Americans haven’t always been afraid of science, but with the resurgence of fundamentalist religion sweeping the U.S. during the late 20th C., and now firmly established as mainstream “thought” in government and education, religious superstition -phobias have become a permanent fixture in school curricula.
During the early 1970s I was a textbook designer for a major publisher. Christian interference in educational materials was rampant even then; school boards packed with extremists dictated content in K-12 textbooks Texas took the lead in this breach of the separation of church and state. Our work was made difficult by religious censorship; whole sections of classic literature had to be removed and replaced with bland and inferior essays, sentimental short stories and sappy poetry. Specific authors were banned and naturally – there was racism at work. Science texts were gutted of information that was found to be outside religious dogma, and vital scientific concepts and support for those concepts “went missing” leaving fragments of disconnected factoids with little explanation as to how the scientific method was developed or practiced. History of science? Forget it.
Why did the publisher knuckle under to these outrageous demands? MONEY. Texas bought huge quantities of educational materials and many other states simply ordered whatever Texas ordered. The consequences are evident today. The U.S. is a population that is ignorant of basic science and how nature and technology work.
Why are the scientists (not really – science teachers are rarely educated scientists) who are supposedly teaching science, denied freedom of speech?
“Math and science phobia has become such a problem that universities are forced to turn math and science proffessors into cult deprogrammers, in an attempt to get students through basic courses.”
“Math phobia, especially, but not exclusively, among female students, is unfortunately a common occurrence in college classrooms. At times this fear extends to all things “scientific.” This fear is most likely not a spontaneous reaction to certain activities in these modules; rather this fear is older, a learned reaction to math, science, and computers rooted in earlier unpleasant experiences with them. The bad news is that fears are difficult to replace with more positive attitudes toward a subject matter. This is especially the case in areas where the fear is bound up with self-esteem issues. The good news is that everything that is learned can be unlearned and eventually, with patience, be replaced with a different kind of knowledge and emotional content.”
“Testers of these active learning modules have repeatedly reported math phobia among their students. Often this fear has translated into a noncooperative, even spiteful attitude toward completing certain activities (“I don’t do math!”). Here are several suggestions, also based on these instructors’ experiences, for how to overcome, transcend, or get around math and science phobia.” __University of Colorado