08 August 2011

Science Appreciation

Monolithic3D | Ze'ev Wurman | Education to Raise Technology Consumers instead of Technology Creators

Consequently, I was excited when the National Research Council recently published its new Framework for K-12 Science Education, in which it outlines its vision for improving teaching science in America in the 21st century. [...]

This certainly looks promising, particularly because the framework for the first time introduces engineering as a subject of study for our K-12 students. Yet as I kept reading the document’s 280 pages of lofty prose, I noticed something odd: The framework does not expect students to use any kind of analytical mathematics while studying science. [...]

For example, the framework promotes a practice called Using Mathematics, Information and Computer Technology, and Computational Thinking (p. 3-13). Yet one observes that after singing paeans to the importance of mathematics, it only expects students by grade 12 to be competent in "recognizing," "expressing," and "using simple … mathematical expressions … to see if they make sense," but not in actually solving science problems using mathematics. [...]

Suddenly it all became clear. This framework does not expect our students to be able to do any science, or to be able to solve any science problem. This framework simply teaches our students science appreciation, rather than science. It expects our students to become good consumers of science and technology, rather than prepare them to be the discoverers of science and creators of technology.
"Science appreciation" is a great term for this. I would settle for students at least learning some "science literacy," but you can't really learn to read without having done some writing.

Frankly, I don't think we even get Science Appreciation right, as I believe this demonstrates:
NYTimes | Cornelia Dean | Groups Call for Scientists to Engage the Body Politic

When asked to name a scientist, Americans are stumped. In one recent survey, the top choice, at 47 percent, was Einstein, who has been dead since 1955, and the next, at 23 percent, was “I don’t know.” In another survey, only 4 percent of respondents could name a living scientist.
I feel like I see this story every year or so.
For example, according to the Congressional Research Service, the technically trained among the 435 members of the House include one physicist, 22 people with medical training (including 2 psychologists and a veterinarian), a chemist, a microbiologist and 6 engineers.
Now several groups are trying to change that. They want to encourage scientists and engineers to speak out in public debates and even run for public office.
As much as I want to see more STEM professionals in office, I am not optimistic about this recruiting plan. I am afraid the people you will get to run for office are the people who either can't hack it in technology or whose heads and hearts were never really in it. I suppose it's no different than any other situation: I want the people in office who don't want to be there.

(Via Right on the Left Coast and The Fourth Check Raise)

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