Saturday, March 19, 2016

The NGSS Executive Summary as a CCSS exemplar text

I am a science teacher, and I (mostly) love the Next Generation Science Standards,
but its opening document smacks of hubris and arrogance and is riddled with logical fallacies.
Any chance it could be edited?

CCSS-LITERACY.RL.11-27: Analyze a case in which grasping a point of view requires distinguishing what is directly stated in a text from what is really meant (e.g., satire, sarcasm, irony, or understatement).
CCSS-LITERACY.RI.8.8: Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is sound and the evidence is relevant and sufficient; recognize when irrelevant evidence is introduced.

"There is no doubt that science—and, therefore, science education—is central to the lives of all Americans."

First let's examine the main clause here--"There is no doubt that central to the lives of all Americans." Raising a level of a claim to "no doubt" in the opening sentence of a document meant to support scientific thinking, which at its heart is based on skepticism and doubt, is inane--why else experiment? On the plus side, as a CCSS exemplar text it makes for a great example of irony or satire .

The other claim in this same sentence is that if "central to the lives of all Americans," so is "science education.," a logical fallacy. Breathing, for example, is also "central to the lives of all Americans" yet most of us have had little to no breathing education--no wonder the Chinese are kicking our butts in the international market.

There's probably some standard (CCSS-LITERACY.RI.7.4?) that applies to the use of emotional appeal by singling out "Americans" as though we have some kind of American exceptionalism in science,

"Never before has our world been so complex and science knowledge so critical to making sense of it all."

Another sentence, another hyperbole--between "no doubt" and "never before" this document is taking on a pretty high-falutin' authoritarian tone (where's Richard Feynman when you need him?)

The statement makes little sense--and what little sense it makes is not supported by evidence. If by "our world" we mean the natural world, well, no, things are every bit as complicated as they ever were, though our understanding of it has grown. If we accept this, then the statement becomes a  tautology--we need science to understand a view of the world made more complex by our use of science, two logical fallacies in the first two statements of the NGSS Executive Summary.

I doubt very much that humans will ever "make sense of it all," and the wording suggests we already can--with dogma comes hubris.

"When comprehending current events, choosing and using technology, or making informed decisions about one’s healthcare, science understanding is key."

What's so sad about all this is that science in and of itself--the desire to observe the natural world and describe its unfolding patterns--does not need this kind of defense. This statement is absurd, a mishmash of science and education babble.

I you want to understand the conflict found in current events, knowing the historical trajectories of various peoples' hearts trumps knowing the trajectory of a MIM-23 Hawk surface to air missile. Heck, just learning to speak another language fluently goes a lot farther than anything science is going to do (other than developing a more efficient way to get to Hell faster).

Choosing healthcare? The biggest key for the vast majority of Americans is cost. I was a practicing physician, a pretty good one at that, and trust me, knowing the biophysics behind the MRI machine isn't going to reduce that hospital bill.

"Science is also at the heart of the United States’ ability to continue to innovate, lead, and create the jobs of the future."

Oh, yeah?
From US Bureau of Labor Statistics, click to see better picture

Maybe the authors meant jobs all over the world, or jobs performed by robots, or jobs created on Mars, but if you're looking at American jobs, if it doesn't involve touching another human being or stuff wealthy folk would rather not touch, you're not going to make the list even with a PhD in physics.

(Well at least the authors used an Oxford comma--always a plus in my book.)

"All students—whether they become technicians in a hospital, workers in a high tech manufacturing facility, or Ph.D. researchers—must have a solid K–12 science education."

Yes, another sentence, another logical fallacy, this time a non sequitur--80% of the statements made in the opening document of one of the most influential documents in American science education .

The use of the word "must" is almost cute--like a parent telling a two-year old to put on a sweater because  Daddy feels cold. Next time you run into a tech in a hospital--assuming you know enough science to make an informed decision to get to a hospital--casually ask her about how that machine she uses works before she zaps you with a roentgen or two of radiation.

And, oh, by the way--Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health, was home-schooled until 6th grade.

Only a committee could have created this kind of gobbledygook.

No comments: