Myth-free space advocacy part III: The myth of educational inspiration
Schwartz, James S. J.
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Schwartz, James S. J. 2018. Myth-free space advocacy part III: The myth of educational inspiration. Space Policy, vol. 43:pp 24-32
I argue against a common belief among space advocates that spaceflight is "educationally inspiring" in that it has a clear, positive impact on scientific literacy and on STEM education. On the basis of a variety of survey analyses I show that, while there is some indication that being scientifically literate makes a person more likely to support spaceflight, there is no clear indication that the extent of spaceflight activities (or the extent of funding for spaceflight) makes people more likely to be scientifically literate or to be supportive of spaceflight (at least in the United States). Regarding STEM education, while there is a correlation between US spaceflight spending and STEM degree conferrals, a similar correlation obtains between spaceflight spending and degree conferrals in virtually every other discipline, and between overall US spending on science and degree conferrals in virtually every discipline. Thus there is no clear evidence that spaceflight spending is uniquely inspirational for STEM. It follows that there is little evidence that dearly supports the idea that spaceflight is educationally inspiring in the ways that many space advocates have claimed, in both academic and popular settings.
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