Here in New Jersey students are now required to pass three years of science to get a diploma. While this does wonders for my job security, it takes a special kind of reasoning to figure that if two years fails to produce a scientifically literate litter of children, then three years ought to do the trick.
Few children have the curiosity and the capacity needed to become professional scientists. The same could be said for becoming accomplished pianists, master carpenters, or licensed harbor pilots.
We have imbued science with mysticism and romance and holiness. Might have made more sense to throw our faith in agriculture, but science won, and now we're so efficiently removed from the earth that most of our children have never seen a wheat berry.
This is not to demean science. The thrust, however, should be on thinking, no matter what the discipline. A high school biology course that surveys ecology, genetics, protein synthesis, evolution, biochemistry, taxonomy, respiration & photosynthesis, cellular reproduction, DNA technology, evolution, and so on in less than 180 days in about 140 hours of class time cannot adequately address critical thinking.
Problem-solving comes in a lot of flavors and cuts across disciplines. If we're losing the battle against Japan or China or India (pick your favorite foreign country whose children's success is threatening the American Way), it's not because our children cannot recall how many electrons dance on the head of a pin.
If we want to develop a science "class", we will need to identify the children who show early aptitude and interest, and then help them develop the discipline needed to carry on professional research. Elitist? Perhaps. Not sure I'd want my kids selected for that track--professional science looks like a lonely existence to me, no matter how the sexay the NSTA wants to dress it.
We can keep the back door open for the late bloomers. In the meantime, we might consider putting a priority on thinking again, in every discipline. Even in science.
Fancy vocabulary words does not guarantee fancy thinking, even if it is cute to hear a 4th grader say "photosynthesis."
3 years ago