Skeptics are only talking to fellow skeptics at these events – they are not reaching out and spreading their expertise or knowledge. Skeptics are not going into schools and telling kids to be skeptical of miracle cures, conspiracy theories and crop circles.
I agree with a lot of Alom’s and Frank’s points. But, from my limited experience of half a dozen or so SitP meetings, I don’t see outreach being the purpose of SitP.
The analogy that I’ve used recently is comparing Skeptics in the Pub to an Astronomy Club. Amateur astronomers meet up, perhaps listen to a talk, perhaps look at some cool stuff in the sky. No one seems to be having a go at them for doing this (and no one should!). No one is saying: “Hey you! Stop having your exclusive meetings. Go and get some kids interested in astronomy instead”.
The majority of attendees at Skeptics in the Pub meetings have 9-5 jobs, perhaps in an area that is nothing to do with science or skepticism. For these people, going to SitP in the evening is a social event. The evening nature of SitP is essential. When else would people with 9-5 jobs meet up? You go after work, talk to practically anyone (as you’re guaranteed to have something in common), listen to a talk, perhaps learn something new. It’s a hobby. It’s like astronomy.
For me, the learning aspect of SitP is as important as the social aspect. I’m a software developer. I knew nothing about, say, MMR/Autism or about the role of the Advertising Standards Authority. Not until I attended talks about these subjects at SitP did I learn about them. Even skeptical and scientifically inclined people need educating too, you know.
Yes, I completely agree that it would be good to go into school to teach kids this sort of stuff. Really good. But I’m not sure that the majority* of people who go to SitP are in a position to do this. My day job is nothing to do with science, skepticism or education. If I don’t go into work, I don’t get paid (I’m a consultant – no annual leave either!). I assume the evening requirement applies to the speakers too. Simon Perry runs his own IT company. He can give talks in the evenings. I’m not sure it would be logistically possible for him to do a tour of schools to talk about the Quacklash.
Without wanting to sound flippant, aren’t teachers the right people to teach this sort of stuff to kids? Rather than getting skeptics into schools, would it not be more appropriate to get teachers to attend SitP meetings?
So, what’s wrong with Skeptics in the Pub?
See you at the next one.
* Perhaps some SitP attendees and speakers are in a position to go into schools – I’m just not one of them. I’m happy to help with evening stuff, just can’t do anything during the day.