Conservatives for . . . science?

scientist.jpgOh, wait, now I get it — this news is from the UK.  Yes, the country where it is evidently understood on both sides of the aisle that vigorous science is the key to a strong, sustainable economy, a safe and healthy population, a livable environment, and general resilience in an increasingly uncertain future on a crowded planet. What the Tories are calling for is so striking that I have to quote it at length:

“Consideration should be given to extra laboratories in primary schools, while children should study design and technology until they were 16, it said. It also called for top civil servants to take ‘scientific literacy’ courses. Its report outlined nine objectives to help a future Tory government ‘put science at the heart of its plans to enhance the prospects of the UK becoming a sustainable and competitive knowledge-based economy’ . . . In education, it recommended that the salaries of teachers of [science and technology] subjects were increased permanently. The student loans of these teachers should be paid off for them, over a five-year period, to encourage more people to go into the profession, it said. And it called for the refurbishment of university science laboratories to ‘receive greater priority’ when funding was allocated.”

Now I strive to avoid descending into the sort of political rants that are choking the blogosphere to death these days.  But the contrast between such a sensible forward-thinking proposal and the perverse anti-scientific cancer infecting conservatism in America is so glaring that it can’t be ignored.

Imagine, even in the most deluded Michael Crichton plot, such a proposal coming from the mouths of conservatives in the USA.  The reality, back on this side of the pond, is that three of the ten Republican aspirants to be Leader of the Free World can stand up in a nationally televised “debate” and say with a straight face that they don’t believe in evolution, the central concept without which, as the geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky said, “nothing in biology makes sense.”  

The reality over here is that our current administration shows not only indifference but an active contempt for, and systematic attack on, objective science, cutting the budgets of the National Institutes of Health, hobbling research on stem cells, deleting evidence for global warming from official reports,  interfering with legally mandated enforcement of the Endangered Species Act, trying to override scientific evidence in an effort to ban contraceptives, and installing unqualified political hacks in positions of authority at regulatory agencies.

Meanwhile, in contrast to what conservatives are proposing for teachers in the UK, dedicated American teachers are buying supplies for our children out of the pittance they scrounge from their own pockets, while major league baseball stars make tens of millions of dollars a year.

This is a crying disgrace. As a Patriot I have to say “Shame on this country“.



About Emmett Duffy

I am a Natural Patriot and an ecologist with expertise in biodiversity and its importance to human society. My day job is Professor of Marine Science at the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
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2 Responses to Conservatives for . . . science?

  1. Karen Richardson says:

    I was particularly interested in the call to change the way students learn science. In the US, the Bush education policy of unremitting testing has led to schools either not teaching science at all except when it is tested, and, when it is, teaching it like a drill and practice exercise designed to help them pass the test. We teach kids about science as though it is some “done deal.” Is it any reason we’re having trouble finding kids who want to go into science?

  2. Emmett Duffy says:

    Karen, I think you’re right on the money. It all starts with kids and how they learn, what interests them, how their values and their ideas of what’s important are formed. Kids will take from their education (in school, and in the home, church, etc.) a life-long approach for how to deal with the world and the problems they and society will face. It is critical that kids learn that science is a way to approach and solve problems, with an open and curious mind, and the discovery of the world that results from that process. Too many kids are numbed into believing that science is a bunch of dry trivia that they need to reurgitate in order to jump a hoop and move on. This is not only an issue of ensuring humane child development, it’s an issue of economic competitiveness, national security, and lost more.