Sunday, June 17, 2012

A life worth Achieving, Inc

The process of science has not changed much the past few hundred years.

It's messy, always has been. Our worldviews, the concrete ideas we carry around in our heads about what's real, are no more solid than the mass of goo we hold in our skulls.

It's controversial, always will be--folks (including scientists) don't like their worldviews shook up.

It's powerful, more than we know. We play at science at our peril, like ants with a magnifying glass. Because it's powerful, it matters to those who hold power.

From the National Science Education Standards, 1996

Achieve Inc. is an organization made up "of governors and business leaders." It has a worldview, it's controversial, and it's powerful, but it has no business serving as the lead organization to develop science standards.

Michael Cohen runs Achieve. He looks like a nice guy, and he has made a comfortable living converting corporate dollars (Aspen Institute, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, etc.) into fancy programs with undue influence on what should be public education. I'm sure he, like many eduwonks, sincerely believes in what he is doing, and has little reason to question it (and a few big reasons not to).

In a few years, folks will look at those men who wielded this generation's magic wand and wonder how foolish the whole run was, and shrug. There will be plenty more charlatans with their own wands ready to feed from the Gates and Broad troughs--our culture rewards sycophants.

You cannot love what you cannot know. Oh, you can go through the motions, you can get all kinds of rich, you can get powerful, but you cannot love what you cannot know.

If students must learn "science" in order to pass a test, then many of them will do just that. If you want a child to love science, though, she must first get acquainted with the natural world.

The photo above is from the NGSS site, ironically labeled "OutdoorLab." The focus is literally on the machine.

I am not opposed to net-books or graphs (or even slide rules)--but if you want to create a child interested in the world, the blurry young man mucking about the edge of a pond has a lot more going for him than the one collecting the data.

Oh, and by the way--a child in love with the natural world is less likely to carelessly destroy it, even if she chooses not to become an engineer. She might find more joy at a pond's edge than at Mall of America. She might (*gasp*) prefer creating to consuming.

And the world will have one fewer eduwonk.


John T. Spencer said...

My friend Quinn the Business Bohemian tells me that the tragedy of our culture is that we hold our mouths up so closely to machines and so rarely to one another.

I was at the park the other day and watched the parents. Some texted. Some talked. Some watched their kids, but only through the filter of a video or camera.

Sometimes I wonder if maybe moments aren't meant to be captured. Maybe they don't belong in captivity.

doyle said...

Dear John,

I worry more about our eyes than our mouths.

I never got recording things so you can see them later. Recording makes sense to share with others who cannot be there, but too many parents are missing out on what matters.

Moments can't be captured--we pretend otherwise at a huge loss.