By Debra Shapiro | Published: November 10, 2011 on the
Who knew that actress Morgan Fairchild knew so much about science? “I was the original science nerd,” she told the audience during her keynote speech this morning. She said that when she first came to Hollywood, her first stop was not the beauty salon, but the La Brea tar pits. She has hosted a panel on paleontology, where she was thrilled to show off a saber-tooth tiger’s skull; made a presentation to the Senate about AIDS and environmental issues; and studied anthropology. “If I can walk and chew gum at the same time, people are amazed,” she quipped, adding, “I may be blond, but I’m not stupid.”
She urges teachers to help their student see “science not as a drudgery, but as a door” to “a good and financially sound life.” While she believes the literary and entertainment worlds—such as the CSI television series—can hook students on science, she contends that “there will always be a new entertainment icon … but who is going to be the new Bill Gates?”
“Science has a great effect on the economy,” and “we can’t afford to fail,” she points out. The United States needs to preserve genetic diversity to ensure agricultural success and address health care issues that also threaten our economic future, she explains. “Fresh water is what the next wars will be fought about, not oil,” she maintains.
“It’s going to be the kids in your classes” who will have to deal with the issues of climate change, Fairchild observes. So it’s up to science educators to discover new methods of teaching to keep students engaged, and “our kids have to put in more time” studying science, technology, engineering, and math like children in other nations do, she contends. In addition, teachers should “fully exploit the mental capacities of girls and minorities” because “all societies improve economically” when women and minorities are in the workplace.