Why Science?

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ISBN-13: 978-0807748305
ISBN-10: 0807748307
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Editorial Reviews

Review

Jim Trefil has provided a superb overview of the imperative for scientific literacy in the 21st century. Why Science? should be required reading for all middle school and high school science teachers, superintendents, school board members, college faculty, deans, provosts, college presidents, and legislators at all levels. --Jon Miller, Director, International Center for the Advancement of Scientific Literacy, Michigan State University<br \><br \>Jim Trefil has provided a superb overview of the imperative for scientific literacy in the 21st century. Why Science? should be required reading for all middle school and high school science teachers, superintendents, school board members, college faculty, deans, provosts, college presidents, and legislators at all levels. --Jon Miller, Director, International Center for the Advancement of Scientific Literacy, Michigan State University<br \><br \>This is the best and most reliable book yet for communicating to nonscientists the essentials of modern science. A distinguished scientist himself, James Trefil has an unmatched ability to go directly to the heart of the matter with humor, plain language, and telling examples. Want to be scientifically literate without pain? Read Trefil! --E. D. Hirsch, Jr., University Professor Emeritus of Education and Humanities, University of Virginia

Jim Trefil has provided a superb overview of the imperative for scientific literacy in the 21st century. Why Science? should be required reading for all middle school and high school science teachers, superintendents, school board members, college faculty, deans, provosts, college presidents, and legislators at all levels. --Jon Miller, Director, International Center for the Advancement of Scientific Literacy, Michigan State University

This is the best and most reliable book yet for communicating to nonscientists the essentials of modern science. A distinguished scientist himself, James Trefil has an unmatched ability to go directly to the heart of the matter with humor, plain language, and telling examples. Want to be scientifically literate without pain? Read Trefil! --E. D. Hirsch, Jr., University Professor Emeritus of Education and Humanities, University of Virginia

About the Author

James Trefil is the Clarence J. Robinson Professor of Physics at George Mason University. His books include The Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, 1001 Things Everyone Needs to Know About Science, and Are We Unique? A Scientist Explores the Human Mind.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Teachers College Press (November 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807748307
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807748305
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #633,567 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Timothy Haugh VINE VOICE on January 28, 2008
Format: Paperback
In my third year of teaching high school science (back in the early 1990's), I came to an epiphany. I had spent two years pushing my students towards the kind of "hard" science that I had spent many years studying and about which I had great passion. I had some success but I wasn't reaching as many students as I'd hoped as an idealistic young teacher. Then, sometime between years two and three, I changed my goal. Instead of trying to turn my students into scientists, I would try to help them become scientifically literate. From that moment, I believe I became a better and more successful teacher.

I tell this story to underline the fact that the concept of science literacy is not a new one. Dr. Trefil has written a wonderful book on the subject but, despite the impression he might give, he is by no means blazing a new trail here. His work with E. D. Hirsch and the cultural literacy gurus gives him a certain cache and it is easy to see how this work grew out of his involvement with that project; however, the question of literacy--cultural, scientific or otherwise--is basically an age-old question: what is it that an educated person should know and when should we teach it to them?

I admire much of what Trefil has done here. The early chapters, in particular, on what science is and is not and his definition of scientific literacy are informative and useful. On the other hand, when he starts to get into the field of education and its impact on scientific literacy, I think his conclusions are much more debatable.

For example, though I agree in principle with his conclusions that we tend towards hysteria in comparing our scientific graduates to those of other countries, I feel strongly that America is behind other countries in many ways.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Frederick S. Goethel VINE VOICE on December 25, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As an environmental biology major in college, and as a volunteer at the local high school district, I have an interest in science instruction in the school system. I have seen science illiteracy on an up close and personal basis and have been striving to improve the number and quality of science courses offered to students at the high school level, hoping it would interest more students in careers in science and technology. So, when this book was offered, I thought it might be of help.

The premise of the book is that as our world grows scientifically and technologically, people will need to be more literate in the sciences in order to be able to properly enter a democratic debate on scientific issues. Stem cell research, global warming, cloning and a host of other issues are offered as proof that we need to understand science (at least at a basic level) in order to make proper policy choices.

Although we hear how badly we, in the United States, are doing in science literacy, the news isn't all bad. Although high school testing indicates we are at, or near, the bottom, the same cannot be said about the science literacy of adults. The United States posts a 28% literacy rate (or about 75% illiterate), which is second only to Sweden. Many of the countries that beat us as highs school students don't fare as well as adults, probably because of our university systems.

The author proposes a number of solutions, staring with the high school level, and working on up to the college level. While I think he may have a basis for his argument, there are a number of problems, and I question the practicality of his solutions.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on June 8, 2008
Format: Paperback
Is a scientific education needed to fully understand the world even for the lay? "Why Science?" is a call for America to increase their scientific literacy for a more perfect union - saying understanding of the fundamentals of science - natural selection, electricity, magnetism, and others - are necessary to understanding the very principles of modern society. "Why Science?" is a must for any community library science, social issues, or education shelf.
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