March 4, 1998
Hearing Volume No. 105-60
On March 4, 1998, the National Science Policy Study Task Force conducted the first in a series of seven hearings entitled, "National Science Policy Study, Parts I-VII" to examine the common components educators have found that are critical to engaging children in science, and thereby successfully imparting scientific understanding to them.
This was the first of seven hearings held by the Committee on Science as part of the National Science Policy Study led by Congressman Vernon Ehlers, Vice Chairman of the Committee.
Witnesses included: Mr. Bill Nye of the television program "Bill Nye the Science Guy"; Dr. Joel Schneider, Vice President for Education and Research, Children's Television Workshop; Ms. Sandra Parker, fifth grade teacher at Flint Hill School, Oakton, Virginia and recipient of the 1997 Presidential Award for Teaching Excellence in Mathematics and Science; Dr. Thomas Krakauer, Director, North Carolina Museum of Science and Technology; and Dr. Susan Carey, Department of Psychology, New York University.
Summary of hearing
Mr. Nye testified that science is intrinsically interesting. He acknowledged that his educational television show is entertainment and that if the show stopped being entertaining, its ratings would drop, and the show would be taken off the air. He stated that science teachers should try to make their own classrooms as interesting as possible. He noted that science has an inherent advantage over other disciplines in that only science has the "gizmos and demonstrations" that are the basics of scientific experimentation. He said that teachers should use all the gizmos that they can in order to make the classroom interesting. He stated that grammar school and high school science textbooks should be written in plain English and not bogged down with unnecessary scientific verbiage. Mr. Nye said that the government should support more funding for schools, support programs to help encourage women and under-represented minorities to enter scientific professions, and also suggested that the U.S. should convert to the metric system.