I would like to set the scene for the discussion that will follow in this book and bring up a few disturbing points which I believe any discussion about astronomy
education will ultimately have to address.
Let me begin by posing the following question: where does astronomy education take place in the United States? Those readers who teach will probably say that it takes place in classrooms like theirs (anywhere from first grade through the university.) But I want to argue that astronomy education happens in many other places besides the formal classroom.
It happens in hundreds of planetaria and museums around the country; it happens at meetings of amateur astronomy groups; it happens when someone reads a newspaper or in front of television and radio sets; it happens while someone is engrossed in a popular book on astronomy, or leafs through a magazine like Sky & Telescope; it happens in youth groups taking an overnight hike and learning about the stars; and it happens when someone surfs the astronomy resources on the internet. When we consider astronomy education, its triumphs and its tribulations,
we must be sure that we don't focus too narrowly on academia and omit the many places that it can and does happen outside the classroom.