This column appears in “The World of Education”. If you are subscribed to Monde, you can subscribe to this weekly newsletter by following this link.
Spring brought to light a worrying reality: the lack of candidates for recruitment competitions in scientific disciplines. Various reasons can explain this, in particular the disaffection of young people for science – which is not specific to France –, but also a series of political decisions taken over the last thirty years which have explicitly aimed to reduce the importance of mathematics in secondary education.
After the Second World War, several generations believed that the future of the world lay in science. It suffices to be convinced of this to observe the disarray, in 2020, of adults over 50 in the face of the inability of medicine to control the development of the Covid-19 pandemic – even if, on the other hand, few Observers have appreciated the scientific achievement represented by the development of a vaccine.
Thus, societies around the world that until then were convinced that science could provide an answer to all questions found themselves destitute, lost, orphaned. It is all the more astonishing that the alerts on the misdeeds of science have multiplied since the end of the XXe century: from pesticides to greenhouse gases, through the treatment of nuclear waste… But many adults have long considered the risks involved as greatly exaggerated.
The youngest, meanwhile, worried about their future because of environmental dangers, have gradually turned away from science. This attitude is paradoxical to say the least because it is also scientific work that highlighted these unknown risks a few decades ago.
Moreover, young people often forget that the same sciences that they hate and reject allow them to take advantage of a multitude of technological objects (computer, mobile phone, Internet, or, more formerly, microwave oven, etc.) make their daily life more comfortable than that of their elders at the same age.
Finally, they forget that the pleasure they have in frequenting their grandparents is the consequence of the increase in lifespan, which we owe to a better lifestyle, to more frequent, more precise medical follow-ups , better adapted… which only exist thanks to the work of scientists.
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