Who asks the question may affect both the question and the answer

How to promote more diversity within science research is a question posed in the book “Who’s Asking? Native Science, Western Science, and Science Education,” by Douglas L. Medin and Megan Bang, (2014, Massachusetts Institute of Technology). Our cultural background may impact not only what research studies are funded and performed but also which studies and which scientists are highlighted in textbooks and in science education classes. How science information is presented to students may impact whether they will be motivated to pursue further education in areas of science research.

Books and lectures that focus on researchers and history from Western science may bias the education of students from kindergarten through graduate school and may affect whether students seek further education in scientific topics. The authors of the book “Who’s Asking” present research regarding the idea that the cultural background we receive from our families and communities during our upbringing may create different viewpoints about the role humans have to play within nature. Stories from Native American cultures may place humans more within nature as a part of the greater whole. Stories from Western culture may place humans as separate from the rest of nature or even in a place of more importance than the rest of the natural world.

Within the book “Who’s Asking” (page 209-210) the authors share a list of education design principles which may help with developing a more culturally diverse science curriculum. The list had been hand written on a poster located in the researcher’s meeting room at the American Indian Center in Chicago, and I have slightly paraphrased it here:

  1. Use local, place based instruction and include hands-on experiences;
  2. Link program practices with community participation and try to incorporate practices which include community values, needs, language, and experiences;
  3. Try to see humans as part of nature rather than seeing nature as an externality, apart from humans;
  4. Organize practices around the idea that everything is related and has a role to play in the universe;
  5. Consider phenomena from a seasonal/cyclical perspective;
  6. Place science in an interdisciplinary or holistic perspective and invite the learner to view phenomena from multiple perspectives;
  7. Explore and address the relationships and tensions between Native science and Western science;
  8. And place science in social policy and community contexts that highlight the need for participation and leadership.

A more diverse curriculum may help motivate a more diverse group of students which may be just what our future needs.

We are part of nature, part of the world. Humanity may not be able to survive without the sea creatures that modify sulfur, iodine and selenium found in sea water into a form that can be used on land by humans and other land dwelling lifeforms. [1] We also may not be able to survive as a species if we didn’t have bees to pollinate our crops.

More of us need to start asking who’s going to protect the planet because it is our home, and it provides our air, our water, and our food supply.

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