Many Americans are aware of the fact that their science education system has been significantly outpaced by those of other nations.
Students in the United States are falling behind. Education Week reports, "In science, 22 education systems scored above the U.S. average, up from 18 in 2009." According to tests conducts by the PSIA, the Program for International Student Assessment, out of 65 of the most developed countries, the United States ranks only “near average” in science.
But to what extent has our decidedly mediocre science education system been reflected in public U.S. scientific literacy? In 2012, the National Science Foundation conducted a survey of over two thousand U.S. adults and found out that 1 in 4 Americans are unaware the Earth orbits the Sun. In 2015, Pew Research Center compared the opinions of the Public versus AAAS scientists on controversial issues. Its study found that only 65% of Americans believe that humans have evolved over time, which stands in stark contrast to 98% of scientists who think otherwise.
These statistics are not only embarrassing, but also dangerous. In the United States, we control important government decisions by either holding public office or voting for public official, but how can politicians and constituents make pass important legislation such as funding for scientific research or clean energy so many Americans struggle with widely accepted scientific facts?
Furthermore, U.S. scientific illiteracy transcends party lines. According to the Washington Post, 32% of registered Republicans do not believe in evolution and 51% of registered Democrats struggle with heliocentricity and the time it takes for the Earth to complete its orbit around the Sun. Ironically, this widespread scientific illiteracy seems to be at times one of the few things representative on Capitol Hill have in common. In January of 2015, the Senate voted that climate change is not significantly caused by humans and human activity. After the Ebola epidemic in Africa in 2014, a woman who treated patients with Ebola in Africa, flew back to the United States only to be quarantined and completely isolated. Officials thought she was a threat to public health, which was not the case since she showed no symptoms and tested negative for Ebola. All of this goes to show that scientific illiteracy, a direct result of the poor science education in America, is ubiquitous and has caused failures in passing the powerful laws we need that could potentially change society for the better.
The fact that science education in America is a issue is an proven one. It is also embarrassing and dangerous since it impacts law-making in America on important issues such as climate change, sanitation, and scientific exploration. In order to address this issue, we should get to the root of the problem and that is science education. If we Americans do not address this problem, our situation will continue to worsen. However, if we face and solve this issue now, we may finally be able to move forward as a more well-informed nation.