Survey: Parents Would Rather Talk Drugs than Science

Parents are more comfortable discussing drugs than science and math with their kids, a survey shows.

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Parents might not know how to broach the topic of, say, cell mitosis, but they feel more at ease when talking to their kids about . . . drugs. A new survey from the Intel Corp. has found that parents feel more equipped to talk with their children about drug abuse than about math and science.

According to the nationwide online survey, which polled 561 adults with children ages 5 to 18, 75 percent of parents of teenagers felt comfortable discussing drugs, versus only 52 percent of parents of teenagers who felt comfortable discussing science.

Survey respondents did acknowledge the importance of math and science—50 percent ranked them as the subjects most critical to their children's future success—and they said parental involvement is crucial to their children's academic progress, but the survey makes the case that parents often find themselves with little more understanding of these subjects than their children and without the resources necessary to start a conversation.

"Our survey points to a difficult reality," says Shelly Esque, vice president of Intel's Corporate Affairs Group. "While parents may recognize the importance of math and science, they are unable to engage with their children around these subjects due to limited understanding of the topics."

Only 52 percent of 12th graders are at or above the basic level of achievement in the sciences, and only 57 percent of eighth graders are at a basic level of achievement, says a report released by the Biotechnology Institute. Paul Hanle, president of the nonprofit institute, says that parents do have a role to play in helping to improve American students' science achievement rates and that more needs to be done to enable them to fulfill it.

"Establishing a positive attitude toward science is important, and that might begin at home," he says. "A lot of parents are uncomfortable talking about science, because they don't know it."

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  • Corrected on 10/23/09: A previous version of this article misidentified the organization of which Paul Hanle is president. Hanle is president of the nonprofit Biotechnology Institute.