In the summer of 1988, more than 2,000 American adults answered a short list of questions designed to test their basic knowledge of common science terms and concepts, in a study sponsored by the Public Opinion Laboratory at Northern Illinois University in De Kalb. The results were shocking--only 6 percent were judged to be scientifically literate. One of the most interesting findings of the study was that among those who scored well on the test, the "predominant, single most important predictor of science literacy" was having taken a college-level science course, according to survey mastermind Jon D. Miller, director of the Public Opinion Laboratory.

The message is clear: Academic scientists hold the key to making the United States a leader in science and technology in the next century. They can make science classes as relevant and fascinating as they believe their own research to be. Changes in the works throughout...

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