Scientific Literacy: Who Needs it in a ‘Black Box’ Technological Society?

This paper will question the widely accepted position that there is a need for widespread, scientific literacy that spans a broad range of topics if that literacy lacks the conceptual depth, and/or intellectual rigor, to provide any basis for rational, scientifically informed, choices. The paper will present an argument that, in fact, it would be more effective if functional, widespread, scientific literacy were only taught in Key Stage 3 (age 11-14) where it would focus almost exclusively and in greater depth on those areas of science relating to human health with some basic chemistry and physics – the biggest of the ’big ideas’. With science in Key Stage 4 (age 15-16) reverting back to a more traditional ‘science for the future scientist’ and that studying biology, chemistry and physics at Key Stage 4 would become an option rather than a core requirement. We will also argue that, in a ‘black box’ technological world, individuals can be, and indeed are, very effective users of technology, and the underlying science, without the need
for them to be scientifically literate.


University of Lincoln, College of Social Science Research

Ian Abrahams, University of Lincoln, School of Education

Beverley Potterton, University of Lincoln, School of Education

Nikolaos Fotou, University of Lincoln, School of Education

Marina Constantinou, University of Lincoln, School of Education