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The things you learn at meetings

I learned yesterday that my graduate university, the University of Oregon, has a Science Literacy Program led by an old friend, Judith Eisen. It looks like an excellent idea.

The University of Oregon Science Literacy Program (UO SLP) offers General Education courses for non-science majors designed to improve scientific awareness and general science literacy of the educated public by enhancing competence in and appreciation of science. The SLP will empower undergraduates to consider scientific approaches to societal issues, enable graduate students in the sciences to effectively communicate ideas to audiences of non-scientists, and assist faculty in improving teaching techniques using modern pedagogy.

Awesome. More universities ought to do that. I know my own university has a dearth of non-major science courses that offer that kind of breadth and context — it’s one of those problems we could solve so easily if only the administration would let us hire a few dozen more faculty.

Comments

  1. carlie says

    I keep meaning to try and set up courses specifically like this, but you know about wishes and horses…

  2. Brownian says

    but you know about wishes and horses…

    If wishes were horses, the horses’d be falling/
    Lead them to water, they might just stand stalling.

    Something like that.

  3. says

    I think Universities ought to offer (or require?) a science class for non-science majors that covers basic science broadly–starting with an intro to the scientific method, followed by the major tenets of physics, biology, etc., and how those conclusions were arrived at. This would include evolution, the big bang, quantum mechanics, plate tectonics, etc. Enough to give non-majors a working knowledge in science, which is sorely lacking amongst non-scientists.

  4. says

    Back in the Stone Age when I went to college, we had a year long required Interdisciplinary Studies course for freshmen. Faculty from the sciences and the humanities shared teaching the sections. Perfect for most of us 18 yr olds who really had no idea why we were in college (outside of the partying and promises of wild unbridled sex).

  5. Sastra says

    The SLP will empower undergraduates to consider scientific approaches to societal issues …

    Scientism!!

  6. Brownian says

    Back in the Stone Age when I went to college, we had a year long required Interdisciplinary Studies course for freshmen. Faculty from the sciences and the humanities shared teaching the sections.

    That sounds awesome. While it’s true that non-scientists tend towards a very poor understanding of the scientific method, we’d likely have fewer libertarians jerking off in the nerdosphere if we forced the STEM students to read something other than Heinlein.

  7. carlie says

    Back in the Stone Age when I went to college, we had a year long required Interdisciplinary Studies course for freshmen. Faculty from the sciences and the humanities shared teaching the sections.

    We did that. Then some of the science people dropped out, then the humanities people decided to fold those classes into another major they had, and then they stopped asking the rest of the science faculty to teach in it. Or something like that. Interesting in concept, but a serious amount of work in practice. Fun, but very difficult to teach and cover all the required areas.

  8. carlie says

    Point being not to complain, but that a college really has to get behind that kind of idea and devote actual resources to it in order for it to work.

  9. crayzz says

    @Tom, #3

    In Canada, at least some schools require arts and humanities students to take so many credits in science. This means that all students must have a broad understanding of at least 2 or 3 fields of science. And I know mine (Laurentian University) offers some specialized science courses for certain groups of majors. The content is pretty much the same, but the focus is in areas more relevant to them. We’re currently offering a special physics class for this. I think human kenetics majors also have their own organic chemistry class.

  10. Marcus Hill (mysterious and nefarious) says

    In an odd reversal, my boss was very clear at a meeting yesterday that she was just passing a suggestion from senior management down when she mentioned the possibility of running sessions to improve the communication skills of mathematicians and physical scientists. One of my colleagues (physicist) and I (mathematician) looked at each other and laughed.

  11. judithsanders says

    Desperately needed. I was an English minor, and read a lot of great works of lit without ever encountering any discussion of the underlying scientific assumptions of the authors. Ok, well maybe there was brief mention of how Shakespeare would have viewed the world, but that was it.