Wednesday, May 4, 2005

Junk science

I've long been unhappy with the way science and technology (amongst other things) are taught in our primary and secondary schools. It's been very visible to me because I've worked closely with two groups of engineers: American teams (mostly based in Southern California and Florida), and Eastern European teams (based in Tallinn, Estonia and St. Petersburg, Russia). These folks were educated under very different systems, and the quality of the results is distinctly different. And America is on the losing side of that particular comparison.

Pamela Winnick has a column in the Weekly Standard that touches on this, paying particular attention to the way "political correctness" has affected our science texts. I'd like to see more reporting on this in the MSM...but even more, I'd like to see a lot of Americans angry about it. So far the only public anger I've seen that was focused on these issues came from captains of industry, and for some silly reason their anger doesn't seem to resonate. It should.

Ms. Winnick's column starts:

SEVERAL CENTURIES AGO, some "very light-skinned" people were shipwrecked on a tropical island. After "many years under the tropical sun," this light-skinned population became "dark-skinned," says Biology: The Study of Life, a high-school textbook published in 1998 by Prentice Hall, an imprint of Pearson Education.

"Downright bizarre," says Nina Jablonski, who holds the Irvine chair of anthropology at the California Academy of Sciences. Jablonski, an expert in the evolution of skin color, says it takes at least 15,000 years for skin color to evolve from black to white or vice versa. That sure is "many years." The suggestion that skin color can change in a few generations has no basis in science.

Pearson Education spokesperson Wendy Spiegel admits the error in describing the evolution of skin color, but says the teacher's manual explains the phenomenon correctly. Just why teachers are given accurate information while students are misled remains unclear.

Read the whole thing!

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