COMMENTARY | The whole creation vs. evolution kerfuffle is bad enough. But according to a poll of 2,200 American adults conducted by the National Science Foundation, one in four Americans are unaware that the Earth orbits the sun.
Did Copernicus live in vain?
This result cannot be blamed on religious yahoos forcing schools to teach alternate theories about science. Unlike creationism, no one has ever suggested that schools teach the Ptolemic model of an Earth centered solar system. Nor is the sun centered solar system tainted, like climate change, by politics. This can be chalked up to be a general failure of the American public school system that seems to be graduating science illiterates.
Another part of the explanation may be that a lot of people, like Sherlock Holmes, feel that they don’t really need to know that the Earth revolves around the Sun, so they don’t. This too may be a failure of the public schools, not only to impart basic science knowledge but also the importance of knowing basic science.
Of course the case can be made that one should know basic facts, such as how the Solar System is structured, because not knowing those facts is just embarrassing. No one should want to be an ignoramus when it comes to such matters.
The danger is that these findings, which are being sent along to President Obama and Congress, may become the cause of bad policy. The institution of some kind of federal standards for science education is a temptation, considering these results, but have every potential to go off the rails and get mired in politics,
Instead of sending the results of the poll to the federal government, the NSF might consider sending them to every school board and teacher in the country. It will be they who will be expected to make things right, not politicians in Washington.