Letters to the Editor: If science can save us from demagogues, how to explain Nazi Germany?
To the editor: As a former teacher of science and government, I am a believer in the importance of science education. However, Leroy Hood and Matthew D. LaPlante go too far when they write that better science education can protect us from demagoguery.
Science will not protect us and has certainly not inoculated us against authoritarianism. The facts of science can be twisted and altered too easily by despots and their select “scientists,” as we have recently observed.
Before World War II, Germany generated more Nobel laureates in scientific fields than any nation and was considered the preeminent country in natural sciences. During the same time period, Germany elected the most atrocious authoritarian dictator the world has ever known.
Adolf Hitler, Donald Trump and all the other cruel authoritarians in history use the same language. Their words of propaganda, fearmongering and emotional appeal can be taught and recognized. They can be part of a curriculum in civics, journalism, speech, history or any other discipline.
Human beings do not want to be persuaded into something against our best interests. This can be taught, but don’t look to science for the answers.
John Wynne, Garden Grove
To the editor: Hood and LaPlante suggest that broad public confidence in science can serve as “an inoculation against authoritarianism.” In fact, it could serve as the cornerstone of a curriculum designed to produce confident, clear-thinking citizens. Key elements would include:
- The scientific method. Understanding the design and conduct of experiments that produce repeatable results can help Americans distinguish between hunches and conclusions based on the best available evidence.
- The structure of our government. Understanding the constitutional separation of powers and the separation of church and state can help Americans set clear expectations for government and embrace their faith without imposing it on others.
- Standards and best practices of professional journalism. Understanding the rigor that produces first-rate journalism can prepare Americans to evaluate information and guard against fraud and manipulation, whatever the source.
For good measure, let’s throw in the compound interest curve. A real grasp of risk and reward can help make Americans more financially secure.
Shelley Wagers, Los Angeles
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