Neil deGrasse Tyson on the importance of science literacy

This is a wonderful clip of a 2009 interview with Neil deGrasse Tyson explaining why scientific literacy is important. Tyson says:

By the time I’m done with [my kids], they’re going to be scientifically literate, whether or not they want to become scientists… People think science literacy is being able to recite facts...and that’s a part of it but it’s not the main part of it. The main part is, how do you look at the world, how does the world look through your lens.
If you’re scientifically literate, the world looks very different to you. It’s not just a lot of mysterious things happening. There’s a lot we understand out there. And that understanding empowers you to first, not be taken advantage of by others who do understand it. And second, there are issues that confront society that have science as their foundation, if you’re not scientifically literate, you are disenfranchising yourself from the democratic process and you don’t even know it. So, whatever my kids become, I want them to be scientifically literate.


How do you look at the world? How do your kids? In the video below, Tyson explains why he thinks all kids are born scientists and how adults get in their way.

He says:

Kids are born scientists, they’re always turning over rocks or picking petals. They’re always doing things that, by and large, are destructive. That’s what exploration kinda is. You take stuff apart whether or not you know how to put it back together. This is what kids do. An adult scientist is a kid who never grew up….
What happens at home, is the kid reaches in the refrigerator, pulls out an egg and starts juggling it. What’s the first thing you do as a parent? “Stop playing with the egg. It could break. Put it back.”
Excuse me, this is an experiment in the material strength of… (laughs) let the kid find out that when it drops, it breaks. This is a physics experiment, rapidly turned into a biology experiment…. We don’t have enough parents who understand or know how to value the inquisitive nature of their own kids because they want to keep order in their own household.

Here's a little more from educator John Holt on how kids are natural born scientists and on NPR, what science literacy is and how we might measure it

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