How well are we communicating science to the public? First, let's start with the children. Let's look at the results of the Third International Mathematics and Science Study. Tests were administered to about a half-million students in 41 countries in 1995, and the results were released in March 1998. We know that our fourth graders stack up reasonably well compared to peers in 40 other countries. Remarkably, by eighth grade, United States students are less competitive, and by graduation from high school, they are nearly at the bottom of the pack. The more time spent in school, the less competitive U.S. students become.

The questions on the test were "designed to measure general knowledge and skills necessary for citizens in their daily life." There was no rocket science and no requests to calculate pi to 20 places. Here is an example of a question: "Experts say that 25 percent of...

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