Trickle Down Education Not Working

Last week, I noticed an article on Yahoo! that I thought was particularly thought provoking.  However, I didn't get a chance to mention it on the blog until now.  Frank Eltman writes the article, which is entitled, "Alan Alda Asks Scientists to Explain: What's Time?"  In it, Alda challenges scientists to come up with a way to explain the concept of time (eg. what is time, why does it only go forward, etc.) " terms a sixth grader could understand."  On  a more general level, Alda criticizes scientists for being unable or unwillingness to promulgate important scientific concepts to the masses.  I would go further and say that all academic professions need to do a better job of disseminating new information/discoveries/ideas to the general public.  The current trickle down educational scheme is not working.

Classroom-Courtesy of Microsoft Office
When I first matriculated in the M.A. in English program at UVA, I was shocked when I came to realize that much of what I learned in high school and college was erroneous. Worse, academic specialists had been aware of the errors for years but, as a group, had not done anything to dispel them.  Scholars had corresponded with each other via peer-reviewed journal articles and personal letters/emails; however, they did not attempt to communicate their findings to the general population, especially to young learners.  When asked, one professor admitted as much; he said something like, "The information will find its way down eventually."  Trickle down theory may work for some things, but not for education.

Granted, the average Joe or Jane can find almost anything on the  Internet.  A search for "time" on Google, Bing, or Yahoo! will probably yield an essay or article that provides a brief, accurate, and easily understandable synopsis of time (as concept, material force, etc.).  The problem lies in the fact that the everyday individual has no way to vet the results; how would he or she know which of the thousands (or millions) of sites has the correct information? 

Wikipedia has helped in this area, but it is not the entire answer.  The academic profession needs to work with laypeople to get this information to the masses.  As important, specialists in the various fields, along with local and federal agencies, need to do a better job of disseminating correct information to grade school and high school teachers.  In my opinion, state sponsored continuing education classes (for teacher re-certification), as they are currently constituted, have not been effective at this task.  If they were effective, the grade school age me would have learned that the brontosaurus never existed (the supposed brontosaurus fossil was actually an apatosaurus specimen). 


  1. Quiero que el espíritu
    De la Navidad haga
    para ti Anthony…
    De cada deseo una flor
    De cada lágrima una sonrisa
    De cada dolor una estrella
    De cada suspiro una melodía
    De cada beso una esmeralda
    Y de cada corazón una dulce morada…
    Para copntinuar caminando
    Por la vereda de la vida enamorada…

    Un abrazo de esperanzas
    Y un beso de añoranzas.

    ¡¡Feliz Navidad para ti y familia!!

    María Del Carmen

  2. we have so much knowledge available to us, yet so many of us are... not very intelligent.

  3. I've listened to a particle physicist attempt to explain why it's so difficult
    to teach complex concepts to those who don't come close to understanding certain
    basic principles that are needed in order to comprehend such concepts.

    His synopsis of the issue was that terminology and lingo changes from industry
    to industry and changes even more when you go into sub-groups of those industries.
    The actual identity of a sub-group of an industry relies on setting itself apart
    from others with changes in definitions of words.

    This explains a lot to me, but I believe there are more discriminatory factors that
    cause the discrepancy between knowledge of the masses and true scientific knowledge.