Under the Noble Flag of ‘Developing Scientific and Technological Literacy’

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  • This article was downloaded by: [George Mason University]On: 17 December 2014, At: 22:22Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH,UK

    Studies in Science EducationPublication details, including instructions forauthors and subscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rsse20

    Under the Noble Flag ofDeveloping Scientific andTechnological LiteracyMasakata Ogawa aa Ibaraki University , JapanPublished online: 26 Mar 2008.

    To cite this article: Masakata Ogawa (1998) Under the Noble Flag of DevelopingScientific and Technological Literacy, Studies in Science Education, 31:1, 102-111,DOI: 10.1080/03057269808560116

    To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03057269808560116

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    http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditions

  • 102 Masakata Ogawa (Forum)

    Under the Noble Flag of 'Developing Scientific and Technological Literacy'

    MASAKATA OGAWA Ibaraki University, Japan

    INTRODUCTION

    The document clearly declares that the CCBS 'began its deliberations under the guiding conviction that science and science-based knowledge and technology are the driving engines for change in modern society.' Yes, I do agree with the CCBS's guiding conviction. However, I do not accept the tacit conviction that these engines of change should or can continue to be autonomous, even if, as the document states, 'we live in a world dominated by science and science-based technology.' The acceptability of these driving engines for change should be deliberated by the general public in the country concerned. An attentive public needs to pursue types of wisdom, not science-based knowledge, to manage modern science and technology. In this sense, we need to preserve 'Epistemological Diversity' in our world just as our planet needs 'Biological Diversity.' An attentive public, as well as the scientific community, should keep this point in mind when discussing the relationship between science and society, in general, and between science and education, in particular.

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  • Developing Scientific and Technological Literacy 103

    GENERAL PUBLIC PARTICIPATION (THE JAPANESE CASE)

    Scientists have expressed serious concerns about scientific and technological literacy among the general public for a long time. For example, the science education reform movement in the 1960s was guided by a group of concerned scientists (though the reform was not so successful; Duschl, 1985). Recently, projects by the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Academy of Science have dedicated themselves to science education reform in the USA. In this sense, the proposals of the ICSU are not so new to science educators. In scientist-led movements, the scientific community often decides what scientific and technological literacy is needed by the general public, based on the assumption that scientists and the general public share the same stance toward science and technology, in principle. According to scientists, literacy is primarily, for example: the ability to understand science and technology just as scientists do, to think just as scientists think, to have sympathy for and to appreciate science and technology, and to support the promotion of scientific and technological activities: in other words, literacy for science and technology. The general public has been treated only as passive targets of such movements, not as active stakeholders in the reform process.

    However, the situation has been changing, as scientific and technological literacy development becomes one of the major policies of government. For example, Japan has recently decided to take a step toward promoting science and technology as her survival strategy. One of the symbolic facts is that the Science and Technology Basic Law (15 November 1995, Legislation No. 130) was passed unanimously in the National Diet. The bill was compiled and presented not by the Government, but by a group of Diet members from all the Parties (except the Japanese Communist Party). Interestingly, there was specific pressure toward the establishment of the law from certain major economic organizations, but not from academic organizations. The process implies that an attentive public has now become active in the development of scientific and technological literacy. The Science and Technology Basic Law, in Article 19 of Chapter 5 (Promotion of Learning on Science and Technology), reads as follows:

    The nation should implement necessary policy measures to promote the learning of Science and Technology in school and social education, to enlighten the people in Science and Technology and to disseminate knowledge on Science and Technology, so that all Japanese people including the young can

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  • 104 Masakata Ogawa (Forum)

    deepen their understanding of and interest in Science and Technology with every opportunity.'

    Article 19, the Science and Technology Basic Plan (Cabinet Decision, 2 July 1996), formulated to promote science and technology for the next decade, clearly seeks 'to acquire public understanding and interest as to the meaning, role, achievement, ripple effects, and development of science and technology.' One section of 'Promotion of Learning About Science and Technology, and Formation of a National Consensus' reads:

    'The government will strive to: foster talented people who are creative and independent and who have dreams and the passion for science and technology, and to create an environment in which the public can feel close to, and have an interest in, science and technology. Based on the Basic Guidelines for Securing science and technology-oriented Personnel, the government will intensify the publication and education of science and technology by; enhancing science and technology education at elementary and secondary school, and holding various workshops for young people....

    It is extremely regrettable that science and technology is believed to be difficult to understand and far from the public today, in light of the growing expectation on the role and future of science and technology....

    Therefore, it is important to gain the public's deep and broad understanding for the promotion of science and technology with full respect towards harmony with humans, society, and nature. The government will implement measures to enhance public understanding and interest by, for example, providing relevant information and promoting public debates. It is also very important for researchers to provide easy-to-understand information on science and technology...'

    The tacit conviction found in these phrases are quite similar to that of the ICSU document. At least superficially, the Japanese Government as the representative of Japanese general public seems to be able to join in the programmes proposed by the ICSU.

    The policies stated in the Plan are now being implemented at an unbelievable rate, receiving up to a 10% budget increase every year. The slogans 'Promotion of Science and Technology' and 'Japan as a country of

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  • Developing Scientific and Technological Literacy 105

    Science and Technology' seem to sound comfortable both to the general public and to statesmen. If the ICSU document, therefore, were distributed among the Japanese, it would be welcomed by most sectors of, for example, scientists, engineers, and statesmen. The spirit of Science and Technology policy in Japan illustrated above resonates with the ICSU document.

    In Japan, at least, the general public and scientific community are formally going to join in the tough battle of developing scientific and technological literacy of Japanese people. I do not think that the situation is unique to the Japanese context alone. The same may be true and may have already happened among other industrialised societies. Thus, it can be said that we are in the new stage of science education policy making. The general public along with science professionals are beginning to come together under the noble flag of 'Scientific and Technological Literacy Development.'

    DIFFERENT TYPES OF STANCES TOWARDS SCIENCE

    Ideally, science education policy should be made through deliberative discussion among the general public (stakeholders in the success of science education) with sufficient information provided from relevant sources. However, it seems to me probable that, especially in Japan, the initiative will be taken by the scientific community; or more precisely, that the general public will expect the scientific community to take initiatives, because scientists are the 'specialists.' Few members of the general public are aware that specialists of science and technology are not necessarily the specialists of the education of science and technology. Criticisms of the 1960s education movement guided by scientific experts are still valid (Duschl, 1985).

    When considering science education policy making, the conventional first stage is to ensure equal representation among members of the general public by classifying the stakeholders according to their professional roles, for instance, as scientists, science educators, school administrators, parents, etc. However, this kind of classification does not consider the diversity of views held by stakeholders within each group: for example, all science educators do not have the same attitude toward, and knowledge of, science and technology. The same is true for other stakeholders. Thus, it would be wise for us to look for a different classification scheme, one that describes people by their respective stances towards science.

    My suggestion is to establish three mutually independent dimensions to describe individual's views concerning science: (1) science literacy versus science illiteracy (whether or not they understand science); (2) pro-science

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  • 106 Masakata Ogawa (Forum)

    versus anti-science (whether or not they support science); and (3) pro-scientism versus anti-scientism (whether or not they believe uncritically in science); in short, knowledge, attitude and faith. This last dimension is explained in more detail by providing a specific meaning for 'scientism' and then discussing some relevant issues.

    SCIENTISM

    'Scientism' is a popular term among certain science educators, but consensus on the definition is elusive. For example, Cobern (1994, p.585) writes, Though recognizing the tentative nature of all scientific knowledge, scientism imbues scientific knowledge with a Laplacian certainty denied all other disciplines, thus giving science an a priori status in the intellectual world.' John Ziman (1980) writes as follows:

    '(Scientism) reinforces, without question or comment, the widespread sentiment that science should be the only authority for belief and the only criterion for action... The trouble with scientism is that it takes as given an attitude 'for' science, without deeper analysis. This attitude provokes naive forms of antiscientism which are equally sterile. The very questions that are to be answered in the attempt to formulate satisfactory opinions about the role, value, use, etc., of science have already been begged.' (p.33)

    Habermas (1974) uses a rather simple definition of scientism: 'science's belief in itself: that is, the conviction that we can no longer understand science as one form of possible knowledge, but rather must identify knowledge with science' (p.4). I prefer a simple definition of scientism because what I want to discuss is the stance among stakeholders towards science in general terms, and not precisely what science is (the nature of science, social or cultural contexts of science, scientific ways of thinking, scientific knowledge, etc.). For that purpose, it is enough to define scientism is an ideology that identifies valid knowledge only with science. Scientism, is clearly found at the core of the ICSU document, as follows.

    'The mechanism to reduce the global imbalance of science and technology development, that is, the global gap of well-being, and to increase the social stability of the world, is not easy to design.

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  • Developing Scientific and Technological Literacy 107

    What is the remedy? Knowledge is the common treasure of humankind.' (My emphasis)

    Thus, the meaning of each word, pro-scientism and anti-scientism is clear. The former means a positive commitment to scientism, while the latter means a negative commitment to scientism.

    ISSUES ACCOMPANIED BY SCIENTISM

    Scientism in science education contexts expresses itself unconsciously by compelling learners (1) to believe in science, and (2) to apply or use science in life-world settings. I have argued against this manifestation of scientism (Ogawa, 1995; 1996; 1997a; 1997b). On the first point, I have proposed the need to distinguish 'understanding science' from 'believing in science.' This means that in my three-dimensional theoretical framework, the first dimension (science literary versus science illiteracy) should be distinguished from the third (pro-scientism versus anti-scientism).

    A belief in science, scientific attitudes, and scientific...

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