Physics: 'A Waste of Time'?

Is studying science and mathematics valuable for a general education? Former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott said it is a "waste of my time, waste of my teacher's time and a waste of space" -- if your goal is to become a lawyer. His audience roared in laughter and applause. Is such an attitude entrenched in our society?

This brief video, shared by Sir Harold Kroto from his seminar at the American Chemical Society meeting this week, "Science, Anti-Science and Survival" exemplifies this caustic attitude towards education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) that is so critical for our nation's future.

What can be done to promote STEM education with politicians promoting such views, with communities heartily accepting such an anti-intellectual stance?

I believe that everyone can benefit from learning pre-college science and mathematics, if only to learn how to balance a checkbook and to appreciate the value of logic and critical thinking.

From the video:

When I was in high school, if you were in the "so-called" pre-college curriculum, you had to take four years of science and four years of math -- a waste of my time, a waste of my teacher's time and a waste of space.

I took Physics. For what?

{laughter, loud applause}

This video is anything but amusing.

A version of this post was published at Dean's Corner at ScienceBlogs.