A recent report reveals what those of us who value science education and its benefits to society have long since feared: American students' comprehension of the biosciences can be summed up in two words, epic fail.
Middle and high school students across the country are generally falling behind in life sciences, and the nation is at risk of producing a dearth of qualified workers for the fast-growing bioscience industry, according to a report released Monday.
Students are showing less interest in taking life sciences and science courses, and high schools are doing a poor job of preparing students for college-level science, says the report, funded and researched by Columbus, Ohio-based Battelle, the Biotechnology Industry Organization and the Biotechnology Institute.
The deficiencies will hurt the country's competitiveness with the rest of the world in the knowledge-based economy, the report concludes.
What the news article doesn't mention is that ever-expanding elephant in the room. There's a reason this is happening, and it isn't just that students would rather spend time with their 360s and PS3s. The interest in science education is waning because of a powerful and orchestrated right-wing Christian anti-science movement, which has seen its most appalling and flagrant expression in the Texas State Board of Education under Don McLeroy, who thinks experts are bad guys he needs to "stand up" to. Yes, well, I'm sure when you reach those pearly gates, Don, St. Peter will hand you your harp and halo and say, "Well fought, brave soldier." At least, I'm sure that's how the scene plays out in Mac's rapturous fantasies.
But as the report makes plain, the effort to protect religion via the outright demolition of education is having a disastrous effect, not merely on the minds of students (there's nothing worse you can do to a mind than rob it of the very will to learn, but the fundies, naturally, would disagree), but on the nation's economic future.
The biosciences are going to be one of the most important growth industries this century. And with the Christian War on Education in full swing, you can rest assured, that growth won't be happening here. We've long since been on the downward slide towards becoming an intellectual third world country. Now it seems we run the risk of becoming one across the board.
Texans, feel free to bring the findings of this report up when contacting your state senator with your opposition to McLeroy's appointment. I plan to. It may be a futile effort at this point, but the truth is always worth fighting for. The fact the fundies fear it so much is all the incentive you should need to keep fighting for it.