Science lagging?
Interesting article from Reuters today, U.S. science education lags, study finds.
WASHINGTON (Reuters)-Science education in U.S. elementary and middle schools is overly broad and superficial, according to a government report issued on Thursday that also faults science curricula for assuming children are simplistic thinkers.
Yes, I could have told them that for a lot cheaper and a lot fewer tests. In fact, that was one of the entries in the Carnival I really appreciated. The Text Book Evaluator criticized history texts for delivering information and teaching children what to think rather than how to approach the study of history as a method of inquiry.
"All children have basic reasoning skills, personal knowledge of the natural world, and curiosity that teachers can build on to achieve proficiency in science," said the report from the National Research Council, one of the National Acadamies.
Curiosity? Expressing that requires the use of independent thought. It also gets messy and is very hard to do while seated in a desk, facing the front, with your hands neatly folded on your desk. (Sh! No talking!) Nevermind the difficulty with assessment via standardized tests.
Part of the problem is that state and national learning standards for students in elementary and middle schools require children to memorize often-disconnected scientific facts, the report said.
OK, they must have observed the science classes I had in school. Except Advanced Biology my sophomore year. But that kind of exploration was only entrusted to those of us "honors kids" who passed the test. I hated the academic classes I had to take and wondered how anyone survived the boredom of memorizing all that pointless, random stuff. I can't imagine how stagnant the "fundamental" classes must have been.
Other countries such as Japan have students explore a core set of ideas, with increasing depth as they get older, it said.
Yeah. That was my experience in Germany, but we couldn't possibly adopt those changes inour reforms. I think all our reforms are stemming from their Hauptschule...basically vo-tech.
"Comparisons of science standards and curricula in the United States with that of countries that perform well on international science tests reveal overly broad and superficial coverage of science topics in U.S. classrooms," said the report by 15 eduction specialists from across the country.
Name your subject. The same criticism is valid. There is a problem with the comparison, though, just to be fair. I had a different education than some of those I ate lunch with because I was on the AP track and not all my friends were. There were different standards in my classes than in theirs and they went well beyond the state standards. But at the end of the day, we were all tested. In Japan, not all are. And in Germany, a good deal of the population has graduated before these tests are administered. Hauptschule goes to eighth grade and Realschule goes to the 10th. Only the top students make it into the Gymnasium and it isn't really fair to compare our average high school senior to them. Beware of international tests that say how miserable we are doing!
The report also criticized teacher training, saying undergraduate courses required for teachers were not substantial enough and schools need to support their teachers in learning more about their subject.
That's because it isn't about content but methodology. I have a B.S. in Education and a B.A. in Liberal Arts and Sciences from the University of Kansas. While majoring in education, I majored in German and ran into difficulties. I was in danger of earning too many credits in German, my content area, and had to not take courses that I really wanted to take so as not to endanger my education degree. Can't know too much about your subject or you won't be an effective teacher, I guess. Most of the credit hours required for my education degree were methods courses...and KU uses the very famous behavioral model based on B.F. Skinner's work (actually, they developed it and are quite known for it and its effectiveness in the public schools.

While sometimes science can be daunting to homeschoolers, it is amazing how much a child learns with a simple nature notebook and the experience of the back yard. They are natural scientists, exploring, questioning and experimenting as they gather more information about their world. And as they get older, you can slowly draw them into the fascinating intricacies of life only available to them through a good science book. But never forget to let them have that time to just explore and ask questions and find as many answers as they can for themselves.

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