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Thread: The problem with science education in the United States

  1. #1

    The problem with science education in the United States

    I read the following article with horror. I won't give away the punchline.
    Why I’m Homeschooling My Kid in Science Next Year

    by Tony on June 28th, 2007

    NotebooksIt’s no surprise to me that Colorado’s public school system is not good. I mean, I’m a product of the Boulder Valley School District and I can tell you first hand that it’s not great at preparing one for college, or anything for that matter.

    So, it shouldn’t come as a big shock to me that I need to pick up the slack for what my sons are NOT learning about science in school.

    My first experience with just how bad things were occurred back in the early 1990’s. I was giving a presentation to some 5th graders when I asked the question: “When did the United States first land a man on the moon?”

    No one raised their hand. In fact, most didn’t know we had ever been to the moon, and of those that did know, a substantial fraction doubted that we were there at all (parents were probably moon-landing-hoaxers).

    And I have a TON of stories like that.

    Fast forward to this last school year. My 7th grade son is a very good student, gets A’s in just about everything. He LOVES science, especially astronomy (imagine that) and he and I have great conversations about what the universe is like and what it’s like to be a scientist. He eats that stuff up so I know he does his best in his science class.

    Yet, throughout all of last year, his grade in science was C-. In every report card.

    He was devastated because he knew how important science is to me and he always thought he knew science better than all of his classmates (and I agree with him, I’ve met some of those kids. Let’s just say critical thinking doesn’t come naturally to them).

    Getting that C- consistently really took a toll on him, he couldn’t understand what was going on. He really knows his stuff and always scored well on tests.

    Naturally, I talked to the teacher to investigate.


  2. #2
    Banned adi chicago's Avatar
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    Jun 2006
    near dracula castle
    kids those days dont like to the same here in romania.all they love is internet and video games.
    • Dum spiro, spero.
      • Translation: "As long as I breathe, I hope."

  3. #3
    As much as I respect this one father for taking it upon himself to educate these four's not the answer.
    What about the other 35 kids in this one class?

    The ones that organize their notebooks without actually knowing what they learned will be passed on.
    Falsely at that.

    Many of this class and all other classes have children that live with two working parents. And some also with
    parents that may not have went to college or finished high school. THUS we have to FIX the public education period.

    Even this father is only going to teach Science. What about math and all the other needed subjects that are also being ruled by the "getting paid" rule?

    Public education needs major repair NOW.
    Life isn't about getting thru the storm but learning to dance in the rain.

  4. #4
    I don't want to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but I've heard several political pundits say that the education system in the US is failing because those in power want it that way. It's about control.

  5. #5
    My daughter teaches high school science.

    This year, I started teaching a freshman seminar course of about 30 students. They are better prepared than the students that I have had in previous years. My main complaint with the science preparation of college students that I have taught is their inability to connect their knowledge with new situations or problems that are presented to them. Many of them have the knowledge but don't know how to apply that knowledge. All the information is placed into bins that may be accessible to them for SAT and other exams but somehow is not available for problem solving. So, for example, if I ask them to tell me ten ways in which to measure the salt (NaCl) content of a solution, some can't come up with any, most come up with one, and only a few are able to come up with even three.

    I am aghast at the math ability of many college students. Most have little confidence in their math abilty, to the extent that they are unsure of their answers to even simple questions like, how many milliliters of drug solution do you give if you want to give 45 mg/kg of a 50 mg/ml solution of pentobarbital to a rat of 250 gram body weight. When I ask whether they would stake their lives on the solution, most are reluctant. I tell them that many will eventually be called upon to stake the lives of their patients on their calculations. They have not been taught to check their solutions through multiple paths, to confirm the solution. Many are not accustomed to doing rough estimates in their heads. These are students who are articulate, bright, and obviously accomplished students who can engage in complex logical reasoning and big thinking.

    At the college level, my responsibility is to take students who are interested in science and prepare them to become professional scientists or sophisticated users of science. At the high school and particularly the junior high school level, however, the responsibility of the teachers is first to interest the students in science and second to give them a basic foundation of scientific vocabulary and knowledge, and third to provide them with confidence in their ability to solve problems.

    I agree with the author of the article that putting 80% weight of a grade on organization of a laboratory notebook is inappropriate. Inability to keep well-organized notebook may make the difference between an A and B but it shouldn't be the difference between an A and C. Like Lindox, I agree that the answer is not home schooling. The father should protest to the school and put his time into exposing his son to additional science outside of school. I remember protesting to the schools of my children that they should be teaching at least some of the science from original sources rather than textbooks which I regard to be reader's digest versions of science. Just as schools would not ask their students to read summaries of Shakespeare rather than Shakespeare own writings, they should not be teaching science solely from textbooks. There are many original science texts that are worthwhile reading. Archimedes, Newton, Darwin, Watson & Crick, and many other texts are worthwhile reading.

    Last edited by Wise Young; 10-06-2007 at 11:11 AM.

  6. #6
    Senior Member
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    Jul 2007
    SW Florida
    This conversation is interesting to me on so many levels. I am the son of a teacher, and my sister is a teacher, and I am the father of six children who have been in public school systems in three states and four different counties (pre-k to college grad). The problems in public education? I don’t know where to begin.

    One big problem is that schools in different systems don’t have a homogenous educational plan. Opportunities for learning differ wildly, not just on the socioeconomic level, but sometimes based on factors as trivial as zoning disputes. One example I can think of involves the schools in our former state of Tennessee. Keep in mind that Tennessee public education usually ranks 48th or 49th out of the nation (another problem). In our county a high school child can get a fair education and go on to college with it. In neighboring counties some of the high schools have no foreign languages, no art or music, no sports, no advanced classes and no college prep. These students have to take the courses they’re missing elsewhere in order to qualify for college.

    Another sever problem in public schools isn’t even directly related to the schools themselves. The backgrounds, or home life, of the children can range from supportive and safe to contemptuous and even downright dangerous. My sister teaches 6th grade in a large inner-city school system. Some of her students have such severe problems that they cry in class and some still suck their thumbs. My sister has had problems with students who didn’t want to go home, had no sense of self-worth, and would cling to her because she was the only stable, secure person in their lives. Problem: how to you teach a child who doesn’t even think him/herself worthy of education or is more worried about survival than learning. Teachers at these schools sometimes suffer almost as much as the kids. They have problems with drugs, alcohol, and apathy. My sister says some of her fellow teachers look haggard and old and even have physical ailments as a direct result of stress.

    So what is the solution to all the problems in public schools? Concerned people. It isn’t just about money. Parents, volunteers, leaders, and a government engaged in removing the inequities in our system of education, not by lowering the standards but by elevating the quality of education to an equitable level for all students. It is the only hope for American children.

  7. #7
    Senior Member JimD's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2001
    Long Island, NY
    I'm a high school science teacher - and that teacher's approach horrifies me!

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