For the third time in a month, citizens in the Phoenix’s Valley met and marched for a cause that affects our children and the coming generations. The first two marches dealt with school safety and education funding.
This second annual March for Science dealt with those issues in different ways and more as the assembled crowd of several hundred people at Margaret T. Hance Park (by the Burton Barr Library) gathered to call for an end to ignorance and an embracing of science and analysis for people of all beliefs and ethnicities.
Like Galileo all those centuries ago as he implored the Catholic Church to accept reason and scientific discovery, the speakers and crowd today (which included a collection of high school and college instructors and students, science advocates, and political candidates including both Democrats running for the Superintendent of Public Instruction — Katie Hoffman and David Schapira) made veiled and direct jabs at the current conservative leadership for abandoning reason and fact-based evidence.
Like the March for Lives last month at the State Capital, there were many vendors and dignitaries promoting the cause of Scientific Awareness. Virtually every discipline of science ranging from forensics to astronomy to zoology to chemistry was present. There were also vendors representing the Progressive Movement, Save Our Schools, Voter Registration, and “Outlaw Dirty Money” petitioners looking for support against the inflow of dirty money and to fight for alternative energy options in the valley. There were S.T.E.M. camps looking to attract recruits. There were homeschool science advocates.
The speakers were unified on the following themes:
- Opening opportunities for women and minorities in science. One speaker, Dr. Joseph Tussell, an immigrant, expressed his gratitude for American Universities for providing opportunities for him and his “immigrant” colleagues in science. Citing other immigrant scientists that came to the United States like Einstein, Tesla, and Musk, Tussell asserted that immigrants and diversity “help drive innovation.” Two students — Elise Bouchel of Basha High School and Lillianna Rodriguez of the Society of Chicano and Native American Advancement for Science — both spoke of the need to recruit more Chicano, Native American, minority, and women into science and leadership positions in that arena.
- Promoting discovery and evidence-based facts to all so we can combat present-day issues. One speaker, Dr. Ariel Anbar of Arizona State University (it should be disclosed that he is my wife’s, Dr. Gwyneth Gordon, supervisor) offered that everyone is born curious and driven to explore knowledge. He also asserted that “science helps enables democracy like democracy enables science.” David Schapira, a candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction said that innovation and discovery like the Industrial Revolution helped create current issues like climate change. He maintained that it is that same culture of innovation and discovery that are necessary to remedy it. Furthermore, Schapira contended that schools need to better prepare children to distinguish real facts from alternative (fake) facts.
- Reforming our school system to fit the needs of the Twenty First Century. All the speakers, in one way or another, championed some aspect of education reform ranging from increasing science literacy and awareness to bringing actual scientists into the classroom to creating science standards developed by scientists and science teachers, and creating a system that provides equal accessible opportunities for talent to succeed in collaborating, conducting experiments, and innovating with others in the classroom.
One final item to point out is that, like the March for Lives Event, were no dignitaries from the Republican Party at this event. This is unfortunate and counterproductive. There was a time when the Republican Party helped lead the way in Science. Up until the 1970’s, they championed conservation and the environment. It was a Republican President, Theodore Roosevelt that helped create the first National Parks. It was a Republican President, Richard Nixon, who signed the legislation that created the Environmental Protection Agency. It was a Republican President, Dwight Eisenhower, who helped inaugurate the drive to explore the stars after the Russians launched Sputnik. It was Republicans who helped fund the war on cancer.
Where is the Republican commitment to science and evidence-based facts today? Is the Faustian bargain they made with corporations that espouse deregulation and conservative evangelicals that preach “God and nothing else” for votes worth making the world unsafe for their children and those that come after them? Is it worth turning them into brainwashed ignorant simpletons weaned on alternative facts? Probably not. It is time to join the rest of us in the Twenty First Century.