In "Our Twin Mission: The Shoring-Up Of Science And Society" (The Scientist, Dec. 9, 1991, page 11), Bassam Shakhashiri makes a good case for the need to improve science education. However, he does not come to grips with the major barrier that will prevent the achievement of his goals. This barrier is the public attitude toward education, particularly precollege education. Nothing of any overall significance is going to occur in education until this barrier is removed, or at least lowered.

The simple fact is that while most Americans may say that education is important, they do not like it very much. The bright kid is a "nerd." It is the football star who has status, not the valedictorian. The high achiever in a class is considered to be a trouble-maker for the rest. Parents don't like to have to nag students about study.

The negative attitude toward education has an...

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