Increasing Scientific Literacy

Neil deGrasse Tyson was asked, “What do we need to do to increase our scientific literacy?” Here is his answer:

… One is what do you do with your kids? Kids need to be able to explore freely, and if you look at most households they’re not designed for that. They’re designed to have the kid not explore. The kid comes into your kitchen and pulls out the pots and pans and starts banging on them. Whats the first thing you do as a parent? “Stop that! You’re getting the dishes dirty!” Yet these are experiments in acoustics. That’s what that is, okay?

Whatever the kid is doing if it has the chance of breaking something you’re going to tell them to not do it without thinking that that’s the consequence of an experiment they’re conducting. Every time the kid wants to do something, provided it doesn’t kill them, it’s an experiment. Let it run its course. Even if it makes something messy. You agreed to have a kid in the first place, fine, clean up after them!

Because it’s those seeds of curiosity that is the foundation of what it is to become a scientist. Now, I don’t want everybody to be a scientist, that’d be a boring world. I want the poets and I want the musicians. We need that, but I’m talking about promoting scientific literacy. And so the first step is for the parents to get out of the way. Allow the child to explore.

They start playing in the mud- “Don’t do that in the mud, I just cleaned those pants!” You’re getting in the way of another experiment. They start plucking the petals off the flowers you just bought from the florist and you say “Stop that! I just paid $10 for those flowers.” Had you let them continue they’d find the stamen and the pistol and they’d learn something about the flower. For ten bucks! That’s cheap! David Bach one time president of Harvard once said, “If you think education is expensive, try the cost of ignorance.”

So that’s got to start at home.

Unschooling 101. Beautiful.


(h/t Kicking it Unschool)

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Founder and editor of and, Skyler is a husband and unschooling father of three beautiful children. His writings include the column series “One Voluntaryist’s Perspective” and “One Improved Unit,” and blog series “Two Cents“. Skyler also wrote the books No Hitting! and Toward a Free Society, and edited the books Everything Voluntary and Unschooling Dads. You can hear Skyler chatting away on his podcasts, Everything Voluntary and Thinking & Doing.