MEDIEVAL….Andrew Stuttaford today in The Corner:
All this talk about ancient science reminds me of a story I read some years ago in the Economist quoting a report that looked at the level of scientific knowledge held by the UK’s teachers (excluding, I presume, science teachers). The conclusion? Depressing. Significant portions of the scientific wisdom of the late medieval era (Sun goes round the Earth and so on) were still believed by a substantial proportion of the nation’s “educators.”
This is the kind of thing that drives me nuts. Do teachers, for example, believe that heavy objects fall faster than light ones? Maybe ? especially since it’s perfectly true on any planet with an atmosphere. But do they believe that the sun revolves around the earth? I think not.
I don’t doubt that there are problems with our educational system, but it’s shrill “can you believe that our kids don’t know [blank]?!?” stuff like this that gets big headlines but completely poisons any reasonable discourse.
I don’t suppose there’s anyone out there who knows which study Stuttaford is talking about? Hopefully I won’t have to eat my words about this….
UPDATE: John Derbyshire agrees that this is horrific. This is from the same guy who told us just the other day that he didn’t really care if his mechanic ? or his president ? believed in evolution.
UPDATE 2: I just got back from lunch and read the comments, and I guess I’d better clear something up. My throwaway line about heavy vs. light objects was meant to refer to the fact that given two otherwise identical objects, the light one will generally fall more slowly due to air resistance. That’s all.
And speaking of physics oddities, did you know that the kilogram is a measure of mass while the pound is a measure of weight (i.e., force)? I have not yet succeeded in persuading my mother of this.