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citizenry is the only safe repository for democratic values."
- Thomas Jefferson
"In a democracy, it is very important that the public have a basic understanding of science so that they can control the way that science and technology increasingly affect our lives."
- Stephen Hawking
"Scientific literacy may likely determine whether or not democratic society will survive into the 21st century."
-L. M. Lederman, Nobel Laureate
Broadly speaking, Science Literacy refers to a persons ability to comprehend basic scientific principles.
We generally regard a person as being literate if he knows how to read and write and has at least a passing familiarity with the works of such writers as Twain and Shakespeare
Nonetheless, a large number of otherwise well-educated literate Americans dont know that Earth orbits the Sun or can explain the phases of the Moon.
Consider this frequently heard comment: Mathematics! Ha! I can barely balance my checkbook! The person making such a statement faces little or no risk of social embarrassment, even if they are college-educated. In contrast, imagine the reaction if that same person were to say, Literature! Ha! I can barely read!
Elementary competence in science and mathematics should rank as a social imperative equal to an elementary competence in English. The fact that this parity does not exist is more than unfortunate, it is dangerous.
With increasing frequency, public policy decision-making involves the sciences. How can we as citizens make sense of headline-grabbing news stories about global warming, genetic engineering, or nuclear waste disposal, if we dont understand what is meant by greenhouse gasses, DNA, or half-life?
In 1989 the American Association for the Advancement of Science published Science for All Americans in which it outlined the basic elements of science literacy, which includes an understanding of:
The Scientific World View
The Clark Foundation believes that science literacy is a critical yet often overlooked contributor to our societys stability and prosperity. Our mission is to identify and support cost-effective programs that encourage the public awareness of science.
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