The idea of requiring four science courses for Bright Futures eligibility is an obvious next step for high school science policy. It would address several important issues and should appeal to leaders from a variety of political perspectives. The response from Robert Sanchez of the James Madison Institute to yesterday’s Tallahassee Democrat op-ed states the objection that it would be a waste of resources to require students who are not college-bound to take four science courses in which they have no interest. Of course, a Bright Futures eligibility requirement would not affect students who are not college-bound, but would focus on Florida’s best and brightest.
Most importantly, such a requirement would increase our emphasis on making sure our state’s future leaders are scientifically literate. One of the comments posted on the op-ed at the Democrat web site asked “Is this really about making sure that our children are indoctrinated, I mean ‘educated’ about global warming, I mean ‘global climate change’? (Can’t call it global warming if the globe isn’t warming.)” With respect to “educated”, yes it is. And it’s about being educated on other issues like energy supplies and consumption, and our interactions with the living world around us. Students must learn that scientific conclusions should be based on data, and not on economic expediencies and personal conveniences. (Democrat Associate Editor Mark Hohmeister responded to this commenter by asking, “So what you’re saying is that, if in doubt, always opt for ignorance?”)
A second commenter at the Democrat web site raised the issue of educational priorities, quoting a list of horrifying statistics about the civics knowledge of public school students in Oklahoma (which are no doubt representative of the civics knowledge of students nationally), and then exclaiming, “And you are worried about science!” Yes, I am worried about science. And yes, I believe that science is as important as civics in the school curriculum. The future of our nation and world depend on our citizens’ understanding of both how they interact with each other and how they interact with the natural world. If our nation lacks an understanding of either, we are not far from catastrophe.