Yes we can't

Michel Claessens
Michel ClaessensEditor in chief

Not long ago we were feeling rejected as young people turned their backs on science. But no, scream the results of the latest Eurobarometer (p. 35)! Young people like science, are interested in it and believe that scientific progress contributes to the general good! Yet science studies are also seen as too demanding and scientific professions are not very appealing. So much so that young people are reluctant to give them serious consideration.

One figure stops us in our tracks: 26% of young Europeans believe they lack the ability to become a scientist or engineer. Three out of four have the idea that science is not for them. Or rather that they are not for science.

Is science intrinsically complicated or is it the ‘system’ that fuels the myth of a science reserved for the chosen few?

A few issues back we published a little quiz covering sciences, the arts and history. At the end of the questionnaire, ‘players’ were asked to state which category they found most difficult. The result? Science of course. Yet it was in this category that the best scores were obtained!

Science is failing to attract, yet our scientific culture is better than we think. Does this mean, as some say, that in the present system science and mathematics contribute to exclusion? That is an extreme position. Equally so is the one that consists of seeing in such attitudes the expression of an outdated stereotype.