62455) | more than 5 years ago | (#27180629)

70% is bang on, the (poorly worded) article was saying 47% of respondents got it within a margin of error (65%-75%), 15% got it right (70%).

As usual when you condense a page and a half article to 2 lines, it loses something :)

Min

Well you know wha they say about statistics... (1)

clonan (64380) | more than 5 years ago | (#27180385)

78.34517937859604837% of statistics are made up on the spot...

Seriously, is anyone surprised?

Re:Well you know wha they say about statistics... (1)

DirtyUncleRon69 (1492865) | more than 5 years ago | (#27180537)

reminded me of this this [youtube.com]

Scientific Method What? (4, Insightful)

jofny (540291) | more than 5 years ago | (#27180387)

What concerns me more than lack of knowledge of basic facts is that many adults don't really understand something as simple and basic as "the scientific method"...coming up with idea...testing it...controls....etc. It's almost as if science is "magic" to a lot of adults...might explain why so many can't distinguish between what they think the bible says and testable, provable fact.

Re:Scientific Method What? (2, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 5 years ago | (#27180477)

And because science is viewed as a ritualized activity, liars and con-artists like the Discovery Institute can take advantage of that ignorance to attack the foundations of science to insert (however cleverly disguised) Creationism as some sort of rational alternative. It does not help science education that lunatics and con-men are constantly trying to knock science down so that they're bizarre literal readings of Genesis can be raised up.

If the US doesn't eventually want to become a second-rate power then it better start seriously consider that pandering to the low-watt lightbulbs is not a route to long-term viability in the sciences or technology.

Re:Scientific Method What? (1)

qoncept (599709) | more than 5 years ago | (#27180709)

What's also surprising is that the article about science challenges people, then goes on to give examples of trivia and history that people don't know. 47% of people got the number "approximately" right? I'd say half got it right, period, since there is effectively zero difference between 70% and 75% of the Earth's surface being covered in water. But anyway, that isn't science. It's a number picked up from either reading or hearing somewhere.

Re:Scientific Method What? (1)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 5 years ago | (#27180717)

yes indeed and the most likely excuse that is used by said people to rationalize their ignorance is: "It doesn't affect my life so why should I know that?" The sad part is that our entire civilization depends on what science has done and its real contributions are essentially unknown to the majority.

easy merit pay (0, Flamebait)

boguslinks (1117203) | more than 5 years ago | (#27180411)

There's a simple way to have the best teachers rewarded appropriately - you completely eliminate government schools. The cream will rise to the top in the private-sector schools, as it does now.

But then politicians wouldn't be able to take credit for it.

Re:easy merit pay (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27180693)

There's a simple way to have the best teachers rewarded appropriately - you completely eliminate government schools. The cream will rise to the top in the private-sector schools, as it does now.

But then politicians wouldn't be able to take credit for it.

Everyone that matters can afford private schools- who wants those... dirty underclasses to think about things? They're just going to leech welfare and have crotchdroppings anyways.

Re:easy merit pay (5, Informative)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 5 years ago | (#27180703)

The cream will rise to the top in the private-sector schools, as it does now.

Ah yes, privately-educated Americans. Those fortunate people whose parents paid out most of their income to send them to schools designed to extract as much profit from the education system as possible. This is why I have to teach people who are supposedly of university calibre basic arithmetic, that goes beyond their school's "If Sheneequa goes to McDonalds and buys three Big Macs for $6, and Ernest goes to Burger King and only gets two burgers for $5, then how much better value is McDonalds?" questions.

I really, *really* wish I was joking.

Re:easy merit pay (4, Insightful)

clonan (64380) | more than 5 years ago | (#27180723)

and 80% of the population will get no education worth anything...then the illegal Mexican immigrants will get the jobs that require education and US citizens get the day laborer jobs.

The demonstrated reality is that societally mandated education is the single most stabilizing activity. In addition it provides the best ROI of ANYTHING we can do.

If you want to see the US turn into a 3rd world country in one generation, get rid of public education.

Plain old basic literacy (1, Insightful)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 5 years ago | (#27180417)

Only 15% actually know how much of the planet is covered in water (47% if you accept a rough approximation of the exact number)...

I understand pointing out that ridiculous number of people who fail basic science literacy. But we also shouldn't ignore the high number of people who do poorly in basic English literacy, of which TaeKwonDood is one. That sentence above falls apart in a number of ways.

Re:Plain old basic literacy (4, Informative)

synthparadox (770735) | more than 5 years ago | (#27180511)

Actually, thats kdawson's fault. If you read the original firehose article by TaeKwonDood you'll see that the bit of incorrect grammar was actually placed in by kdawson.

Re:Plain old basic literacy (2, Insightful)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#27180667)

Is it just me, or does it seem the job of 'editor' on an English language news site should come with the requirement that those filling it should not fail at basic English literacy?

This is not a flame, this is a serious question.

6600 years ago (5, Funny)

drolli (522659) | more than 5 years ago | (#27180419)

the earth was fully covered with water, right before god created dry land and put all the fossils which seem to be older inside. The he created the animals in a way that their DNA looks like inherited from each other and created some species which are there to prove that he can also create species which evolve. All this is kind of obvious, so what are your irrelevant anti-christian scientific questions all about?

Re:6600 years ago (1)

adept89 (1375017) | more than 5 years ago | (#27180529)

Brings to mind the Arrested Development episode about the Church and State Fair.

Re:6600 years ago (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27180591)

Actually, you have it all wrong, buddy. These are the thetans in your body speaking. And I know, because, unlike you, I know PSYCHOLOGY.

No surprise, really. (1)

adept89 (1375017) | more than 5 years ago | (#27180421)

America's been behind the rest of the world in education for quite a while. I thought No Child Left Behind was supposed to fix this.

Re:No surprise, really. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27180539)

No it just slowed everyone down to the moron's pace.

Re:No surprise, really. (1)

zwei2stein (782480) | more than 5 years ago | (#27180555)

No, it is supposed to worsen it by making sure that bright children get less education while not as bright children get overloaded.

Re:No surprise, really. (2, Insightful)

LighterShadeOfBlack (1011407) | more than 5 years ago | (#27180563)

No Child Left Behind was signed into law in 2002. TFA's figures are from questions given to adults. There can be no more than 7 years worth of adults who could have gained any benefit whatsoever from that Act. Not exactly damning evidence.

Re:No surprise, really. (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 5 years ago | (#27180649)

No child will be left behind if the adults are also staying way behind to keep them company.

No Child Left Behind... None Allowed to Advance (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27180663)

Our attempts at handicapping the bright students certainly don't help us compete.

Americans are bad at literacy generally. (-1, Flamebait)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 5 years ago | (#27180425)

From what I've seen, most Americans with a degree-level education read at about the same level as a UK high-school pupil.

Re:Americans are bad at literacy generally. (0, Flamebait)

TheLink (130905) | more than 5 years ago | (#27180687)

Wow you mean UK has declined so much already?

I thought the UK was ahead by a bit more than that.

bah (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27180433)

"scientific method" is crap. Everyone knows science is settled by consensus, and if you disagree and try to bring up new evidence, you're just being a denier and should probably be arrested.

culture (5, Insightful)

Lord Ender (156273) | more than 5 years ago | (#27180481)

You can pay teachers all you want, but it wont inspire students to learn and retain knowledge. Only parents/peers/culture can do that.

Re:culture (1)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 5 years ago | (#27180599)

Funny that we both chose the same title. I think you are 100% correct obviously. I don't think it would hurt to get rid of bad teachers, but I don't think more money is going to really make a difference.

Re:culture (5, Insightful)

LotsOfPhil (982823) | more than 5 years ago | (#27180615)

You can pay teachers all you want, but it wont inspire students to learn and retain knowledge. Only parents/peers/culture can do that.

If you don't think a teacher can inspire students, you've never had a good teacher, let alone a great one.

Re:culture (1)

Jaysyn (203771) | more than 5 years ago | (#27180689)

Actually this is entirely true. I had a couple of very inspiring teachers growing up & they were inspiring not just to me, but had a profound, positive effect on the entire class.

Merit Pay (4, Insightful)

Millennium (2451) | more than 5 years ago | (#27180483)

My one problem with the idea of merit pay for teachers is that there isn't really a good way to measure teacher merit. In most jobs, a worker has a very high degree of control over the end product: for example, nothing goes into the source code I write unless I say so. In such

The problem is that teachers don't (and shouldn't) have that kind of control over the end product: namely, their own students. At best they can guide and influence, but even in the best of situations, more often than not students will be affected by things completely beyond the teacher's ability to predict or control. It is thus grossly unfair to use student performance as a measure of teacher performance, simply because the ties between them are much too loose.

The other option that has been put forward is to use evaluations, by peers, students, administrators, or other factors. Subjectivity is the problem here: it's far too easy to game such evaluations, or to subject them to office politics. This can have both positive and negative effects on various parties, depending on viewpoint, but in any case it cannot be made fair or reliable as a measure of performance.

What other methods exist? I can see none, and would be interested in hearing possible alternatives. But in their absence, "merit pay" for teachers is nothing more than a comforting myth: the concept is unworkable, and implementations cannot be made to reliably follow the concept. Yes, this is different from many (most?) jobs, but the nature of the job itself -also very different from most- is what creates these conditions.

Re:Merit Pay (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27180519)

Agreed. I also don't see where the "It's either that or accept that almost 50% of Americans won't know how long it takes the earth to go around the sun." comes from. Unless that's simply meant as an illustration of the limited thinking ability of the submitter himself.

Re:Merit Pay (1)

garcia (6573) | more than 5 years ago | (#27180707)

Plenty of higher educational institutions (going back at least 30+ years (from my limited knowledge), especially with technical colleges) have great ways of determining success via core competency tracking of individual students. If the majority of students are not scoring well in their own individual required competencies, then it's a pretty good indicator (along with other tracked metrics and comparisons to other educators teaching the same competencies to other students) that the specific teacher is not performing well.

Personally I don't know what the solution is but to say that it's difficult to track this due to an individual student's learning capacity, ability, and desire is just nonsense to me.

! science (1)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 5 years ago | (#27180489)

Only 15% actually know how much of the planet is covered in water (47% if you accept a rough approximation of the exact number)

Wouldn't that be geography, not science?

Re:! science (3, Insightful)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#27180565)

Geography is a science.

sooo... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27180505)

only 47% of people that read slashdot RTFA... 47% of adults gave the right rough estimate of between 65 and 75% of earths surface covered in water

Culture (1)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 5 years ago | (#27180507)

I think our problems are primarily cultural and I really doubt merit pay for teachers is going to make a huge amount of difference. Giving teachers more money (based on some system that is assuredly going to be arbitrary at best) will not fix parents who are ignorant and apathetic.
 
On top of that we need people who are science experts. People with advanced degrees and even if we are giving our primary and secondary teachers bonuses how does that help the issue of young people who have no interest and see no future in careers in science? We keep cranking out film and psychology majors. And they are great to have around when retail places are doing a lot of hiring, but they don't really move the nation forward.
 
And all the while we will keep focusing on building up self-esteem of the children while Asia pushes right past us in every way that matters. The sun is setting on the American empire and this is just one more sign. How many science and engineering graduates is China cranking out a year? How does it compare to the U.S.? And where does future power lie in every category that matters? In knowledge.

i'll actually disagree (0)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 5 years ago | (#27180513)

science just isn't for everyone. if someone doesn't have the interest, ability, or inclination, what do you expect to do with them? not everyone is meant to be a great thinker. true scientific knowledge will always be the provenance of a scant few, in any society, in any time period. just let it be. these low rates of science knowledge don't surprise me and i see no problem here

Re:i'll actually disagree (1)

99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) | more than 5 years ago | (#27180631)

i'll actually disagree... science just isn't for everyone.

I'll disagree with your disagreement, sort of. I disagree that science is not for everyone. There is no excuse why all students should not be taught science, i.e. the scientific method and how to apply it to accurately determine the truth. That said, I agree not everyone should necessarily be learning "science" as it is presented in this article. All they are asking is trivia that falls into the category of things science has determined to be almost certainly true. While knowing these things is nice and useful, it isn't really the core of science and not what I would think of as "the basics" of science.

I blame video games (1)

rlp (11898) | more than 5 years ago | (#27180517)

Clearly too many people are playing Turok.

Rough Approximations (3, Insightful)

GargamelSpaceman (992546) | more than 5 years ago | (#27180531)

"How much of the earth's surface is covered by water?" Does one need to know the answer to within one percent, or less? Is that even known so precisely? If the correct answer is 70-75% water (approx 3/4) then are 4/5 and 2/3 water good enough guesses? I think both numbers contain the main idea that there's more water than land.

And as for humans and dinos walking the earth together, I think a majority of those who "didn't know dinos and humans didn't live at the same time" would probably have answered that dinos preceeded humans if asked on a gameshow where prizemoney was at stake. Answering that they thought dinos and humans walked the earth together makes is a statement about the beliefs they choose to espouse.

So what? (3, Interesting)

MikeRT (947531) | more than 5 years ago | (#27180533)

Most people don't do jobs that need this education. What they need are classes in logic, history and philosophy growing up because those will teach them to critically think more than any K-12 class on basic science.

Two comments (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27180535)

1) How does this compare to Europe, where belief in all sorts of pseudo-science is running rampant?

2) What happens if you factor out the inner city underclass that so often drags down the numbers?

So what about the % of water? (0)

haystor (102186) | more than 5 years ago | (#27180541)

While the earth may be 70% covered with water, it is hard for me to imagine a useful application of that number. And 47% apparently came close to the right answer of a nearly useless fact.

Electricity, mechanics, chemistry and biology might see daily application. Even the speed of light is a bit I've used when calculating the length of a jury rigged antenna.

% of water on the surface of the earth is about as useful as the circumference of a bear.

Glass houses (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27180549)

Subby says: "Yes, it will enrage the teachers' union, but it might inspire better people to go into science teaching. It's either that or accept that almost 50% of Americans won't know how long it takes the earth to go around the sun."

If you believe that those are the only two options (either, or), you are science illiterate, too. That's called a "false dichotomy." Look it up.

Learn things that matter (1, Troll)

janeuner (815461) | more than 5 years ago | (#27180557)

The examples provided in the summary are useless. 100% of people know that they are not underwater, and ~99.9% of people are aware that dinosaurs are currently extinct.

If the facts are not relevant to a person's daily life or that person's career, who cares if they know the quantitative answer to a question? Let that person concentrate on information that can actually improve their lot in life, and stop quizzing them on trivia.

Evolution (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27180561)

Just make evolution work, and kill all the Intelligent design bigots.

Not just primary education (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27180613)

I'm a biology professor, and I can tell you that my kids in grade school know a lot of things my college students do not (including my bio students, who you would think might have a lifelong interest in the sciences). It's not that they aren't being taught, it's that they forget most of what they learn (this is the basis for the "Are you smarter than a 5th grader" show). I'm all for better science education, but I don't think better primary education is going to make this better. You can teach kids whatever you want, but if they don't find relevance for it in their lives they'll forget it. Even the cable stations that are supposed to be devoted to feeding an interest in science and nature (Discovery, Animal Planet) are full of shows about blowing stuff up and rescuing abused pets. There are very few ways in which science is treated as interesting and worthwhile in our culture outside of the classroom.

How long it takes the earth to go around the sun? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27180623)

almost 50% of Americans won't know how long it takes the earth to go around the sun.

24 hours.

But they got it wrong! (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 5 years ago | (#27180633)

"The approximately correct answer range for this question was defined as anything between 65% and 75%. Only 15% of respondents answered this question with the exactly correct answer of 70%."

So did any of those 32% who got it wrong give the even more accurate answer of 71% or even 70.9%? Did anyone say "two thirds", because that's accurate enough to give a general indication. Are they just talking about oceans? Are they including ice as water because that gives (or takes) an extra 10% or so?

Have you ever taken the time... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27180637)

to look beyond test scores and simple comparisons?

If you work in school systems in different parts of the world, you will notice a difference of purpose. American schools primarily socialize students so we can make this melting-pot country work; European schools, for example, are more academically oriented. They achieve this by tracking students based on test scores/ability into a tiered schooling system.

Trying to pit these differently run school systems against each other is an apples/oranges venture.

Meh. (1)

mea37 (1201159) | more than 5 years ago | (#27180641)

The only fact they list that I find all that troubling, is the "humans and dinosaurs" one. The reason I find it more disturbing, is that it could well reflect rejection of observed data regarding the history and development of our planet (i.e. rejection of science) rather than mere ignorance of a dicrete fact.

Runner up is the "time it takes the Earth to circle the sun"... that's a little mind-boggling.

While I would expect most adults to know that 70% of Earth is covered in water, it's really more trivia than science. (It's also silly IMO to distinguish 70% as "the exact number" while calling, say, 71% an approximation... but I digress.) You could understand and practice scientific thinking, maybe even in an advanced scientific field, and for some reason happen to not know that bit of information. It's not something a scientific mind will automatically reason to -- it's just soemthing we expect everyone will have been told. I guess since we figure the person who told them will have been teaching a science class at the time, that makes it a measure of scientific literacy?

What would you expect (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27180655)

...from a country, where knowing the alphabet backwards while being 6 years old makes you a genius:

http://www.fox19.com/global/story.asp?s=9825140

You fail at basic English (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27180691)

You fail at basic English so don't bag on the people that fail science. I know there has to be a better way to express "Only 15% actually know how much of the planet is covered in water (47% if you accept a rough approximation of the exact number)..." that doesn't give the end reader the impression that 47% of the surface area is water.

Merit pay won't work (1)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | more than 5 years ago | (#27180713)

Recently in Houston, the teachers got 3,000 to 7,000 bonuses... meanwhile the supervisor got something like a 70,000 bonus. On top of a multi-hundred thousand dollar base pay.

Any system will be gamed.

The only way that science will take a front seat is for scientists and engineers to have high value to society so parents push their kids and then high school and college students push themselves because of the salary and prestige of the position.

Now-- realistically-- how likely is that? The wall street boom killed engineering and sciences. Layoffs and ghetto pay for science types buried them.

And that's not even considering that an indian or chinese student can get their degrees at a fraction of the price and who charge a fraction of the price for their labor.

IQ: half are idiots! That's the way it is. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27180725)

Why you think it's bad to half a population is filled with idiots makes you and idiot, idiot!!

Why do you think "dumbfuck" is the number 1 word used?

(dumbfucks)

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