Derek Lowe (of “Things I Won’t Work With” fame) had a good post the other day about scientific literacy:
He references this article from Slate:
…which got me thinking about the topic as well.
My concern about any sort of citizen involvement in policy has not been that we as the public don’t know enough to be able to spot the bad policies (which we often don’t), or that we aren’t versed enough in the scientific method to understand experimentation and evidence (which we like to ignore). My concern is that we just don’t have the time.
Right now there are 19 bills and resolutions in Congress (so sayeth Govtrack). Of them, I can see five that are fairly trivial, ten that I either don’t care much about or don’t know enough about to care about, and four that would be interesting to me. One of them is 2 uninformative pages, one is 4 pages, one is 91 pages, and one is 126 pages.
That’s just the current dockett. Here are the 290 bills and resolutions that passed either the house or the senate and need a vote from the other side.
Seriously, being a congressman is a more-than-full-time job. This doesn’t even look at state bills. If there were even one fifty-page bill per day, I wouldn’t have time to read it and understand it. I’d still be relying on outside sources to tell me what’s going on with the bill, and trying to find sources that I trust – how, I’m not sure. It’s like trusting your plumber, I guess – you don’t know what the hell the guy does, but if your pipes stop leaking afterwards, he must be worth the money
If I wanted to teach children (from grade school through high school) about what they need to know in order to be an informed citizen, I think I’d concentrate on having them encourage congress to pass fewer laws, so that we have time to pay attention to them. We can teach children to think all we want (and I’m serious, we really can, we know how), but government does not always want citizens butting in. The more complex it is, the less the chance that someone will get involved and make a difference.