Earlier this semester, we had a discussion on What Causes the Seasons, which addressed questions of scientific literacy. For this discussion, I would like to investigate that idea further. Should every educated person know what causes the seasons? What other basic scientific knowledge should they have? Is there any difference to what we should expect from high school and college graduates? What should our expectations of what basic scientific understanding an educated person should have, be?Give your post a unique title reflective of its content.
Previous Post question about what causes the seasons…..
As we learn in this unit, the Earth’s seasons are caused by the tilt of the Earth’s spin axis relative to its orbital plane and not by it getting closer or further away from the Sun during its orbit. In fact, the Earth is closest to the Sun (a point in its orbit called perihelion) around January 3rd every year, during the Northern Hemisphere’s Winter, and furthest (aphelion) around July 4th, during the Northern Hemisphere’s Summer.
A 1989, A Private Universe, a video produced by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, addressed the question of why don’t even the brightest students truly grasp basic science concepts. The video is famous for featuring interviews shot at a Harvard graduation where new graduates, alumni, and professors, highly educated people associated with one of the world’s most elite universities, get the answer wrong to the question, “What causes the seasons?” (Note: the documentary is the first in the list of the videos, but the rest of them are also interesting in shedding light on the issues in the film. The last three revisit the middle schooler in the documentary, Heather Mars, years later and gets her take on what happened then and since then.) In 1997, the Harvard University Gazette published a piece entitled “Teaching teachers what kids are not learning,” addressing the question of how people learn scientific concepts.
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