Teaching and Learning About Science and Social Policy

Kenneth D. Benne, Max Birnbaum
1985 Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society  
This monograph explores aspects of science and technology in contemporary society and suggests methods for teaching about social policy issues which have resulted from scientific and technological developments. Section one offers an argument for teaching about science and social policy; surveys the sociology, politics, and history of contemporary science and technology; and identifies methodological problems in teaching about science and .social policy. Included is a discussion of six general
more » ... arning objectives which should be met in a study of science and social policy. The objectives include understanding the (1) role of citizen participation in policymaking, (2) extent to which scientific and technological developments can change people's lives, (3) ways in which laymen depend upon experts' knowledge, and (4) importance of translating personal values into participative action. Section two presents social studies Units on nuclear energy, electronic technology, and genetic engineering. Each unit includes expository How can and should we control cancer-producing chemicals in food, air, and water? Here the expertliOf chemists, chemical engineers, medical scientists, and sanitary engineers comes'into play. How can and should we rebuild and maintain damaged life-support systems for endangered animal species, including man? Here the advice of ecologists and environmental engineers is required. How can and should we protect individuals from the invasion of their privacy by the intrusions--dangerously implicit and to some extent now explicit --of computers and other forms of electronic science and technology? Here the resources of solid-state physicists and electronics engineers and technicians become important. Two significant points about contemporary policymaking emerge from 'these observations. The first, point is that policymakers are now inescapably dependent upon two classes of experts": scientists and technologists, or engineers. Although this condition has existed since the Industrial (evolution, the extent and quality of this dependence changed in the United States and other developed nations during and after World War II. The revolutionary character of this change can be illustrated by pointing to what has happened in recent years to the so-called natural sciences--physics, chemistry, and biology. The adjective "natural," when applied to science, once connoted the study of and accumulation of knowledge about the forms of energy, matter, and life that existed and functioned naturally on and around our planet Earth,. The technological application of scientific knowledge was focused on improving and refining the utilization of natural energies, materials, and life forms. However, recent advances in the "natural" sciences have produced energies and materials not previously found in terrestrial nature. Nuclear physicists, have converted matter into energy, created new chemical elements, and produced concentrations of radiant and heat energy not previously iccurring on Earth. And nuclear engineers have developed these findings into artifactg that introduce unprecedented conditions into our habitat. Chemists have produced thousands of compounds with no counterparts in nature, and chemical engineers have impregnated our environment with these artifactual substances in the form of insecticides, herbicides, drugs, synthetic fibers, and plastics. We are told by physicians that more than 8 'These educators fear 'that students may become more concerned about guessing which thoughts, feelings, aspirations, and values the teacher considers worthy of an "A" or "B" than about expressing their own thoughts, feelings, aSpirations"and values, Assuming responsibility for their choices and , behavior is essential if students are to grow into responsible citizens.
doi:10.1177/027046768500500303 fatcat:vwx26fkvxnabfcr34kio5rr64m