Special Report

How Much Do Americans Know About Science?

An exclusive poll shows Americans crave stronger mathematics, science schooling for U.S. kids

Many Americans think U.S. teens perform even worse on standardized science tests than they actually do, according to a new national survey. (Tim Pannell / Corbis)
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The response, says Scott Keeter, Pew’s research director, “reflects a perception that the U.S. is at risk in those areas, that American superiority might be slipping away and needs to be addressed.”

After math the subject most often said to need more emphasis in school was reading and writing, favored by 19 percent of those surveyed. Surprisingly few respondents, just 4 percent, called for stronger computer education, perhaps because American youngsters are perceived as having adequate, if not excessive, exposure to computers.

When asked the key reason young people don’t pursue degrees in science and math, 22 percent of those surveyed said such degrees weren’t useful to their careers and 20 percent said the subjects were “too boring.” By far the most common response, though, was that science and math were “too hard,” a belief held by 46 percent of respondents.

That might be a problem educators need to study.


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