Scientific Literacy and Cultural Studies Project (SLCSP)
Western Michigan University


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Scientific Literacy and
Cultural Studies Project Abstract

To date, science educators have not studied what students and teachers believe about the world, beliefs rooted and nurtured in the cultural environments in which students and teachers live. If one were speaking of a non-Western, developing nation, one would speak of students' traditional culture in contrast to the culture of science. Americans, on the other hand, assume that science is a natural part of American students' culture. There is, however, widespread disinterest in science. Also, American society is increasingly pluralistic, and there are several cultural subgroups traditionally under represented in science. A new approach is for American science educators to consider the possibility that science is a second culture experience for many students. Traditionally, the study of culture is left to the cultural anthropologists. In recent years, however, scholars in several disciplines have undertaken cultural studies in which they investigate the validity of cultural assumptions in their fields. Similarly, cultural studies in science education can contribute significantly to our understanding of the barriers to effective science education. We suggest that it is important for science educators to understand the fundamental, culturally based beliefs about the world that students and teachers bring to class, and how these beliefs are supported by culture; because, science education is successful only to the extent that science can find a niche in the cognitive and cultural milieu of students. Thus, the purpose of this research is to gain an understanding of student and teacher fundamental beliefs about the world, and how personal/cultural environments foster and support those beliefs. The methodology is ethnographic, involving the extensive interviewing of students.

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