Saturday, January 15, 2005

No wonder kids are less and less interested in science...

They don't get much hands-on experience anymore. This article is about Britain, but I'd be willing to bet that it could equally apply to the U.S. In the U.K., overblown fears about health and safety are leading schools to cut out practical lab courses (for example, the unfounded fear that doing fingersticks would lead to a risk of students contracting HIV). In the U.S., no doubt fears of liability contribute to this trend, along with budgetary concerns.

One of the experiences that turned me on to biology and medicine was the opportunity given to me when I was around 8 or 9 years old by one of my father's friends (who taught biology at a local college) to come into his course and dissect frogs and fetal pigs. (I still remember it to this day, and it is one of the major incidents that turned me on to science.) I can't imagine any college biology instructor doing something like that today. Later, it was doing lab experiments in junior high and high school. Let's face it, reading about science can be boring, particularly given that science textbooks tend to simply describe scientific principles and knowledge as simple fact without giving a flavor for how those principles were discovered and verified. Lab courses, properly taught, bring science to life for students. Even for those who don't go into science, such courses can give an appreciation about how science comes up with results. It is ignorance of how science works that leads to idiocy like the school board in Dover trying to have creationism taught in science classes alongside evolution. (And, no, I'm not a liberal or atheist; believe it or not, it is possible to be conservative and still see the fiasco perpetrated on Dover by its school board for what it is, an unconstitutional attempt to teach a specific religious belief as science.)

2 example(s) of insolence returned:

At 1/15/2005 1:11 PM, Blogger Epador said...

It is a big fight we all have to fight. Intelligent Design, Creationism, etc. are all teleologic doctrines, not scientific theory. They may have a place in a comparative religions class, but not in the science curriculae. If we don't fight this hard now, our home grown mullahs of the religious right will make Iran look like a benign democracy compared to our country within ten years.


At 1/15/2005 7:57 PM, Blogger Curious JD said...

PA isn't the only place where legislators are wasting people's time. Arkansas, which recently passed a anti-gay marriage amendment, has just had a bill proposed to make any reference to marriage in a textbook reflect the Arkansas definition of marriage.

Which brings me to a comment on your post. Elementary and secondary education teachers are so overwhelmed with the morass of paperwork and preparation for standardized tests, there is no time to engage students. Particularly in the science courses, which are more difficult to engage some students without hands on projects. But when one must do well on tests or risk the school losing funding, it's hard to have the time to spend on those projects.

But a question for you. It's often said that US kids are far behind other kids in math and sciences. But are we not the most innovative society in the world? Is it maybe just that our kids don't test as well? Or do we just have a few superachievers and a bunch of laggards?


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