It’s Not Rocket Science

I’ve never seen the television show “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader,” but when I read the title of the upcoming Westmont Downtown lecture, the show came to mind. Niva Tro, professor of chemistry, will speak on “The Importance of Science Literacy: Why Everyone Needs a Basic Understanding of Science,” Thursday, October 11, at 5:30 pm at the University Club on Santa Barbara Street.

I went online and found the Grade 5 Science Standards Test on the State Board of Education Web site. I incorrectly answered 5 of the 45 questions, so I’m sure there are some fifth-graders who are smarter than I am.

Tro is most certainly smarter than I am. He is a Westmont alumnus who went on to earn his doctorate at Stanford. After conducting post-doctoral research at UC Berkeley, Tro accepted a teaching position at Westmont.

The author of three successful textbooks for college students, he says everyone is capable of understanding science.

“It’s really important for schools at all levels to include the sciences,” Tro says. “It’s imperative that students today understand such critical issues such as global warming, acid rain, and drug abuse.”

Not surprisingly, surveys of Americans have revealed an appalling ignorance of science, and educators frequently call for more science instruction in the schools.

Westmont Downtown: Conversations about Things that Matter was created several years ago by the Westmont Foundation, community members who seek to cultivate healthy ties between the community and Westmont. One of the goals of the lecture series is to engage the community in meaningful, substantive and lively conversation.

Nature of Racism

Boston College philosophy professor Jorge L.A. Garcia will speak about the nature of racism and tie his talk into several current events. The free lecture, “Racism as Vice: The Current Philosophical Debate,” will be Thursday, October 4, at 3:30 pm in Westmont’s Hieronymus Lounge.

Garcia says most people are unaware of recent research by academic philosophers that can make an important contribution to the discussion of this issue.

“I hope to illuminate our understanding of a central concept we use in analyzing and assessing social policy and justice, interpersonal relations, and moral virtue,” he says.

Garcia, a graduate of Fordham University, earned his doctorate from Yale University. He has also taught at Rutgers and Georgetown Universities and the University of Notre Dame. His areas of expertise include moral theory, bioethics and the philosophical analysis of racism.

“I hope to also talk about recent controversies involving racism and reverse discrimination, such as the Supreme Court’s ruling last summer and the Michael Richard’s incident earlier this year,” Garcia says.

The lecture is sponsored by the Erasmus Society. Refreshments will be served before the lecture at 3 pm.