Why do we teach astronomy?

I just spent a week in Seattle at the 217th Meeting of the American Astronomical Society. If you’re here via my Twitter feed, you’ve been bombarded with my #aas217 tweets. I’ll be sharing some thoughts and experiences in future posts. There was one experience that really sticks in my memory, though.

Ed Prather from the Center for Astronomy Education led a workshop that I attended. I’ve been to a number CAE workshops with Ed. He’s intense. You don’t have “thin” conversations with Ed.

Ed and his colleagues are dedicated to teaching (and teaching¬† teachers to teach) “Astro 101”, the general education course that 100,000’s of non-Science undergraduates take each year. It’s likely their first, last and only science course. As Ed proclaims, and with which I wholeheartedly agree, we need to teach these people science. Not because they’re on their way to becoming scientists – that audience isn’t taking “Astro 101”. Rather, these people are the next generation of teachers, lawyers, politicians, journalists, parents.¬† In this age of technology, medical advances and global warming, it’s vital that the next generation of voters be scientifically literate.

Yes, YES! Just the pep talk that gets my heart pounding! And then Ed continued…

Why it is so critical? Because high-tech, science-related jobs in the United States are not being filled by Americans.

Wazzat?

Don’t get me wrong — there is nothing wrong with patriotism. In fact, I admire how strong his convictions are. And if I dig deep enough in my brain and heart, I’ll probably say the same thing about Canadian kids. But I haven’t thought about it that way. I’m still at the “let’s do this for our kids because they’re inheriting our mess.” Maybe that’s naive of me. Or maybe it’s a Canadian/American thing. Either way, we all agree that scientifically literate citizens are critical to our — all of our — future.

About Peter Newbury

Find me on Twitter @polarisdotca
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