“This is the most blatant case of false advertising
since my suit against the movie The Neverending Story.”
(Guest post by Greg Forster)
National standards advocates keep asserting that the standards they’re touting are rigorous and demanding. I’ve noticed that they tend to be strong in assertion but weak in analysis – as though their strategy is to say “These are rigorous standards!” so many times that it becomes true.
In fact, when standards are set across an entire sector they tend to reflect the lowest common denominator. (One word: Betamax.)
Keep that in mind as you read Ze’ev Wurman’s takedown of the science standards recently published by the National Academies. Money quote:
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.
Now I finally understood the wisdom of our government in easing the immigration of skilled professionals even in the midst of the largest unemployment in almost a century. When even our congressionally-chartered National Academies, and their most prestigious National Research Council, have lost their belief that American students can compete with their foreign peers, what else can a lowly government department do?
I’m not familiar with the documents you refer to, but I am familiar with the AAAS standards and I expect they are pretty similar in terms of framing which is what you are talking about.
Framing. How do we go about teaching science? The standards are designed to give a very general foundation that promotes a scientific way of thinking. This allows people to connect an observation to a basic principle and that’s all we are looking for below college. The classroom teacher is to teach these principles through a process of discovery using projects that investigate the principles. But the goal is a general one.
I can understand critics saying that the standards are not rigorous because they don’t address our favorite hobby horses in sufficient detail. But in all honesty and excusing the lay public’s misunderstandings, I have seen the same level of misunderstanding in the State of Florida’s science curriculum framework committee.
This way of addressing and outlining standards is very general and designed to sidestep the kind of micromanagement that happened in Texas the beginning of August 2011. Practicing scientists do not expect high school students to be able to identify genus and species of a coral. Instead, they want students to understand that corals are a slow-growing part of the benthic community that is in peril from bleaching due to gradual warming and phosphate pollution.
Lack of an integrated understanding of the world is one reason we have stupidity on display at the Heritage Foundation in full-frontal denial of global climate change.