A little something for the weekend…..

Those of us that work with the general public know that while people are probably perfectly lucid, there also are some that are clearly utter blocks of wood above the neck. Case in point:

“Customer: “So, they eat special food just for guinea pigs?”

Me: “Yeah, there is a food that we sell that is specially customized to their needs, but you can also feed them rabbit food.”

Customer: “A guinea pig is a reptile, right?”

This is from the Website “The Customer is Not Always Right” which is funny, addictive, and often appalling.  It’s similar to the Overheard sites.  (This one, BTW, is from Michigan.  And this one is for my sister the librarian.)

I meet people like this every day.  BTW, Michigan State is now home to this guy, who studies scientific knowledge and society. From that profile:

“Dr. Miller’s data reveal some yawning gaps in basic knowledge. American adults in general do not understand what molecules are (other than that they are really small). Fewer than a third can identify DNA as a key to heredity. Only about 10 percent know what radiation is. One adult American in five thinks the Sun revolves around the Earth, an idea science had abandoned by the 17th century.” [emphasis mine]

I was amazed when I first started teaching introductory biology at the college level at how many students could not explain correctly why we had seasons.  Or night and day.


Posted by Gwen Pearson

Writer. Nerd. Insect Evangelist. Have you heard the good news? BUGS!


  1. I’m running into the same problem — I’m teaching Botany (an introductory level, plant biology class) and finding that the majority of the students do not understand or know basic concepts, like the difference between meiosis and mitosis or prokaryotic and eukaryotic organisms or that photosynthesis happens in the chloroplasts and so on.

    I don’t expect them to know all the details; that’s what the class is about. But holy cows, they should have gotten some of this stuff when they were in high school biology, even those who had the class a number of years ago!


  2. the problem is they recognize the words–which is enough to pass a multiple choice exam.

    But they have no *understanding*.


  3. Interesting. Jon Miller used to work here at the Chicago Academy when I first came on board, about 10 years ago. He was doing much the same sort of thing then, in a program called ICASL.

  4. Interesting post.
    I visited the links you have put and enjoyed them.
    Dr. Miller’s findings are appalling!

  5. BTW…I liked the part of that link where it said, “the boyfriend turns and walks out.”

    Smart move on his part!

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