← Return to Help Science

Planetariums are not foolish, Senator

You might have watched the debate last night. Both candidates rolled out some new talking points, but I'm going to focus on a jab that McCain used:
"Obama voted for...$3 million for an overhead projector at a planetarium in Chicago, Illinois. My friends, do we need to spend that kind of money?"

"...sometimes those projects, not -- not the overhead projector that Sen. Obama asked for, but some of them that are really good projects, will have -- will have to be eliminated"

While this took a few people off-guard, I knew that McCain said this back in mid-September:
"...when you look at some of the planetariums and other foolishness that [Obama] asked for, he shouldn't be saying anything about Governor Palin."

-------------------------- -------------------------

Adler Planetarium is in a delightful part of Chicago called Museum Park. The famous Tyrannosaur, Sue, resides in the Field Museum next door. Another neighbor, the Shedd Aquarium, has dolphins, sea otters, and an impressive exhibit about the Great Lakes to name a few highlights.

I was one of two million people who visited the Shedd aquarium last year. I also paid a visit to Sue and the Darwin exhibit at the Field Museum. I've been to plenty of museums and aquariums in the US, South Korea, and Japan --- Chicago's are some of the best.

All of these buildings are 70-100 years old - making Museum Park an institution in the city of Chicago. Field trips arrive daily from Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin. Kids in Chicago - unable to see the night sky, wild animals, or dinosaurs in their day-to-day lives - are able to go to these places and see the world and universe beyond their neighborhood. Museum staff go to inner-city classrooms, host after-school classes, and post information online so that students are able to form a connection to science.

These museums are the stuff of dreams, of opportunity, of possibility. They are the power behind kids, and the kids the power behind our future.

Sadly, though, the planetarium was unable to keep its 40-year old projector running. Thousands of children were being turned away.

There was only one place in Chicago where you could see the stars, and their light was burning out.

John McCain told the nation last night that it wasn't a light worth saving.

Senator, ask someone to pull up the Google for you.
When Google loads, enter: virtual field trip "field museum"
Those results include hundreds of schools that want to go to the Field Museum. But they can't, because their school districts are struggling to buy textbooks that don't talk about the Soviet Union in the present tense. You have thousands of schools with hundreds of thousands of kids who can only do "virtual" field trips.

McCain also said this:
we have an issue that we may hand our children and our grandchildren a damaged planet...
We can move forward, and clean up our climate, and develop green technologies, and alternate -- alternative energies for -- for hybrid, for hydrogen, for battery-powered cars....
We can do that, we as Americans, because we're the best innovators...

Senator, if you are elected, could we still say that in 2012? Senator, how are we going to keep it that way when you would leave education, quite literally, in the dark?

Senator, what if you left us with Sarah Palin? A woman who looked at a picture of a rock in Texas, and decided that science would never dampen her belief in a 6000-year-old Earth? Someone with no reason to trust the hundred-thousand-year record put together by climatology? Someone who has stressed from the very beginning that all she and her god care about are oil pipelines to help Alaska?

I got my absentee ballot yesterday, Senator. I can hardly wait to mail it.