U.S. Failing Science Grade
Re “America’s Failing Grade in Science,” editorial, May 28:
As a retired (laid-off) senior scientist, I can only wonder why any child would want to learn anything about science in this day and age. Popular culture has made it scary, boring or anti-religious; at best something to avoid, at worst a dead end. We do almost nothing in this country, save for universities and the computer industry, in which applied science can lead to a career. Almost everything is out-sourced (done overseas, i.e., Japan, China, Malaysia, etc.) Even our once glorified space program has been ridiculed, vilified and starved. I suggest a good way to begin to get our kids interested in science is to find a way to popularize and glorify it as in the good old days.
And we’re going to teach kids “how to think scientifically”? Good grief. Remember the new math? If you want kids to be interested in science (and I suggest that’s the only way you’ll get them to learn it), you must stimulate them, excite them and hook into their imaginations. Short of that we’re stuck with Beavis and Butthead.
According to researchers, the answer to a question testing Americans’ “Science IQ” (May 24) defines a molecule to be “the smallest unit of a chemical compound capable of existing independently while retaining properties of the original substance.”
It’s certainly news to many of us that sodium chloride consists of molecules, while oxygen in the air doesn’t (it’s not a compound). Hint for science teachers/students: The key characteristic of molecules is the type of bonding between atoms. Perhaps the National Science Foundation would have a better chance of getting an error-free quiz if it gave the job to some good high school students.
WALTER J. DEAL
Chemistry Dept., UC Riverside
I took the “Science IQ” quiz. Having a scientific background, I did pretty well. The only one I missed was No. 5: “Human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals.” The answer given was true. I have God to thank for missing that one. My prayers reach out to the 44% who chose the “right” answer.