The Tools of Science

Julia L. Mickenberg

in Learning from the Left

Published in print November 2005 | ISBN: 9780195152807
Published online September 2007 | e-ISBN: 9780199788903 | DOI:
 The Tools of Science

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This chapter takes as its point of departure the launch of the Soviet satellite, Sputnik, in 1957 and the subsequent passage of the National Defense Education Act, which, as part of its program of strengthening math and science education in the United States, also provided libraries with funds for purchasing books in these areas. Although designed to fortify the United States against the Communist menace, the Act helped foster a major market for books by people who were strongly critical of the Cold War, and, in some cases, were Marxists or even current or former Communist Party members. This chapter traces the development of science education and scientific literature for children as these intersected with interest in science among Socialists, Communists, and other Marxists, as well as radicals in general, starting in the early 20th century and continuing through the Cold War. In a repressive cultural climate, scientific themes had the advantage of seeming value-neutral, but in practice proved fertile ground for teaching children to think critically, to question received authority (especially on racial matters), and to feel empowered to influence and change the world around them. The chapter also suggests ways in which Marxism's logic influenced scientific thought and translated into scientific children's literature.

Keywords: National Defense Education Act; Sputnik; science education; scientific literature; Marxism; Socialists; Communists

Chapter.  25426 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Social and Cultural History

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