Science Literacy and Controversy

By Patte Barth

On July 4, European physicists announced they had amassed enough evidence to show that the elusive Higgs boson exists, capping a half century search involving thousands of scientists for what gives mass to matter.

It’s not often that science stories get above-the-fold attention in the press. But this tiny subatomic particle made huge news, for it opens the door to understanding the creation of the universe. So fundamental is the Higgs boson to existence that a Nobel Prize winner had earlier dubbed it the “God particle.” Little wonder, then, that scientists and students across the world tuned in for the announcement. Their reaction could be best described as giddy.

Discoveries like these are what make science so exciting. And it’s this spirit of discovery and innovation that the study of science can convey to our students. The American public tends to agree. Voters responding to a recent survey by Achieve, Inc., ranked providing a world-class math and science education second only to getting the nation’s fiscal house in order as key actions to keep the U.S. globally competitive. Science and math education ranked higher than lowering taxes and regulation on businesses, or investing in new technologies.

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