11 May 2009

Common Ground

Bug Girl pointed me toward this website asking Why Is Science Important? Oddly enough, this is a question I've been pondering a lot this year. While I have my own ideas around the topic, my job this year has shown me that as a state, we have no cohesive purpose when it comes to science. There are lots of cliques each pursuing their own goals. In some ways, this is all right. We don't all have to be doing the same things at the same time. We serve different stakeholders and fill various needs.

However, I do think that it would be beneficial to have some agreement about why we're doing it. This is the piece I'm missing as I travel around the state. I never hear anyone speak to the purpose of science education. Why should I care about one particular group's goals if they leave their mission up to my interpretation?

We will never have agreement here on some things. There is a large number of people who believe that the entity of science is more important than kids and teachers. What's best for science is their bottom line. And me? I and many others have the reverse viewpoint: Kids first. Science second. Either way, there must be something we feel is essential about learning science in the first place.

So maybe this question just needs to become part of my repertoire as I'm out and about. I wonder if I'll be surprised/repulsed/affirmed by the answers. More importantly, I wonder if there will be some common ground.


Hugh O'Donnell said...

I am sure this is not a comment you're looking for or expecting, SG, but face it...science is just...interesting (!), ergo, important.

A cool science teacher can create miracles of wonder and engagement in students, and serve as a gateway to propping up those other skill areas that suffer so much: math and language arts.

If somebody had told me my science would be better with mo' math and mo' English when I was in about 6th grade, well you might be talking to a Nobel Prize contender right now. :)

Told ya that would be off the wall.

Roger Sweeny said...

The question, "Why is science important?" and the question, "Why should K-12 teach science?" are very different things.

The latter requires us to honestly ask, "What should citizens know about science?" and (very, very, very important), "What can we realistically expect K-12 students to learn about science?"

From experience, we have a fairly good idea what we can expect students to spit back on an assessment. But we have almost no idea what they retain after they leave our classroom--or after they graduate. What little we do know, from surveys of the population, is that the amount is depressingly small.

Not surprisingly, people who take additional science courses, or who work in science-related fields, retain more. Should there be a "one size fits all" for what public school students should be taught?