School & District Management

Voices in the Field: Education Researchers Join D.C. March for Science

By Sarah D. Sparks — April 22, 2017 3 min read
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Education researchers and educators joined thousands of scientists and science-lovers here for the March on Science, a rally and march to the U. S. Capitol in support of research, science education, and evidence-based policies.

Earlier this week, the University of Delaware Center for Political Communication released a survey of more than 1,000 participants recruited from 81 different participating March for Science Facebook groups and pages. The study found more than 60 percent said they were more likely to contact public officials as a result of the conversations around the march, and more than half also said they would be more likely to follow science news.

More than 9 in 10 of the survey respondents said they planned to march to oppose political attacks on science, protest cuts in science funding, and support science-based public policies.

At a pre-march breakfast, Kenji Hakuta,a Stanford University education professor, said he was marching to support science education and to support threatened data and research, “especially because the research around [education] is related to one of the most visible agendas of this administration—vouchers and choice and those sorts of things. ... I’m marching to say there is importance and value in research in this topic.”

Many professional science organizations, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Educational Research Association, and the Association of Psychological Science, took part in the events. I caught up with several folks to ask why they were marching:

Johanna Olexy and her son, Jackson, left, were marching with the American Sociological Association. “I’m marching because my mom’s marching,” Jackson said, “and because I like science. It’s my second-and-a-half favorite subject"—after math, tied with reading.

“I worry that this new administration pays no attention to science and takes actions that can harm the world because it ignores the science,” said Nancy Goodban, a social psychologist who studies unintended effects of social policies on welfare. “Our country is strong because people have been educated and we have scientific entrepreneurs and educators. I don’t want to lose that.”

“Science is not a political philosophy,” said Janice Kotch, a science education researcher. “It’s a branch of learning that depends on authentic data, that has its data verified, that relies on specific methodologies and our goal is to improve the lives of people on the planet through quality science education in my case, but for many scientists through advances in medicine, clean air, clean water.”

Mike Steele, right, a math education professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, said he was convinced to come to Washington because, “I’m concerned about the climate of anti-intellectualism that’s creeping in and the attacks on intellectually based professions, like teaching. In Wisconsin we’ve seen systematic attacks on teachers, on the value of education and the value of science in the state. I’m concerned about the broadening of that movement to the national push we are starting to see.”

Erin Anderson, a sociologist at Washington College in Chestertown, Md., marched with her husband Jon Schultz, a middle school special education teacher, and their daughters Grace, 7, and Claire, 5. Schultz said he worries about the removal of science data from federal web sites, and Anderson voiced concern about “the delegitimizing of science and STEM fields in the current administration. The politics is informing policy now instead of science.”

The Rivers family, left,— Wil, center left, an ecologist and microbiologist, Rebecca, right, and daughter Aryn, left, a high school freshman, drove down from Canton, N.Y., with friend Quinn Williams-Bergen, center right.

“I’m marching because science works. Science has a long history of solving problems, from understanding climate change to understanding that DDT is a problem to CFCs destroying the ozone,” Wil Rivers said, “And we’ve proven that we can solve problems that we create, but that requires funding.”

Aryn Rivers added, “Science and scientific research run pretty much everything that helps provide progress in our world. It affects the world that I’m going to enter as an adult, and so I feel that as a kid, I have to stand up for the world.”

Rutger Jackson, a biotech researcher in California, and Suzy Warren, who works in an environmental field, argued for better representation of science and scientists in the federal government. “I think science is a nonpartisan issue and should be treated as such,” said Warren, right.

Photo Source: Sarah D. Sparks for Education Week


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A version of this news article first appeared in the Inside School Research blog.