by Jeffrey Burkhart, Professor of Ethics and Policy Studies in the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences of the University of Florida
For decades, people in the Science Establishment have lamented the lack of scientifc literacy among the American public. Their concern reached a tipping point in the early 1990s, when educators and organizations such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the National Center for Educational Progress (NCEP), the National Academies of Science/National Research Council (NAS/NRC), and the National Science Foundation (NSF) began concerted efforts to improve science literacy. Despite some success, however, the Science Establishment still has concerns: Even though the percentage of degrees (BS, MS, and Ph.D.) in Science and Engineering has remained constant, and even though, contrary to anecdotal evidence, foreign-born students have not displaced U.S. citizens and resident aliens in most of the S&E programs in U.S. universities, we are again talking about scientifc literacy. Why does the Science Establishment believe that serious, ongoing efforts at promoting scientifc literacy are once again necessary?