Opinion
Education Opinion

Twilight of Science?

By Sputnik Contributor — November 29, 2011 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

NOTE: This is a guest post by Steve Fleischman, deputy executive officer at Education Northwest, a nonprofit headquartered in Portland, Ore., that conducts research, evaluation, technical assistance, training, and strategic communications activities to promote evidence-informed education policy and practice.

Our family vacation this past summer included a visit to the Hoh Rain Forest on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. If you haven’t been, go. But, expect to pass through the Twilight zone. More precisely, you will likely drive through the town of Forks, where the Twilight series takes place. Before you go be sure to consult the Forks Chamber of Commerce website so you don’t miss points of interest such as the gas station/subway shop that is “Home of the Twilight Sandwich,” the drive-in that is “Home of the Bella Burger” (make mine well done, thank you), and nearly a dozen Twilight-themed souvenir shops.

If you’re not up on popular culture you should know that the Twilight saga, recounting young vampire love, has sold more than 100 million books and that the related series of four movies have so far grossed nearly $2 billion worldwide. The latest in the series, Breaking Dawn, has brought in more than $200 million since it opened earlier this month.

It’s not just Twilight. True Blood, the HBO series about vampires, is in its fourth season and averages more than 12.5 million viewers per episode. More vampire shows are on the way.

What’s the fascination with vampires and the supernatural? As I thought about this, I wondered how the viewership for vampire shows compares to the one for the final launch of the Space Shuttle. Is our nation becoming increasingly uninterested in science and perhaps even anti-scientific? Maybe not, a recent study finds American adults scoring higher on an index of scientific literacy than they did two decades ago. Or, maybe yes, since a 2009 national survey reports, for example, that “only 53 percent of adults know how long it takes for the Earth to revolve around the Sun.” (Duh. About a year?)

It will be hard to build a culture that supports research and innovation as the way forward in education until we value science as a guide to improvement. With that in mind, it’s worth repeating some fundamental premises of science laid out by Richard Feynman, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist. In the mid-1960s he talked about the bedrock principles of science:

The first is the matter of judging evidence--well, the first thing really is, before you begin you must not know the answer. . . The question of doubt and uncertainty is what is necessary to begin; for if you already know the answer there is no need to gather any evidence about it. Well, being uncertain, the next thing is to look for evidence, and the scientific method is to begin with trials. But another way . . . is to put together ideas to try to enforce a logical consistency among various things that you know. . . After we look for evidence we have to judge the evidence. There are the usual rules about judging evidence; it's not right to pick only what you like, but to take all of the evidence, to try to maintain some objectivity . . . As long as it's possible, we should disregard authority whenever the observations disagree with it. And finally, the recording of results should . . . not [be] reported in such a way as to try to influence the reader into an idea that's different than what the evidence indicates. (Source: Feyman, R.P. (1999). The pleasure of finding things out. Cambridge, MA: Basic Books. (pp. 103-104).

These are simple, but powerful, principles. If we follow them consistently in making and carrying out educational policy and practice we will get much closer to achieving the improvements we desire.


Photo Source: //www.forkswa.com/twilight

The opinions expressed in Sputnik are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Attendance Awareness Month: The Research Behind Effective Interventions
More than a year has passed since American schools were abruptly closed to halt the spread of COVID-19. Many children have been out of regular school for most, or even all, of that time. Some
Content provided by AllHere
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Schools Get the Brunt of Latest COVID Wave in South Carolina
In the past few weeks, South Carolina has set records for COVID-19 hospitalizations and new cases have approached peak levels of last winter.
4 min read
Two Camden Elementary School students in masks listen as South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster talks about steps the school is taking to fight COVID-19, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021, in Camden, S.C. McMaster has adamantly and repeatedly come out against requiring masks in schools even as the average number of daily COVID-19 cases in the state has risen since early June. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)
Education More States Are Requiring Schools to Teach Native American History and Culture
Advocates say their efforts have gained some momentum with the nation’s reckoning over racial injustice since the killing of George Floyd.
3 min read
A dancer participates in an intertribal dance at Schemitzun on the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation in Mashantucket, Conn., Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021. Connecticut and a handful of other states have recently decided to mandate students be taught about Native American culture and history. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Education Judge's Temporary Order Allows Iowa Schools to Mandate Masks
A federal judge ordered the state to immediately halt enforcement of a law that prevents school boards from ordering masks to be worn.
4 min read
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks to reporters following a news conference, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, in West Des Moines, Iowa. Reynolds lashed out at President Joe Biden Thursday after he ordered his education secretary to explore possible legal action against states that have blocked school mask mandates and other public health measures meant to protect students against COVID-19. Reynolds, a Republican, has signed a bill into law that prohibits school officials from requiring masks, raising concerns as delta variant virus cases climb across the state and schools resume classes soon. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Education Hurricane Ida Deals New Blow to Louisiana Schools Struggling to Reopen
The opening of the school year offered teachers a chance to fully assess the pandemic's effects, only to have students forced out again.
8 min read
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021. Louisiana students, who were back in class after a year and a half of COVID-19 disruptions kept many of them at home, are now missing school again after Hurricane Ida. A quarter-million public school students statewide have no school to report to, though top educators are promising a return is, at most, weeks away, not months.
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021.
John Locher/AP