The following is a condensed version of The Oredigger’s interview with Bill Nye.
What about science makes you so excited, and how can teachers get this across to students?
Nye was excited right away with this question. His immediate response was “How can they not?!” He talked about how science is important for the future, considering human impact on the world, and that it’s the best idea humanity ever had.
How can teachers get students who dislike math to enjoy subjects of science that are more math-heavy?
“Algebra is really important. We have this problem in the United States, where we let people not learn algebra.” He continues, “We need to start teaching symbols representing numbers much younger, so that we don’t have this high stakes thing in 7th or 8th grade.” “Algebra is the single, most reliable indicator of whether or not someone pursues a career in math or science. It is not clear that it’s cause and effect, but if someone doesn’t do well in algebra or doesn’t like algebra, he or she will almost certainly not pursue a career in math or science.”
How scientifically literate should the average person be? Should they understand any of the math behind scientific discovery, or just conceptually understand it?
“Well we want you to be an informed voter. That is our/my goal. So that you have an appreciation for science when you vote. Should you pay taxes to support the centers for disease control, or should you let people just get Zika? Should you pay taxes to support public universities, or not?” He continues, “When you’re watching television, and somebody has a workout regimen that will turn you into this super buff guy in a weekend, we want you to be able to evaluate the evidence for that critically. That’s what we want. So you don’t have to know the math behind that, I don’t think. But math is empowering! When you measure stuff, that’s when you really get things done in science.”
On the debate with Ken Ham, most scientists won’t debate Christian scientists because it validates the young earth belief in a sense. Why did you choose to debate Ken Ham?
“Yes, my good friend!” Nye was lively at hearing the name Ken Ham.
“The term ‘Christian science’ is a special term. That’s a special thing where you don’t go to doctors. The idea is if you’re sick you just pray about it and you’ll be fine.” He told the story of his dad’s best buddy’s wife, who did the latter and died.
“I believe the long term effects will be good for science.” He talked about how Ken Ham acquired finances, and runs the museum, saying that the museum has “obvious, clear, no question violations of the first amendment.” “The grown-ups in Kentucky, they’re not going to be influenced, but the young people, is where I’m going for. I hope that eventually, he goes out of business. You just don’t want people growing up not believing in evolution and accepting some wacky notion that the earth is somehow 6000 years old.”
Teaching is not one of the better paid professions, other than a change in salary, what else needs to happen for teaching to become a more sought after career path?
“To invest in teachers would probably have to be a national or federal thing. By way of example, states continually fight evolution. It’s unconstitutional, and whenever they do it, it gets thrown out. But a lot of time, effort, and energy is put into fighting people, trying to promote that the earth is 6000 years old at school boards. What I remind everybody is, yes, I hope, when it comes to kindergarten, I hope you’ve mastered the curriculum. I hope whoever you hire can figure out what happens in kindergarten. There’s the alphabet, there’s some numbers. I’ve spent a lot of time with rocket scientists, I’ve spent time with nobel laureates. You do not want these people teaching kindergarten, they would suck at it! So it’s a different skill. We want to raise the salaries of teachers, because then teachers will have more prestige.”
See also: Nye Encourages Focus on Climate Change