Friday, April 11, 2008

More on the need for science education

Ran across this story from The Scientist (free registration required) about the results of a an essay contest sponsored by the American Society for Human Genetics (ASHG). The contest elicited high-school students' understanding of human genetics. The results are dispiriting, to say the least. Here's an outtake:
"When people who cannot have children and want their own from their own blood, meaning having their genes, what will stop them from putting some cells into a cow to get their child?"

"Genetics create a perfect being. Change the genes. Make that child perfect. There's no better solution to an impending health care crisis. A perfect child means that health care can be focused on an aging generation of people. What we can have is a sea of people who all look brilliant, who are all smart and who all have perfect eyes, nose and lips. It's a perfect society, what more could we want?"
Here's the original article from Genetics, for more information about the ASHG contest.

Consider this, too: these are the responses of students who were willing to participate in an essay contest about genetics. What must be the level of understanding among those who wouldn't bother? Clearly, CLEARLY, we need to do a better job of K-12 science education.

If there's a silver lining here, it might be that ethical questions could serve as a "way in" to discussion of the science, especially for students who may have little interest in science per se. In both the examples above, students' grasp of the science is lacking, but there are clues that suggest they have some sense that there's a moral element involved.

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