The Inherent American Design Flaw

Posted by Jane Crayton | Thu Feb 22nd 2007 6:52 a.m.

The Inherent American Design Flaw
For Educating Youth In
Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.
by: Jane Crayton
Erica Ellingson
Modern Cosmology 2010
May 5, 2005
Educational Public Outreach is a new way for industry and groups get involved in the education of
our youth. It is important for all kinds of industry to participate in educating students for future employment
needs, as well as preparing them to be productive citizens. Yet in the technologically advanced world we live
in, America is leading the industrialized nations as the least educated in science, technology, engineering and
mathematics. This is a deeply rooted cultural problem, and we need to address this situation before it spirals
out of control. We are not just fi ghting a battle between creationism and evolution in our schools, it is a battle
of religion versus scientifi c method, a battle of gender rolls, and social stigmas. American students are falling
behind in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) because it is inherent in our society in our belief
system to be negative towards change and the pursuit of knowledge. What do American Students understand
about STEM and is there a problem? Are we teaching our youth enough in STEM to make them competitive in
the future? The answer is no, and the reason is a combination of compelling circumstances and social systems
entangled with government infrastructure that have hindered STEM education and development for centuries.
Motivated by A Nation at Risk in 1983, systematic research in science education has confi rmed that,
despite well-intentioned efforts of interested scientists and dedicated teachers, too many students
leave the US educational system with fundamental misconceptions of key scientifi c concepts. (Of-
ferdahl, Prather, Slater)
Why are we not teaching our children enough about Natural Sciences? What social attitudes exist about
these subjects. How can we change the social stigmas and stereotypes that exist about STEM? What happens if
we donʼt? These questions are fundamental for us to understand how to better communicate basic STEM educa-
tion into our modern youth.
Eighty-two percent of our nationʼs twelfth graders performed below the profi cient level on the 2000
National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) science test. The longer students stay in the
current system the worse they do. According to the 1995 Third International Mathematics and Sci-
ence Study, U.S. fourth graders ranked second. By twelfth grade, they fell to 16th, behind nearly ev-
ery industrialized rival and ahead of only Cyprus and South Africa. (US Department of Education)
Although this is not a disease is still is an epidemic of mass proportions, Even president Bush considered
a member in the Religious Right Movement canʼt ignore that his countryʼs children are behind in STEM. This
lack of science education is a deep rooted debate, which has resulted in the dumbing down of millions of Ameri-
can children, especially girls. Educational Public Outreach is now going to serve as an important roll for the
scientifi c community because we have to serve as the translators of this critical topic that encompasses several
different social dilemmas.
Research indicates that the greatest gains in learning and attitudes toward science result from
instructional environments that engage students by taking into account the needs of learners, in par-
ticular, their pre-instructional beliefs and reasoning diffi culties. (Offerdahl, Prather, Slater)
Beliefs? How do beliefs play a role in the education of science? Well they have always played a roll in
the education of science, because science is almost seen a direct competitor to religion. Understanding our uni-
verse and the creation of it, is somehow seen as diminishing the authority of beliefs and religious creationism,
and this is the fi rst hurdle that must be knocked down. Simply belief and theory are two different things, one can
understand theory, yet still have beliefs.
Evolution and gravitation are fundamental scientifi c theories. The American public has no problem
accepting the theory of gravitation, a.k.a, gravity, but the theory of evolution is widely attacked.
(DeVore)
Even more amazing is that the theory of gravity is as understood and widely accepted yet the theory
of evolution is not. In fact gravity, we know it exists, we know how it acts, but it is still not a fully understood
force of nature. We do not fully understand the properties of gravity at the subatomic level. Just as we have not
fully developed a map guiding us through the exact phases of evolution of human beings, or of our solar system,
and even our universe. And it is very unlikely that we ever will, I wonder what the probability of that is?
Whatʼs important here is that we are thinking and we are fi guring out what is happening in the world
around us. We are using our inductive and deductive scientifi c methods to help us generate the bigger picture
and greater understanding of the natural laws of physics. But these methods are only considered theories and the
term theory can imply a lot of different meanings especially in the eyes of the American Public. What is it about
the word “theory” that has got so many people questioning it? Maybe itʼs the fact that there are currently six
defi nitions for the word in the American Heritage Dictionary.
the·o·ry (thēʼi-rē, thîrʼē)
n., pl. -ries.
1 A set of statements or principles devised to explain a group of facts or phenomena, especially one
that has been repeatedly tested or is widely accepted and can be used to make predictions about
natural phenomena.
2 The branch of a science or art consisting of its explanatory statements, accepted principles, and
methods of analysis, as opposed to practice: a fi ne musician who had never studied theory.
3 A set of theorems that constitute a systematic view of a branch of mathematics.
4 Abstract reasoning; speculation: a decision based on experience rather than theory.
5 A belief or principle that guides action or assists comprehension or judgment: staked out the house
on the theory that criminals usually return to the scene of the crime.
6 An assumption based on limited information or knowledge; a conjecture.
[Late Latin theōria, from Greek theōriā, from theōros, spectator : probably theā, a viewing + -oros,
seeing (from horān, to see).]
Is there a problem with The Theory of Evolution? Or simply the word “theory” and itʼs common under-
standing. Coincidentally enough this subject came up a couple of times during the question and answer phase of
the presentation Itʼs Only a Theory: American Attitudes about Evolution at the NAI conference. And although
most of the scientist in the room understand the Latin meaning for the word theory, the majority of the Ameri-
can public views the word theory and understands it like the previous explanation from the American Heritage
Dictionary, defi nition number 6, “An assumption based on limited information or knowledge, a conjecture.”
So how did we get from 1“ A set of statements or principles devised to explain a group of facts or phe-
nomena, especially one that has been repeatedly tested or is widely accepted and can be used to make predic-
tions about natural phenomena.” And 2 “The branch of a science or art consisting of its explanatory statements,
accepted principles, and methods of analysis, as opposed to practice: a fi ne musician who had never studied
theory.” To 6” An assumption based on limited information or knowledge, a conjecture.”? That is a bit contra-
dictory, wouldnʼt you say? But then again, The American Heritage Dictionary is just giving all known all known all explana-
tions and meanings for the word. And they are in effect a form of media just as much as the bible or any tele-
vised NOVA program. Its no surprise that the understanding of one theory versus another theory is not any more
clear than the current meaning and understanding of the word theory itself.
For astrobiologists, there may be questions about the specifi c events, mechanisms, and processes of
evolution, but not the fundamental importance of the theory of evolution. For the anti-evolutionists,
biological evolution is the central but not sole target. The origin and evolution of the universe, stars,
and planetary systems including Earth are also under siege. (DeVore)
So where do we start to unravel this complex web of social stigmas, beliefs, and fears about our own
existence in this great cosmological universe? How do people have faith when they learn how insignifi cant they
are? How can we have something to live for, when we are just a speck of dust? I can understand these fears, and
I think that they are an important part of learning how to defi ne our own meaning in life. These are questions
that are not only scary for people, but they are scary for societies and for governments.
Questions that defi ne our importance in the universe are the type of questions that governments are
concerned could bring about anarchy, or disruptive, behavior according to some “theorists”. This is the kind of
stereotype that can change critical thinkers into critical doers, and could defi ne terrorist thinking in the age of
the Freedom Act. Science breeds critical thinkers, and critical thinkers are people more likely to question things
they donʼt understand, including governments and religions.
“Evolution is at the center of an American science vs. Religion debate that shows little prospect of reso-
lution,” according to DeVore. Even today in the year 2005, public schools across America are teaching creation-
ism instead of evolution.
HARRISBURG, PA-The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, Americans United for
Separation of Church and State and attorneys with Pepper Hamilton LLP fi led a federal lawsuit
today on behalf of 11 parents who say that presenting “intelligent design” in public school science
classrooms violates their religious liberty by promoting particular religious beliefs to their children
under the guise of science education. (ACLU)
This is an example of current battles happening here in America right now, This legal action was fi led
just 6 months ago in December of 2004 in the State of Pennsylvania. But, is this a surprise? This battle has been
going since 1633 when Galileo published his Dialogue well before Darwin. This was the beginning of the war
between religion and science, belief and knowledge, hope and scientifi c deduction. In his Dialogue, Galileo sup-
ported the Copernican theory of a heliocentric system, in which the earth revolved around the sun. At the time
this was quite a controversy because the Bible suggested that the sun orbited the earth, providing society the
beginning of anthropocentrism.
be·lief (bi-lēfʼ)
n.
1 The mental act, condition, or habit of placing trust or confi dence in another: My belief in you is
as strong as ever.
2Mental acceptance of and conviction in the truth, actuality, or validity of something: His explana-
tion of what happened defi es belief.i
3 Something believed or accepted as true, especially a particular tenet or a body of tenets accepted
by a group of persons.
[Middle English bileve, alteration (infl uenced by bileven, to believe), of Old English gelēafa.]
SYNONYMS belief, credence, credit, faith. These nouns denote mental acceptance of the truth,
actuality, or validity of something: a statement unworthy of belief; an idea steadily gaining cre-
dence; testimony meriting credit; has no faith in a liarʼs assertions. See also synonyms at opinion.
ANTONYM disbelief
When we look at the defi nitions of belief we fi nd that there is a lot more assuming and placing confi -
dence in something, the acceptance that something is true from simple mental conviction. Is creationism more
widely accepted belief over the theory of evolution. Could you say that creationism is a theory, could you say
that evolution is a belief?
American attitudes toward evolution have been studied via polling and other more extensive re-
search efforts. Analysis reveals that a minority of Americans accept the theory of evolution as a
valid explanation for the origin of human beings. (DeVore)
So where is the line between creationism and evolutionism in the classroom, and how do we make sure
our students and youth are getting what they need to prepare them for the future of technology and science in
our modern world? How do we know what they need, and how do we measure our success or failure in teaching
this diffi cult set of theories and accepted knowledge?
Certainly we cannot be dogmatic in our approach, or appear to be preaching a religion of “sci-
entism.” If we do, then we have no more right to a piece of the science curriculum than the religion-
ists. (Stenger)
It is hard to accept something as truth when it may question your preconceived beliefs. That is why we
have to be careful in our approach to educate our youth about science and technology. It is evident that the sepa-
ration between the religious and the scientifi c communities is still at great distances. Just as we do not want to
be preached or harassed about creationism, they probably view scientist as attacking their value system with the
theory of evolution.
Science is not easy to understand, it is a cumulative process of information gathering and assembling
throughout ones life. Evolution is a powerful tool of understanding compounded and constantly changing
knowledge and it takes time to understand the process of this natural phenomena we are a part of. And it takes
a person a certain amount of inherited knowledge from their environment, learned behavior and educational in-
struction which helps defi ne the persons ability to understand and learn the complexities of the natural sciences.
In the beginning was nature. The background from which and against which our ideas of God
were formed, nature remains the supreme moral problem. (Paglia)
In the beginning humans needed a reason, an explanation for natural phenomena, disaster and disease.
They needed a reason to keep going, they needed a reason as to why such doom should come their way. The
explanation they created became a system of beliefs in deities and gods. These beliefs transformed into a belief
that we are important and eventually the anthropocentrism belief systems were well and thriving. These reli-
gions have transformed and recreated themselves over time trying to explain and reclaim the desired knowledge
of creation and the natural sciences.
Astrobiology affords new understandings of life on earth and the possibility of life beyond earth.
These new understandings raise profound implications for humanity. It is important that these impli-
cations be explored rigorously. (Olien, Impey, Poss, Slater, Woolf)
When we start to look at science and break down our existence, we become simply a living being, an
organism on a world, in a solar system, within a galaxy, residing in a universe. When a person starts to break-
down the physical and societal norms they can begin to accept themselves as simply human. “I gain self esteem
because I realize I am a human, and as capable as any other human.”
I am also conscious and an intelligent being. It is very enlightening to understand your own conscious-
ness within this great universe. Especially when you understand how unlikely you were to exist anyway, and
then to exist and to have consciousness, would be quite rare. I think the Drake equation considers consciousness
to factor with the intelligent section. How conscious do we have to be to be intelligent and vice versa.
When one realizes that they are just an organism and a realization that there are only slight differences
between the sexes, and even other organism all together we become simply creatures of existence. The female
can now transcend to equality, and now we are broken down into our simplest forms “beings”.
“If the bringing of women - half the human race - into the center of historical inquiry poses a formi-
dable challenge to historical scholarship, it also offers sustaining energy and a source of strength.”
(Lerner)
Women have a lot to offer in the way of equal knowledge and skill, even more they are half the human
race as Lerner points out in his statement supporting women in technology at IBM. The problem of religion and
sexism is one of great complexity, one that deals in politics centuries old, social stigmas and stereotypes, na-
ture, art and general education. A culmination societies knowledge fi ltered into a system of selected knowledge,
ready to distribute evenly and lightly upon fresh open minds. Even more alarming is the thought that this is hap-
pening more often through the media than educational institutions.
How do I make sure that my future daughters will be taught the importance of natural science, equally to
their male counterparts? Can we effectively fi ght creationism and religion without addressing feminism and the
gender rolls that society still participates in via the media and material culture? The invention of cyberfeninism
and the technofeminist culture to come.
Like feminism, cyberfeminism is open to defi nition but contains gender as the common overarch-
ing element. Cyberfeminism takes feminism as its starting point, and turns its focus upon contempo-
rary technologies, exploring the intersections between gender identity, the body, culture and tech-
nology. (Brayton)
What is empowering in their research is the understanding that the gendered stereotyping of tech-
nology as being a masculine domain and practice must necessarily fall apart, as younger women are
growing up with new information technologies as part of their everyday reality. Unlike older wom-
en who grew up without computers in their lives, these young women have more easily accepted
cyberspace by its everyday presence in contemporary society. (Brayton)
When religion is present, in culture, society and in the classroom; the female is seen as a sexual, moth-
erly object. She is the Mary, Mother Teresa, even Princess Diana, and the simplicity of equality is forgotten in
the language of our ancient philosophers and modern press. Yet today we see that our girls are just as interested
in technology as most boys given the right opportunities. Religion casts a shadow of disgrace and indifference
upon the sexes, and that can cause serious delays in the education of all students in STEM.
Religion makes the natural world signifi cant and gives us purpose and presence without proof, asking us
to believe in an invisible proof of faith. Its no wonder America ended up behind in STEM because we are still
trying to fi gure out the ultimate debate started centuries ago. We claim to have a separation of church and state,
but we still have “In God We Trust” on our money, and thus creationism in our classrooms.
In Aguillard, the high court invalidated a Louisiana law that forbade the teaching of evolution in
public school unless “creation science” was taught alongside it as an alternative. There, as in Dover,
the law made no express reference to God or to any religion. Yet the Justices nonetheless found that
its purpose “was to restructure the science curriculum to conform with a particular religious view-
point.” (Dorf)
In 1987, the Supreme Court ruled in Edwards v. Aguillard, that the belief that a supernatural creator
was responsible for the creation of human kind is a religious viewpoint and cannot be taught in pub-
lic schools along with the scientifi c theory of evolution. (Dorf)
Why did we decide to not include religious training in our schools? Why was there a separation of
church and state? Freedom or the desire to have freedom is the answer. Religious groups have always been try-
ing to get involved in government, predictively so they can get to the people whom “need to be saved” or need
to have “faith”.
Is the American Public afraid that we will loose our faith, our will, our desire to participate if we do not
have religion as our guide. Will people go crazy, and have no cares if they realize the signifi cance of time? Are
the scientist just using the term science as a crutch to carry out their own atheist views? Can someone believe in
science and evolution and still have moral values and function in society?
In critically examining evidence for or against intelligent design to the universe, it must be under-
stood that we are following the traditional practice of science, seeking a scientifi c explanation for
observations about the universe that have been previously attributed to the action of supernatural
deity. Believers will call us nasty names, like “atheist” and “secular humanist,” and accuse us of
undermining faith and morality. (Stenger)
How can Americans play a roll in making sure that each child, male and female has equal opportunity
to a full and equal education? Recently the new legislature introduced got a lot of publicity for its efforts to
make sure No Child [is]No Child [is]No Child Left Behind. This legislature mandates that all students must receive a certain qualifi ed
amount of education by a certain age or grade. And the legislators were careful to include specifi c guidelines as
to how to research and coordinate such educational training for teachers in STEM. President Bush although con-
sidered aligned with the religious right has fi nally realized the importance of our youths knowledge in STEM,
and pushed to have this No Child Left Behind Boosts Science Achievement.
As the U.S. Commission on National Security in the Twenty-First Century reports, “More Ameri-
cans will have to understand and work competently with science and math on a daily basis . . . the
inadequacies of our systems of research and education pose a greater threat to U.S. national secu-
rity over the next quarter century than any potential conventional war that we might imagine.” (US
Department of Education)
It is ironic that the lack of education can be used against us in conventional war fare and terrorism on
one hand, but then on the other, critical thinking derived from scientifi c deduction is often considered a form of
terrorist thinking.
No Child Left Behind requires states to fi ll the nationʼs classrooms with teachers who are knowl-
edgeable and experienced in math and science by 2005. The president supports paying math and
science teachers more to help attract experience and excellence. (US Department of Education)
The rights of our citizens, to be granted equal opportunity of education, no matter what gender, or eco-
nomic status. Nor shall the school, city or state interfere with the type of education a person receives, yet sadly
it does. Educational boards across the nation are subject to local laws that also govern them. Sometimes these
laws are set against the national legislation. Hopefully with the new legislature and support from President Bush
of the Religious Right we can continue to support STEM. By supporting this mandate we can continue EPO
from the science community directly, which helps to narrow the knowledge gap.
Our teachers are strong and our students want to learn and master this very important combination of
natural science, modern technology, social and moral values. They want to lean to live with an acceptance
of both belief and theory as fundamental building blocks for our society and understanding our universe. It is
important for us to realize the impact of the knowledge we present to our children, and that the impact of cre-
ationism, religion, intelligent design all have in the development of our future society, today. To teach American
students the basic fundamentals of STEM will require a complete change in thinking for our society. It will
require us to accept the critical thinker, to accept the feminist, accept our selves as people who can change and
promote progress towards a greater knowledge and empowerment for everyone.
Works Cited
(ACLU) American Civil Liberties Union. Pennsylvania Parents File First-Ever Challenge to “Intelli-
gent Design” Instruction in Public Schools “Intelligent Design” is Religious Argument, not Science, Say Par-
ents. (2004) http://www.aclu.org/ReligiousLiberty/ReligiousLiberty.cfm?ID207&c9 , May 1, 2005
Brayton, Jennifer. Cyberfeminism as New Theory (1997) http://www.unb.ca/web/PAR-L/win/cyberfem.
htm, May 1, 2005
DeVore, Edna. Itʼs Only a Theory: American Attitudes about Evolution Education and Public Outreach
SETI Institute, Mountain View, CA. NIA 2005 Abstract
Dorf, Michael C. Why Itʼs Unconstitutional to Teach “Intelligent Design” in the Public Schools, as an
Alternative to Evolution. Find Laws Legal Commentary, Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2004, http://writ.news.fi ndlaw.
com/dorf/20041222.html, May 1, 2005
Impey, Chris; Olien, Tom; Poss, Richard; Slater, Tim; Woolf, Nick. Astrobiology and the Sacred. Stew-
ard Observatory University of Arizona Tucson, AZ. NAI 2005 Abstracts
Lerner, Gerder. IBM Women in technology, From plugboards to petafl ops: The evolving role of women
at IBM. (1982) http://www-03.ibm.com/ibm/history/witexhibit/wit_intro.html, May 1, 2005at IBM. (1982) http://www-03.ibm.com/ibm/history/witexhibit/wit_intro.html, May 1, 2005at IBM
Miffl in Houghton , The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition,
(2004) Houghton Miffl in Company. http://www.answers.com/beliefs&rg, May 1, 2005
Miffl in Houghton , The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
(2004) Houghton Miffl in Company. http://www.answers.com/theory, May 1, 2005
Offerdahl, Erika G., Prather, Edward E., Slater, Timothy F.; Astrobiologyʼs Impact on Science Education.
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics University of Arizona, Tucson AZ. NAI 2005 Abstracts
Stenger, Victor J, Intelligent Design Humans, Cockroaches, and the Laws of Physics.1997; http://www.
talkorigins.org/faqs/cosmo.html, May 1, 2005
US Department of Education The Facts About...Science Achievement, No Child Left Behind http://www.
ed.gov/nclb/methods/science/science.html, May 1, 2005
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