Few scholars revel in being wrong as much as scientists do. Scientific progress would simply not be possible without an openness to debate and the idea that your life's work might be incorrect. And this commitment to objectivity, rigour and the truth does not just benefit research. It also makes societies stronger.
That is why science has been an integral part of curriculums as far back as when Aristotle was teaching his treatises on physics and maths to young students, paving the way for modern philosophy across the Middle East and the West. Informing children about the scientific method not only gives them an understanding of how their world works, but also how to apply its ideals in their wider social lives.
And yet, according to teachers, young people today are being denied the best introduction to these values. In a study by Oxford University Press, seven out of 10 teachers said that science education in their country is not adequately preparing students for the future. A total of 398 teachers were polled across 22 countries, with most being in the UK and India.
At the heart of their concerns is a belief that curriculums are still overly focused on exams, and not enough on the practical use of the subject in daily life. Science is advanced primarily in academia, but its findings matter outside the seminar rooms, academic journals and laboratories of universities. And unfortunately, in today's world, the application of scientific progress is facing a number of challenges in wider society.
The teachers surveyed were particularly concerned about how education systems prepared young people to use it to confront humanity's major existential challenges, including how we engage with emerging technologies and the threat posed by climate change. The dangerous reality of warming oceans is not fully explained by data on carbon dioxide concentrations and rising sea temperatures, but also by understanding how this threatens life as we know it around the globe, politically and socially.
An especially pressing role of education today is tackling the politicisation of science. Even as a pandemic rages, face coverings are not just a safety measure, but also in many places a badge of political opinion. In the case of vaccine hesitancy, scepticism is not being driven by an academic conviction that the science behind them is wrong. It is primarily the product of fake news and the inability of social media companies to curb it, as well as institutional distrust often found among marginalised communities that have historically been neglected or discriminated against by governments.
There has rarely been a more important time to listen to scientists. It is tragic that this comes at a time when distrust in them is particularly high. There will be no eureka moment in reversing this worrying trend. Rather, governments need to start listening to the teachers who instil these values in young people.