"Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common." - Albert Einstein

Monday, October 30, 2017

A Scientist Costume for Halloween?

My children did not pick a scientist costume for Halloween. That is good, I guess. Judging from children's books, the image children have regarding scientists may not be flattering. Take, for instance, Mr. Galvin, the science teacher in Big Nate, or Dr. Diaper from Captain Underpants.

Above copied from DailyStrips
Above copied from Thirty Days Later and I'm Still Thinking

Why dress up as a decent scientist when a costume for a mad scientist is less than half in price.

Above copied from Google

Popular culture provides young children with images of a scientist. Unfortunately, even with books for young minds recommended by the National Science Teachers' Association, according to research published in School Science and Mathematicsthere are clearly stereotypical images:
"This study utilized the Draw-A-Scientist Test Checklist (DAST-C) to assess the illustrations of scientists in the most recent three years of NSTA Recommends book lists. A total of 15,778 images were contained in the 148 books from those lists, of which 1,676 were of scientists. ANOVA procedures revealed no significant differences in stereotypical elements across the three years of books. However, three notable stereotypical elements were present in large percentages in books from all years: predominance of male images, non-minority scientists, and scientists who were not youthful." {Bold emphasis added}
Scientists are old and white males.

Whether what children see in their books as depictions of scientist affects their perception of scientists is of course still debatable. However, how books represent culture and the views of society in general is not debatable. These pictures are real clues to how society views science and its main actors. These are real challenges to learning science during the years of basic education.



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