I cannot hope to get kids to think if they walk around life believing much of the nonsense they learned during their impressionable years.
The idea of teaching a room full of children who still have reason (at least economic) to trust the tooth fairy makes my eyeballs quiver. Good Lord, somebody has to do it, and I respect anyone possessing the gadolinium gonads needed to teach larval humans. If you're going to dabble in science, though, please put away the textbooks. and get it right.
Children are sent to school earlier and earlier ("please wipe your feet, hang up your coat, and dry your umbilical stump") and expected to perform more and more. A child reciting a list of organelles before he's sprouted an axillary hair is about as learned as an Irish dancing monkey but not nearly as entertaining. My lambs come to high school spewing content without understanding, and have been rewarded for this. How can this be?*
I've complained about this long enough to get myself attached to a committee, and we're looking at science into the early grades, which means perusing the state standards. Uh-oh.
Language matters. I am trying to parse the state standards. The first one below applies to children before they finish second grade. We're talking about 7 years olds. A lot of them will be bored hanging around the old folks weekend. Go chat with one.
The Sun is a star that can only be seen during the day.True, I suppose, but tautological. It says nothing. A young child never asks why we can see the sun during the day. The interesting question is why can't we see the other stars.
Worry not--we'll jam some science in the young'uns:
Determine a set of general rules describing when the Sun and Moon are visible based on actual sky observations.Asking second graders to do "actual" sun observations can lead to "actual" blindness.
Part of me loves this idea. Let the kids find patterns. Let them observe periodicity in nature. Don't expect them, however, to come up with a set of general rules. Really. Go talk to one. Even one who does the Irish monkey thing well. (She's the one with the report card on the refrigerator.)
Here's one for the Pre-K crowd:
Experiments and explorations provide opportunities for young learners to use science vocabulary and scientific terms.
No, no, no, no, no, no, no!!!
Children are magical thinkers--words have tremendous power. Telling a child that things "fall" because of gravity is catechism, not science. We have enough of that already.
Instead, focus on the word "fall"--what does it mean to fall? If a child asks why things always fall "down", work on the word down. If you have an ambitiously curious child, tell them that stuff is attracted to other stuff and no one knows why. Do not use a science vocabulary term until the child has a chance to discover what it means.
I'd rather ban the word gravity in elementary school than "provide opportunities for young learners to use science vocabulary." They got plenty of other things to grasp before throwing talismans at them.
I look forward to the committee meetings.