Science Marches On, But Not in Bay Area Schools

by Tommi Avicolli-Mecca on October 31, 2007

There’s no lack of ignorance in America’s schools. With continuing pressure from the right-wing, kids are often kept in the dark about a lot of things, including evolution and human sexuality, two topics that the Bible-thumpers consider the work of the devil.

Now comes word that, in the Bay Area, elementary schools are leaving out a vital part of the curriculum: Science. Believe it or not, according to a study by the Lawrence Hall of Science at Berkeley and West Ed, an education think tank, 80% of teachers spend less than one hour a week (16% devote no time at all, not one minute) on teaching science.

I always thought science was one of the essentials of a well-rounded education. Like reading and writing. How do young people understand the world around them without knowing about the intricacies of the universe or the makeup of matter?

As a kid, science was a constant companion. It eventually helped me free myself from the Catholicism I was force fed five days a week in Catholic school. By 14, I was devouring all the science-fiction I could find. When Star Trek hit the airwaves, I became a huge fan, glued to the TV every Thursday night when it aired. I made money washing cars one summer at my father’s gas station and bought myself a small telescope, so that I could observe the incredible things in the sky outside my bedroom window.

What I saw gave me great respect for all living things everywhere. It made me realize that I am but a small spec in a vast universe that contains wonders unimaginable.

In a technological society such as ours, that is rapidly advancing to a point where science will one day regenerate body parts and even cure diseases by manipulating DNA, we cannot afford to raise kids who are ignorant of the very thing that makes all this possible.

How ironic that Silicon Valley, the source of so many modern devices that kids consume in great numbers, such as computers and ipods, is right in the Bay Area’s own backyard.

It’s unthinkable enough when schools are banned from teaching evolution or human sexuality by right-wing Christian pressure groups, but not to teach any science at all or restrict it to an hour a week because there aren’t enough hours in the day or teachers can’t understand the lessons themselves is unacceptable.

A better excuse would be “the dog ate my science lesson.”

Tommi Avicolli Mecca is a radical Italian queer performer and writer whose work can be seen at www.avicollimecca.com

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