Historical cases, modern themesDouglas Allchin (University of Minnesota)
Recent events with climate change and the coronavirus pandemic exemplify the vital importance of scientific expertise in informing social policy and personal decision-making. But how do students learn what makes science trustworthy? Whose claims are credible, and why? I describe how we can situate inquiry lessons in an authentic historical context, and thus help students appreciate the epistemic challenges and develop the relevant analytical thinking skills. In short, case studies from the past — when framed as active, problem-based simulations — can help prepare citizens and consumers to address the socioscientific issues of today. In this view, historians are indispensable contributors to science education and to a functional, well informed society. I will illustrate with the early 18th-century case of Mary Wortley Montagu and smallpox variolation.
University of Minnesota