Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Science for Dummies

By John O’Connor

How concerned should we be that many Australians don't know some basic science facts?

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

There has been a range of comment about the recent Academy of Science survey on science literacy, ranging from criticism of such surveys and their relevance through to serious concern about the decline in literacy.

The criticism is based on the belief that it covers knowledge which is no longer relevant in the modern era and just gives an opportunity to highlight a deficiency that needs to be addressed for educational reasons or a target for greater science outreach. But is it so irrelevant?

The basic knowledge about the Earth taking a year to orbit the Sun is relevant if a person wants to understand why there are seasons and why they are different between the northern and southern hemispheres. It, combined with the orbit of the Moon around the Earth, impact on numerous alternative energies which are of current interest, so it is very relevant. Similarly for the other “basic” knowledges that are built on for more sophisticated knowledge essential in today’s society.

This is not to say that a person cannot get through life without an adequate understanding of science, or for that matter of maths, or spelling and grammar. Sometimes, in rare occasions, such individuals can even excel but these are rare individuals and circumstances. To give an individual and society the best opportunity to grow and develop then there must be a growth in these skills...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.