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Science Fair?

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on April 11 that “science is gaining momentum in American schools.” It attributes this “new found respect” to “prodding by industry, business and government leaders.” (So far no mention of educators.)

The article lauds the “upgrade” in science education and offers some verbal snapshots of classroom hands-on and minds-on activities and lab experiments, noting that officials in many area schools are “adding class time and squeezing dollars out of tight budgets” in pursuit of the goal “to boost student achievement to match math and science powerhouses in Asia and Europe.”

The piece repeats a reference to the concerns of “corporate, industry and government observers” and their “push to gain public support for better science and math instruction.”

The implication that the quality of the instruction itself is weak does not appear elsewhere in the piece and is not developed.

Recognition of the potentially disastrous consequences of neglecting the sciences is shared, of course, by educational professionals.  Indeed the article does eventually cite two science teachers’ promotion of science education, including the fostering of relationships with colleges and the industry.

We know why science has fallen by the wayside in recent years. It is due to policies related to portions of the reformist agenda that is both sweeping the nation and sweeping it away.

The “No Child Left Behind” law, a diabolical document sacred to “reformers,” mandates the measurement of every school’s “Adequate Yearly Progress.” A school’s life may depend on its AYP report. Careers and funding hinge upon it.

With so much on the line, every incentive exists and every “stop” is “pulled out” to ensure that a school is perceived to be doing well. Even if the criteria are massively flawed, it’s perception that matters. A principal will deploy all troops and materiel to the AYP boosting battlefront. There are “smoking guns” all over.

And it’s too much to ask, given threats, temptations and human nature, that educational decisions be made strictly on a basis of pure wisdom when there is so much unconsummated ambition and personal gain riding on the outcome.

So it makes sense, in an unwholesome way, that because state assessments in science, unlike those in reading and math, are not factored into a school’s AYP, vital subjects like biology, chemistry and physics are relegated to the periphery of academic experience.

They are almost off the “radar screen” (whatever that means!).

The Inquirer article does not include speculation about whether the science curriculum and course deprivation of our schools may be part of a global corporate strategy of outsourcing intellectual enterprise to markets overseas where talent is cheaper and more pliant to exploitation. That conspiracy theory will not go away and why should it?

It is NCLB that is most grievously implicated in the erosion of the sciences in schools and, in effect, the suppression of talent din those subjects. It is that law, which as originally conceived included some praiseworthy objectives, that spurred the “teaching to the test” morbidity that has for the better part of a decade sickened the spirit and plagued American education


1 Comment:

  • 1 Bob Calder
    · Apr 15, 2010 at 6:06 pm

    To some extent, it is nice to see recognition that science is important enough to be promoted in the most serious way.

    On the other hand, ownership by business interests is totally bogus. Not only is it bogus, but ownership will mean that evaluation will be owned by the conservative measurement freaks who are fed buckets of money by the commercial publishing industry.

    Project 2061 offers a curriculum map and evaluation materials prepared by scientists. Physics First and the Singapore Math project have proven materials to offer that are the result of collaboration by – yet again, scientists. Minnesota and Massachusetts are at the top of world math rankings because of the Singapore Math project. Are there any states that have moved upward to that point on the basis of accountability, school choice, curriculum mandates and testing regimens? No.

    Let’s try to get legislator’s friends to stay on the sidelines.

    By the way, did you know that Ignite!’s Neil Bush, brother of Jeb and George W. Bush has made a strategic alliance with Promethian?
    Bottom of page. Not that they would ever consider forcing themselves on you.