Neil DeGrasse Tyson Criticizes the U.S. Education System

June 4th 2016

Kyle Jaeger

There are still people who believe that the Earth is flat — more than 2,400 years after the Greek philosopher Aristotle proved otherwise — and Neil DeGrasse Tyson thinks the U.S. education system is to blame.

Neil DeGrasse Tyson

In an interview with the Huffington Post last month, Tyson compared flat-Earthers to egocentric children who believe they "are the center of [their] own universe." It's hard to grow out of that mentality, Tyson said, "not only when we grow up as humans, but also as we grow up as a civilization."

Still, the difficultly of maturation is no excuse for ignorance about fundamental properties of the university, he says. After all, flat Earth theories have been effectively discredited by scientists and academics, who point to evidence such as the fact that 1) the Earth casts a spherical shadow on the moon during a Lunar eclipse; 2) ships appear to sink as they dip beyond the horizon; and 3) you can see the Earth's curves and shape from space.

"I blame the education system that can graduate someone into adulthood who cannot tell the difference between what is and is not true about this world," Tyson said of flat Earthers.

He has a point. Education funding — specifically for astronomy programs — has taken a toll in the last century.

“The entire college-educated population of colonial and 18th- and 19th-century America was reasonably well versed in principles of elementary astronomy,” Dr. Jeanne Bishop, a member of the International Planetarium Society’s education committee, wrote in the journal Science Education. " But astronomy virtually disappeared from secondary schools, teacher-training institutions, and liberal-degree colleges about 1900."

Dr. Bishop continued:

"Students are therefore deprived of the realization of one of the most fundamental and unifying of science subjects — orientation in space and time and the nature of the universe which lies beyond our planet. To the extent that astronomy is understood, it influences the world view of society and each individual, consciously and unconsciously."

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