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Science Literacy Is Futile; Try Science Appreciation

Testifying at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee in November 1957, soon after Sputnik was launched, Edward Teller likened the need for public support of science to that of the arts. “Good drama,” he said, “can develop only in a country where there is a good audience. In a democracy, particularly if the real sovereign, the people, expresses lack of interest in a subject, then that subject cannot flourish.” Later in the hearing, giving his views on educatio

Morris Shamos

Testifying at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee in November 1957, soon after Sputnik was launched, Edward Teller likened the need for public support of science to that of the arts. “Good drama,” he said, “can develop only in a country where there is a good audience. In a democracy, particularly if the real sovereign, the people, expresses lack of interest in a subject, then that subject cannot flourish.” Later in the hearing, giving his views on education in science for the nonscience student, Teller added “The mass of our children should be given something which may not be terribly strenuous but should be interesting, stimulating, and amusing. They should be given science appreciation courses just as they are sometimes given music appreciation courses.”

Teller’s message came at a time when the U.S. public, and particularly the Congress, was worried about Soviet strides in space, and when massive...

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