Americans are good at a lot of things – business, football, eating, and making muscle cars, to name a few.
Want to know something thing we’re not good at? Science. For all of our money and international prowess, America is ranked just 17th in the world in science education. Not good.
In 2010, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan called America’s mediocre educational rankings “an absolute wake-up call for America.”
“The results are extraordinarily challenging to us and we have to deal with the brutal truth,” Duncan said. “We have to get more serious about investing in education.”
Well, here we are four years later and still not doing much better. The National Science Foundation just released the results of their latest scientific survey, and the findings are embarrassing. Let’s take a look at what some of our fellow countrymen and women think about science.
One in four Americans doesn’t realize the earth revolves around the sun. Let that sink in. It’s been over 400 years since Copernicus proved that all planets revolve around the sun, yet over a quarter of people in the richest nation on earth don’t know it.
21% of respondents answered that the sun revolves around the earth, while 7% were humble enough to admit they didn’t know the answer.
Next up: light.
Despite the best efforts of Queen, Chris Brown, and your science teacher, nearly one in four Americans doesn’t know that light travels faster than sound. It is a basic fact that nothing in the known universe travels faster than the speed of light. Einstein told us this over 100 years ago.
Here are two more head-shaking findings.
63% of respondents thought antibiotics kill viruses as well as bacteria.
43% said that electrons – tiny, negatively charged particles inside of atoms – were bigger than atoms. 37% were unsure which particles were bigger, and just 20% answered the question correctly.
The survey asked participants nine basic scientific questions. The average score was a 6.5 out of 9 – good for a 72%. America was three points away from getting a D on a test of things we should have learned in 5th grade.