Does Our Next President Need to Be "Scientifically Literate"?

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New Book by Prize-Winning Scientist James Trefil Makes the Case for Scientific Literacy in Today's Society

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In the midst of presidential primary session, it seems the list of topics in which we want our nation's next president to be well-versed is endless - the economy, the Iraq War, global warming, the price of oil, health care, the war in Afghanistan, scienceā€¦Why science?

In his new book for Teachers College Press, prize-winning scientist and best-selling author James Trefil answers that question. He makes the case for why every U.S. citizen - even presidents and congressmen - needs to be "scientifically literate" to participate in our democratic society. In "Why Science?" Trefil asserts that all students - not just those who are going to be scientists - must graduate with enough scientific knowledge to participate in our national conversation about issues that impact their everyday lives.

Adding scientific literacy to the list of literacy skills needed to survive in the 21st century, Trefil's new book provides educators and anyone who is interested in education with a guide to today's key science topics and how to teach them. In his engaging and conversational style, Trefil discusses the importance of using scientific literacy skills to debunk scientific myths and understand the world in which we live today.

Yet, when he examines the state of scientific literacy in this country, the picture looks dismal. In fact, the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) report on science - dubbed "The Nation's Report card" - revealed that high school seniors were scoring lower in science today than in 1996.

He stresses that we need a strong foundation in science to be a part of any liberal education so we can grapple with issues that confront us every day, such as stem cell research, global warming, cloning and intelligent design.

Written for classroom teachers, school administrators, college and university faculty and anyone who cares about scientific literacy, "Why Science?" is already earning accolades from leaders in the science and education communities.

"'Why Science?' should be required reading for all middle school and high school science teachers, superintendents, school board members, college faculty, deans, provosts, college presidents and legislators at all levels," said Jon Miller, director, International Center for the Advancement of Scientific Literacy, Michigan State University.

Trefil's previous books have received high acclaim, summed up by "The New York Times": "Trefil surpasses almost all other scientists' writing about science for the public."

Trefil is the Clarence J. Robinson Professor of Physics at George Mason University. His other books include "The Dictionary of Cultural Literacy," "1001 Things Everyone Needs to Know About Science" and "Are We Unique? A Scientist Explores the Human Mind." He has been a regular contributor to "Smithsonian Magazine," science contributor for National Public Radio and contributing editor for science at "USA Weekend." He is a fellow of the American Physical Society, the World Economic Forum and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, as well as a former Guggenheim Fellow. In 2000, the American Institute of Physics recognized him with the Andrew W. Gemant Award, presented for outstanding and sustained contributions in bridging the gap between science and society.

"Why Science?" is available from Teachers College for $19.95 for paperback and $52 for cloth. To order, call 800-575-6566 or visit

Press Only: Review copies of "Why Science?" are available by contacting Lisa Wolfe, L. Wolfe Communications, 773-325-9935.

Dr. Trefil is available for interviews and may be booked by contacting L. Wolfe Communications.

About Teachers College Press

As the university press for Teachers College, Columbia University, Teachers College (TC) Press stands out as the trusted source for high-quality, innovative and timely resources for those concerned about the future of education. One of the oldest and most distinguished publishers in this field in the United States, TC Press has built its reputation on a commitment to excellence and a readiness to tackle the most difficult and provocative issues facing American education. For more than a century, it has published works at the cutting edge of theory, research and practice, and today its publications reach far beyond students and scholars of education to practicing educators from pre-K to post-secondary education, policy makers, parents and the general public. For more information, visit


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