Cosmos 2014 is coming

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This is an interesting interview with Neil DeGrasse Tyson, writer/producer Ann Druyan, and Cosmos Studio president Mitchell Cannold about the new series Cosmos 2014. I am very much looking forward to this series, and it is very much time to make a new Cosmos, and entirely appropriate to do so.

I pretty much agree with everything they say, and I especially like the fact that cosmos 2014 is being produced in part as a reaction to three decades of anti-science activism and propaganda.

I was very disappointed with one thing Ann Druyan said. She made the unqualified (and undocumented) claim that science is taught very poorly and therefore nobody gets it. I wish the world was so simple. In many, many instances science is taught as well as it can be given the resources available to science teachers. Vicariously through my wife, a high school science teacher, directly through my own guest appearances in various science classes, and as an oft-time teacher of college introductory classes, I know that many kids get turned on to science in high school, and not because they suffer a “grueling and horrendous experience” as Ann Druyan labels it. Science teaching in this country is under assault from the very anti-science forces that she claims, quite correctly, abound. Tossing science teaching under the buss wholesale is not helpful. Neil also speaks of how horrible science education is, and he has valid points, but he refers mainly to public science communication and TV documentaries, etc. Which does, indeed, mostly suck.

There is more here on space.com

Ironic that this is a FOX news corp production. But then again, so are most of the National Geographic specials.


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6 thoughts on “Cosmos 2014 is coming

  1. High School science should be taught with a sense of wonder. As I recall my high school classes (a helluva long time ago) it was so interesting that after school I walked a mile each day to read the Harvard series on astronomy. My son Dennis inherited my sense of wonder, and has a motorized reflector telescope that on clear nights provides a look into the infinite.

    I am glad to see that we will have a new Cosmos to supplement the current “Through the Wormhole” with Morgan Freeman. I never cease to be awed by this universe we are blessed to be living in.

  2. I agree that Ms. Druyan is being unfair in singling out science teaching. There is a lot of bad teaching in schools these days, not just limited to science. Part of it is that this country places a low value on teaching as a profession, so it doesn’t attract the best and brightest. (Until about 40 years ago teaching was one of the few professions where women were allowed, so this is actually one of the few downsides of improving gender equality.) And part of it is the anti-science (and more broadly, anti-intellectual) streak that has too much power in too much of this country. I’m not saying that all teachers are bad, just that we should (and could, with suitable cultural and financial priorities) be better at it.

    Your post didn’t mention this, but (as I recalled, and Wikipedia confirms) Druyan is Carl Sagan’s widow. That’s why she has to be involved in this project.

  3. In defence of Druyan, I think that science is poorly taught in school. So are many other topics. We can’t tell if she was singling out science because she thinks it’s the worst-taught topic, or if she focussed on science because that is what she was talking about – science communication. I don’t think her comment is unwarranted or unfairly science-biased.

    As an example, here in Canada, we are required to take French in school, but the classes are all about the grammar rules, not about conversing – and I never learned anything. I thought I just wasn’t able to learn a second language, something that I later learned wasn’t true. Science was the same way for me, we learned to memorize facts – and I never even knew what a scientific theory really was. I didn’t have a science teacher that got me excited about science until university (after I’d read some books and figured I’d give a science class a try for fun). I’m sure there are teachers that show it differently, but it was a ‘gruelling experience’ for me at the time – just like French.

  4. I agree that there is bad teaching. You can learn French (or any language) very well in some teaching contexts, poorly in others; I tend to agree that language learning is not done the best way and was unhappy to learn that my daughter, when in HS, was “learning” Spanish the same way I was “learning” french in grade school and high school.

    But It is not accurate or fair, and hurts the cause of science education by tossing our most important allies under the bus, to make a blanket statement that science teaching is “horrific.”

    Also, you are Canadian. All Canadians know French.

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