Why don’t people know ‘simple’ everyday science?

The confused are waiting for guidance

This isn’t a rant about scientific literacy as such, so relax.  I was reading this article today, all about how parents struggle to answer scientific questions from their children.  Questions like “why is the sky blue?”.  Ok, that isn’t exactly an easy one to explaint to a five year-old, but surely after several decades of staring at the sky, you should know how rainbows happen?  Or at least be able to explain that it’s something to do with sunlight and water in the air?

Brilliantly, the article was filed in the Education section of the BBC website, leading me to believe that schools will once again be blamed for society’s problems.  We’re also responsible for violent crime, teenage pregnancy and global warming, y’know.  That last one isn’t any more ridiculous than the first two, by the way.

But the public’s cover is blown, right there in the text of the piece.  “More than half of the 1,002 parents surveyed thought their children knew more about science than they did.”  Which is to say that while young people are in education, they learn things about how the world around them works, but at some point after that, somewhere in the world of APRs, MOTs and other grown-up stuff, all that pointless school stuff is expunged from the memory banks.

In this age of omnipresent internet access and the brilliance of Google and iPhones, I can’t find any reason to not know something that you want to.  Perhaps, somewhere in the growing-up process, too many of us lose our inquisitive nature.  Maybe I’m the only one who wants to know why the dentist shines a blue light on my fillings to make them go hard, or maybe people fall into a routine of ignoring things they don’t understand.  Either way, please, please don’t get mad at your kids when we send them home full of such brilliant questions.  Instead, hit Wikipedia hard and find yourself some answers.

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