A Review of Science for the People: Documents from America's Movement of Radical Scientists

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Date: Spring-Summer 2018
From: Educational Foundations(Vol. 31, Issue 1-2)
Publisher: Caddo Gap Press
Document Type: Book review
Length: 2,064 words
Lexile Measure: 1710L

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As I write this review, national media attention is turning away from the 2018 Winter Olympics--a spectacle of human athleticism and endurance made possible by medical advances in health and technological advances in equipment--and back towards what increasingly seems like "normal" news: chemical weapon attacks on Syrian civilians, Russian hackers stealing confidential information and manipulating social media to influence the 2016 US presidential election, how the people of Flint, Michigan still have no clean drinking water, and ongoing debate about regulating the firearms industry in the wake of the Parkland, Florida school shooting. Against this backdrop, reading Schmalzer, Chard, and Botelho's (2018) edited collection of documents from Science for the People (SftP) was both a wearying and comforting reminder of how conversations about the use of science and technology have persisted and evolved over the past few decades.

Science for the People (SftP) formed in the late 1960s to organize scientists concerned about their work becoming "more a menace than a boon to the interests of human society" (Goldhaber, Perl, Ross, & Schwartz, 1968). Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, against the backdrop of the Vietnam War, the nuclear meltdown at Three Mile Island, an energy crisis and subsequence economic recession, SftP engaged in education, outreach, and direct action to work towards a "socially and economically just science, rather than one that served militarism and corporate profits" (Schmalzer et al., 2018, p. xi). Although the first wave of SftP efforts petered out by the end of the 1980s, a group of committed veteran activists and new members have been revitalizing the organization since the mid-2010s, posting on their website that the mission of the revitalized SftP is to resist, specifically, the use of STEM in "exploitation, oppression, profiteering, war, and environmental destruction" and "racism & white supremacy, sexism & patriarchy, homophobia & cisgenderism, ageism & ableism within [emphasis added] STEM" (Science for the People, n.d.). The book I am reviewing, Science for the People: Documents from America's Movement of Radical Scientists, emerged from an effort to collect and publish documents from the original organization.

As Horton and Freire (1990) have reminded us, social change--and specifically, educating for social change--requires a deep understanding of knowledge as grounded in history and historical context. In this light, Science for the People serves as a historical artifact through which scientists, scholars, and students can learn about SftP and in which they can root their contemporary movement-building with, as this special issue calls for, STEM at the center. The chapters of this book are structured into themes such as "militarism," "biology and medicine," "race and gender" and "agriculture, ecology, and food," positioning the issues described within as being simultaneously scientific, social, and political. Each chapter contains a collection of documents written by SftP leaders, published in SftP's magazine, or collected from FBI Freedom of Information Act requests, and is introduced with a brief contextualization. These documents communicate members' positions on these scientific, social, and political issues, their activities in organizing around these issues, and their reflections...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A561147903