The National Science Foundation publishes a biannual report called Science and Engineering Indicators. It's a comprehensive review (588 pages in the 2008 report) of developments in the US relevant to science and engineering, including a section on the public understanding of science. I've been tracking this report for years to see how the NSF views what it regards as "pseudoscience." That word first appeared in its 2000 report.
Exemplars of pseudoscience in that year's report included "yogic flying, therapeutic touch, astrology, fire walking, voodoo magical thinking, Uri Geller, placebo, alternative medicine, channeling, Carlos hoax, psychic hotlines and detectives, near death experiences, UFOs, the Bermuda Triangle, homeopathy, faith healing, and reincarnation." For a section of an NSF report supposedly concerned with the lack of critical thinking skills, this is one of the most peculiar, and as such inadvertently ironic, lists I can imagine. Surely it should have also included Santa Claus and Batman.
References in this section clearly cite as their source the rabidly skeptical society formerly known as CSICOP. Not surprisingly, the wording makes it appear that belief in such pseudosciences indicates that the US educational system is devolving dangerously into a hellish middle ages. A footnote in the 2000 report cites as evidence of this mental decline the "'most frightening” results of a poll of students in Columbia’s graduate school of journalism: 57 percent of the student journalists believed in ESP."
Three pages of this report are devoted to such arguments. The author's disdain for the woefully ignorant masses (apparently including grad students at Columbia) is palpable.
The 2002 report also devotes about three pages to a discussion of pseudoscience, and again, you can practically feel the author's veins throbbing as you read through this section. Fortunately (for the sake of the NSF's credibility), the word "placebo" is no longer provided as an example of pseudoscience, nor is "Uri Geller." In the 2004 report this section shrinks to about one page and is not quite as strident. In the 2006 report the pseudoscience list again shrinks, now to less than a page, and it cites as examples of pseudoscience only "astrology, lucky numbers, the existence of unidentified flying objects (UFOs), extrasensory perception (ESP), and magnetic therapy."
The 2008 report shrinks to two paragraphs and only gives astrology as an example.
This trend is the right direction, and the hysterically skeptical tone in earlier reports seems to be calming down. I take this as a favorable sign. I'm completely in favor of improved science education, which should include not just critical thinking, but also how to tell the difference between skepticism and pseudoskepticism. A few lessons on humility might not hurt either.