Responding to the ridicule of teachers and the teaching profession by politicians and self proclaimed "experts"!
"Where is Albert Shanker now that we need him?" - Walt Sautter

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Slow, Painful Path to the Death of American Science Ed

Currently, enrollment in science majors in America is dwindling. According to recent reports we can look forward to fewer and fewer scientists, engineers and especially science teachers being created in the upcoming years. How did this happen? Why has science and science education lost its glitter?
Well for one, why would any student elect to spend countless hours in a chemistry lab while his peers are playing cards in the student lounge knowing his reward upon graduation pales compared to that of the business and law graduates? When I think about it, it is kind of amazing that anyone is willing to study science in the first place!
Secondly, with respect to those preparing to become science teachers the motivation is even more perplexing. These people, generally, are far from stupid. Why would anyone elect to put in all that time and effort and then enter teaching, a field receiving little respect, constant bashing and continual debasement? My guess is, that it is only those who are sincerely dedicated to the science education of future generations. They are the only science people who enter the profession today.
I don’t think that we can continue to count on an endless supply of people such as these to fill the future need for qualified science instructors in our public schools. (By the way, math and language people are also in short supply and getting shorter).
I am one of a huge group of retired chem and physics teacher who was inspired in the age of Sputnik and moon landings and I don't see too many qualified people coming to replace us. The situation bodes poorly for our country’s future. Science education and education in general needs a “shot in the arm” if it is to propel America technologically forward.
I have read recently that funds are being diverted from Liberal Arts to the Sciences in many colleges, hoping to encourage students to enter biology, chemistry, physics, etc. Trust me, it will take more than that to shift students into becoming science majors. It will take a whole change in attitude.
A “shot in the arm” to my way of thinking requires the following:
(1) a cessation of teacher bashing
(2) an end to political tinkering (meddling) with education (the real purpose of which I will discuss in a future post),
(3) a reinstitution of NSF science teaching programs as existed in the sixties
(4) a strong PR campaign to extol the virtues of study and hard work (hard work by the student – learning is not necessarily improved by the teacher doing more, the student must likewise do more – learning requires audience participation)
(5) an end to the claims of private education being vastly superior to public education (because in many cases, based on my experience, it certainly is not!)
(6) a concerted PR effort to encourage parents to augment the teacher’s efforts at home (we must make it a badge of honor to have helped a child with his schoolwork something to brag about!)
Maybe you have some more constructive ideas which would help to forestall the looming demise of science in our country.

2 comments:

  1. Regarding your blog on science teachers: "You get what you pay for." No wonder China and India produce more scientists than the US and especially NJ.

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  2. Hi Walt, I liked #3 ,"NSF grants as during the 60's", but we need politicians who will push for this, and we
    need an environment which grows the economy and increases the $$$$ supply. I think that right now
    the private schools have more money to spend on science education and education in general than the
    public schools do. They get their money from the so called " 1% " who have the money to put their
    kids into private schools. My nephews go to the Far Hills Country Day School and one of them is interviewing for private high school. He will get a great science education. He already built a robot in 7th grade at Princeton University on a summer grant from his elementary school !!! His father (my nephew)
    went to William Paterson U and only has a B.S. in business. His first job was as a Head Hunter. He used
    to apply for the best jobs that came across his desk. One day he went on an interview at a Pharmaceutical
    Company and got a great Marketing job. Right now he is the President of U.S. operations for Sankyo
    Pharma. Now his sons are headed for Ivy League colleges if they want it. The problem with the 99%
    is that they want it all in one generation, they want it without working for it, and they want the government
    to pay for everything. Government sucks and it's not reliable. People should not depend on it unless they
    absolutely have no choice. In my case I worked for two pharmaceutical companies and was bored. That's
    why I left and went into teaching. I loved teaching and would have applied to a private school if the
    money had been better than in public at that time. We both know that there are people in public education who are overpaid for the lousey job that some of them do !!!!! Not fair !!

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What do you think?