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Are Mad-Scientists Killing Education?

spider man turn off the dark, spiderman

Totally evil scientists wrecking education.

A senior executive producer of NOVA, the popular and long-running PBS science program, has named a new villain in the American education crisis: mad-scientist villains.

American science education already ranks low among other rich nations and Paula Apsell says that smarty-pants evil-doers are just adding to a pervasive culture of distrust when it comes to science and knowledge, and it’s time to retire them from entertainers’ enemies list. There’s too much good that has come from science, she writes on her blog at PBS.org:

… [S]cience and engineering brought us longer and healthier lives, enabled us to learn about worlds beyond our own, and given us all the electronic gadgets we love so much, including the one I’m typing on right now. And if we want this progress to continue to improve our lives and to bolster our economy, let’s stop picking on scientists and find another villain. There are certainly plenty of real ones out there.


Apsell knows something about entertainment getting people excited about science. She’s the producer who spun-off NOVA scienceNow, hosted by Neil DeGrasse Tyson and is the most-watched science series on American television (and whose site brings in the most views to PBS in general).

She points to the new Broadway musical, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, as the latest example of white-coat shame. The show stays true to its comic book story lines and has Spidey scaling walls and leaping across the stage against yet another mad-man using science to rule the world.

Apparently, the show has enough problems without getting into a dialogue over what it’ll do to kids. I think science is more popularly cool now than it ever was when I was a kid. But I agree with the spirit of Apsell’s plea. We live in a culture that calls medical advances “miracles” and intelligent design worthy of school kids’ attention. The terms “hypothesis” and “theory” are regularly interchanged.

For the next super-hero action show, I’m all for going after the real mad-men/women of the planet. Global-warming deniers are a start. Or a giant corporation trying to control the Internet. Those are the types that scare me.

Maybe we could even peel the leotards off our superheroes and fight science-wrongs with science super stars. Starting with Neil DeGrasse Tyson?

Image: the angry booth

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