This is a question to which I don’t really have an answer – hopefully it will provoke a bit of a discussion :-)
It arises from an on-line chat I had today with a friend & colleague who’s a secondary teacher. We’re both big on teaching about the nature of science (as you might have gathered, I like the narrative approach to this). And we’ve both followed with interest the comments thread associated with a guest post on SciBlogsNZ. The post was written by Dr Nicky Turner, of the Immunisation Advisory Centre, & it attracted an outpouring of comment centred on Gardasil, the vaccine against genital herpes that was recently added to the NZ vaccination schedule.
Much of the comment was anti- this vaccine (& to some degree other vaccines as well). At least some of it was spurred by what the commenters perceive as significant health problems suffered by their daughters as a direct result of the vaccination. (I hasten to say that I have a huge amount of sympathy for these parents & I can understand their need to find something to blame for their daughters’ ill-health.) However, some of the comments showed that those writing didn’t really have a strong grasp of the science underlying vaccines, or of things like the VAERS database & its equivalent in New Zealand.
My friend said, ‘as I read the comments from the ‘anti’ people I kept thinking they just don’t understand about how science works. The gulf between science and Joe Public is as huge as ever and I wonder if schools really are doing anything to change that?’
Personally I’m not sure that they are. This may change with the implementation of the new science curriculum – but only if teachers are properly resourced & supported to do so. But I may be being overly cynical about this, and I’d be really interested to hear what others have to say on the matter. So please – do feel free to chip in & tell us what you think. It would be great to get a dialogue going around teaching the nature of science in our schools!