Implications for science education and citizenship

It is 50 years since CP Snow gave his influential lecture, The Two Cultures (published in 1959), which identified and analysed the huge gap between the arts and science. For Snow, science was the way forward in terms of solving the world's problems, and he felt that the divide hindered this greatly. He believed that the solution lay in education, and only here could the building blocks be laid for reducing, and eventually removing entirely, this binary opposition of science and arts.

On May 5th 2009, BBC Radio 4 conducted an interview with two prominent academics, questioning whether the 'two cultures' of Snow's essay still exist today. Marcus du Sautoy, Charles Simonyl Professor for the Public Understanding of Science and Professor of Mathematics at Oxford University, and Stefan Collini, Professor of Intellectual History and English Literature at Cambridge University, both expressed different views which are interesting in the light of the Two Cultures lecture. CP Snow felt that the political and social world was governed by those most interested in humanities, thus blocking the application of science to solving the world's problems. Du Sautoy states that while he feels there is still a gap in many areas, some areas such as the creative arts are bridging the divide, citing Michael Frayn's place, Copenhagen, as a good example. He goes further to say that it is also the responsibility of the scientists to put forward their findings in an interesting way, one that is appealing and comprehensible to those who do not know the subject in great detail. Collini also champions this idea, believing that "cultivating a kind of bilingualism" should be encouraged, and people should "use specialised idiom of their own subject when talking to other specialists". The interview ends with du Sautoy concluding that it is perhaps the education system that is dividing the two subjects and still creating this rift, stating that there should be more fluidity between arts and science. The full interview can be found here.

 

However, blen believes in a non-divisive unity in knowledge, feeling that both science and the arts are equally important in providing a solid base for personal and societal development and growth. It is disappointing then that there is no mention of science in PSHE and Citizenship.

blen is in agreement with Collini's notion of 'bilingualism' being of huge importance. However, we would prefer the term 'biliteracy', where the pupil can be conversant in both the arts and science to a high level of understanding. It is only through an early start to learning science that this link can be made, and the gap between the two narrowed.


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