More Joined Up Thinking

I thought that we were supposed to be trying to get more school students interested in science? I must have got that wrong because that’s not what the Government’s policies will achieve.

I read this today.

That’s right; to save a measly two and a half million pounds per year the Science & Technology Philistine Council is proposing budget cuts that will almost certainly result in the closure of the Jodrell Bank Observatory. 

That sort of money is a lot to an individual but it is a drop in the ocean in the context of Government spending. Listing things one does not like that the Government continues to fund is a game we could all play but the most significant one to my mind is this:-

Under the Academy scheme, businesspersons can get Government subsidies of £20 -25 million to build and run their own schools. The creationist Peter Vardy has taken advantage of this largess and has built a number of pro-creationist academies in the North East of England. The subsidy for oneof these would pay for the running costs of the Jodrell Bank – MERLIN network for a decade.

I have not done a proper survey but anecdotal evidence suggests that dinosaurs and astronomy are the subjects most likely to get children interested in science. I don’t think you learn much about dinosaurs at a Vardy Academy and if astronomy becomes a does-not-happen-here subject we could lose that hook for an entire nation.

So. Are the Government trying to turn the youth of today away from science or are they totally incompetent?


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3 Responses to “More Joined Up Thinking”

  1. dvnutrix Says:

    gah. This reminds me of the excellent West Wing episodes – one about the super conducting super collider and how it had no immediate applications but was about discovery and knowledge and those are wondrous enough and valuable enough in themselves.

    Sam Seaborn: [while discussing the importance of funding the “Super-Conductor Super-Collider” – a controversial scientific project that would cost billions:]
    Sen. Jack Enlow, D-IL: If we can only say what benefit is in it. No-one has been able to do that.
    Dr. Dalton Millgate: That’s because great achievement has no road map; and the X-Ray is pretty good, and so is penicillin, and neither were discovered with a practical objective in mind; and when the electron was discovered in 1897, it was useless; and now was have an entire world run by electronics. Hayden and Mozart never studied the classics. They couldn’t. They invented them.
    Sam Seaborn: Discovery.
    Dr. Dalton Millgate: What?
    Sam Seaborn: That’s the thing that you were… Discovery is what. That’s what this is use for. It’s for discovery !

    Jodrell Bank – MERLIN – it’s about wonder and discovery.

  2. tcutonilli Says:

    As a science teacher who also teaches an elective course in astronomy, I can honestly say that kids get turned onto science when they get to go and experience new and exciting things like visiting a planetarium. Before I started full-time teaching, I taught at a planetarium for several years. I still have some of those kids come up to me and say how interested they are in astronomy because of their experiences visiting a planetarium those many years ago. These experiences are the “hook” that will get kids in science and pursue science-related careers; I should know, visiting a planetarium when I was a kid got me hooked.

  3. draust Says:

    Couldn’t agree more – utterly ludicrous.

    I was another of the kids who as a youngster was interested in stars / telescopes / planetaria / moonrockets. I ended up doing a different kind of science… BUT it is the getting interested in anything science-y that counts. Have posted my tuppence worth here.

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