Neil deGrasse Tyson's Viral Tweet Calls Out Flat Earth Conspiracy, Starts Education Debate

July 19th 2017

Neil deGrasse Tyson is, once again, speaking out about the flat earth conspiracy and the U.S. education system. In a tweet, which has been shared more than 10,000 times, the famed astrophysicist wrote that the increasing popularity of the idea that the earth is actually flat, not a globe, points to significant problems in the U.S. education system.

In 2015, the conspiracy theory that the earth is actually flat started to become increasingly popular, with many believers also asserting that gravity is a hoax and that the shape of the earth has been faked by NASA.

It wasn't long before his tweet started a debate about American education, with some disputing the idea that teachers have led students to believe the earth is flat.

Tyson responded with another tweet, writing that the content of the lessons isn't the issue, it's that students aren't taught to be analytical thinkers.

This isn't the first time Tyson has spoken out about flat earth conspiracies.

In January 2016, Tyson had a week-long debate on the topic with rapper B.o.B on social media.

After the Twitter beef, Tyson went onto Larry Wilmore's "The Nightly Show" to bluntly outline the issue.

"The earth isn't fucking flat," he said.

In May 2016, Tyson told HuffPost that the U.S. education system is to blame for the flat earth movement, comparing adult believers of the conspiracy to immature children.

"I blame the education system that can graduate someone into adulthood who cannot tell the difference between what is and is not true about this world," Tyson said. He tweeted the difference between skeptics and deniers, one group can accept evidence and the other can't.

The U.S. lags behind in science.

In the 2015 ranking by the Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the U.S. came in 25th in the world for student performance in science, falling behind countries with less money, like Vietnam and Slovenia. The OECD releases a ranking every three years, according to Business Insider. The U.S. also came in 24th in reading and 40th in math, which is a math score below the OECD global average.

School sign. Flickr/Rafael Sato -

There are also glaring disparities within the U.S. education system.

Data from the National Science Foundation, a federal program, shows that a higher percentage 12th grade black and Latino students scored "below basic" in math. Also, the share of spending on elementary and secondary education has fallen in several states. A 2016 analysis by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities found that 31 states provided less funding for public school education in 2014 than in 2008 the year before the Great Recession. In 27 states, funding rose but that increase only made up for previous cuts.

Although, male and females perform at roughly similar rates in K-12 education, the National Girls Collaborative Project says that large disparities start to appear in undergraduate education, particularly for minority women. Women receive more than half of the bachelors degrees in biological science but are the minorities in degrees in computer sciences (18 percent), engineering (19 percent), physical sciences (39 percent) and mathematics (43 percent). Only 11 percent of bachelor’s degrees in science and engineering, 8 percent of master’s degrees and 4 percent of doctorate degrees in that field were earned by minority women in 2012.

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