“Why a four-year-old child could understand this report. (turns to Bob) Run out and find me a four-year-old child. I can’t make head nor tail out of it.” – Groucho Marx, Duck Soup
Rufus T. Firefly, president of Freedonia, wanted the aid of a 4 year old to understand a government report. Alan Alda wants to explain science to 11 year-olds. Not sure what, if any connection to make here…
Alan Alda runs a yearly contest to take a school kid’s science question and ask scientists to explain it at a level an 11-year-old can understand. We have discussed this previously here. Today, the next topic, one much more suited to this sort of treatment than time, 2013’s topic, was announced: sound.
It’s really a nice project, on the surface, at least, run by the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University in New York. Here’s the Mission Statement.
But there are issues here. First off, this effort is part of the journalism school at Stony Brook, which might be OK if there were any indication that journalists have any success whatsoever communicating science. Click the Science! category to the right for reasons to suspect otherwise. Also, Mr. Alda mentioned back in 2012:
“There’s hardly an issue we deal with today that isn’t affected by science,” Alda said. “I’ve even heard from a number of people in Congress that they often don’t understand what scientists are talking about when they go to Washington to testify, and these are the people who make the decisions about funding and policy.”
Really, now? So apparently the goal here is to shape little 11 year old minds so that, when they grow up (or are drafted into an activist photo op – or is that too cynical?) they make correct policy and funding determinations about science – as understood by the journalists at Stony Brook. Since Alda thinks there is ‘hardly an issue’ that isn’t affected by science, that means, following the logic here, there’s hardly an issue upon which your 11 year old should not have his views shaped by university journalists.
What could possibly go wrong? How has it worked out so far to have journalists explain everything to us, including what constitutes right thinking and right action?