Some universal topics for the spread of scientific and technical knowledge
air pressure (and gasses),
microscopic magnification and germs and viruses,
clocks – geology and nuclear clocks (not to mention the physics of
nuclear phenomena such as bombs, radiaton etc.) and the age of
earth and the evolution of species,
bases or accepting and understanding the existence of genes and genetic processes, history – societies – and history of technology.
Abstract words such as reason and science often miss the very basic
nature of the problems involved in what is missing in scientific
education at home or abroad.
1. What percentage of people in particular parts of the world have a
general concept of air pressure?
How many combine the wind made by a fast moving hand with – if they have experienced it – the pressure used in filling a tire,
or with an explanation of why the water in a glass inverted in a bowl of
water keeps a different level from the water in the bowl, and thus the
notion of a barometer?
Without such notions how can they understand notions necessary to explain the weather (let alone predict it), or processes in other gasses, altitude and atmospherics etc.?
2. What percentage of people in different parts of the world have an
understanding of microscopic magnification (and how many have any
concrete experience of looking through a microscope)? Without such understanding or experience how can they have a convinced notion of the existence of germs, or believe or operate logically with a germ theory of disease?
Q. If you train a nurse who has no basis for accepting a germ theory of disease, can they do their job adequately? How can you train them – since in fact just looking through a microscope won’t do it – it requires a reorientation of world view?
(Those who know enough people working in scientific or medical contexts in different parts of the world may be able to get some creative answers to these questions. My experience has been of the number of times people have misfunctioned because of problems like these.)
3. How many people in different parts of the world can read a flat map and relate it to an environment they know? (My experience teaching geography in the United States leads me to say, not many.)
How many can relate the direction of their right and left sides to the
east and west given by rising and setting sun?
4. How many understand geological time or the physical basis for accepting the notion of a nuclear clock? Or even accept that there is a physical explanation of for the phenomena of nuclear energy: bombs, radiation etc.
So how many are in a position to understand the measurements of the age of the earth (let alone the universe)?
If they do accept the age of the earth in some kind of solid way, can
they relate this to evidence for the evolution of species one from another?
Can they go further and understand the notions of natural selection and mutation as explanations for the process of evolution – regardless of what particular ‘theory’ of that process may be involved?
5. What do people need to know to have a sufficient basis for accepting the existence and functioning of genes?
6. Do people have – or can they – a basis for an understanding of real
as opposed to mythical history? Do they have a sense of the kinds and range of differences in human societies? And of the history of
technologies in the development of human societies – gathering and
hunting, agriculture, rivers and cities, reading, steam, electricity, radio and television, digital technologies.
Of the role of economy and classes and power and politics and cultural traditions?
and so on.
Are these some elements in a necessary universal scientific education in the modern world?
Should basic grounding in such matters be required of ALL teachers in the United States and wherever such training can be afforded?
Should educational media, expressed in basic terms, and in many languages, be prepared for wide distribution to try to give people an equal basis for beginning to cope with the technological world around them?
Should such teaching be extended to Texas, and the followers of Rick Perry?