Value Of Science Education Examined

March 18, 2010 By Audrey Hoffer, Inside Science News Service

The new blueprint for a revamped Elementary and Secondary Education Act -- commonly referred to as the No Child Left Behind Act -- is raising concerns among science and education experts.

Department of Education secretary Arne Duncan presented the Obama Administration's updated education blueprint on Wednesday to the House Education and Labor Committee.

The committee is currently rewriting the law.

The community noted the lack of an emphasis toward the importance of science-related instruction for students.

According to the blueprint, "states will continue to implement statewide science standards ... and may include such assessments ... in their accountability systems."

The phrase challenged by scientists is 'may include', which they believe should read as 'must include'.

"When we do not include science among the areas that are emphasized and assessed, we run the risk that little focus will be put on science in the school curriculum," said Shirley Malcom, director of education and human resources for the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

According to Christine Bertrand, executive director of the California Science Teachers Association, California has rigorous science education standards that starts during kindergarten and continues through high school with increasingly complex content that provides a solid scientific foundation for students.

"But what we're finding is that in many cases elementary teachers are instructed not to teach anything but reading and math because those are the subjects that are tested ... It's not benign neglect; in some cases it's deliberate." Bertrand said. "And, there's no penalty for not teaching science."

Research supports the idea that reading skills are enhanced through science instruction.

"I strongly support teaching science to all, and if testing will encourage K-12 schools to do that, then I support testing," said Robert Rosner, professor of physics and astrophysics at the University of Chicago. "It's in the interests of our country to have a technologically educated citizenry and to achieve that does require teaching science."

"There are those who say we can't afford to invest in science, that it's a luxury at a moment defined by necessities. I could not disagree more. Science is more essential for our prosperity, our security, and our health, and our way of life than it has ever been," said President Barack Obama in October of 2009 while awarding the National Medal of Science and Medal of Technology and Innovation.

Francis Eberle, the executive director of the National Science Association, said that science provides a way to think of the world and enables people to be more thoughtful in making decisions.

"From cars to healthcare, from energy to pharmaceuticals, all these issues require knowledge of a complex world," Eberle said. "It's not necessarily our mission to make the world full of scientists but we do want people to be more science-aware."

"At the end of the day, what is assessed is taught!" Malcom said. "I can't imagine trying to manage one's life in a world where the rules are perceived to be based on luck and chance rather than scientific principles that are knowable."

Explore further: Evolution education is a 'must' says coalition of scientific and teaching organizations

Related Stories

UK children's exposure to science and arts 'hijacked'

November 5, 2007

A ten year review of primary education has found that children are now taught an 'alarming' amount of maths and English at the expense of science, arts and the humanities compared to ten years ago.

AAAS denounces bills undermining evolution

February 20, 2006

The American Association for the Advancement of Science, meeting in St. Louis, said Sunday it strongly denounced legislation undermining evolution.

Teaching science: Is discovery better than telling?

February 16, 2009

Western Michigan University researchers have discovered that in the academic debate over whether young science students learn more through experimenting or direct instruction, there's little difference.

Recommended for you

Unprecedented study of Picasso's bronzes uncovers new details

February 17, 2018

Musee national Picasso-Paris and the Northwestern University/Art Institute of Chicago Center for Scientific Studies in the Arts (NU-ACCESS) have completed the first major material survey and study of the Musee national Picasso-Paris' ...

Humans will actually react pretty well to news of alien life

February 16, 2018

As humans reach out technologically to see if there are other life forms in the universe, one important question needs to be answered: When we make contact, how are we going to handle it? Will we feel threatened and react ...

Using Twitter to discover how language changes

February 16, 2018

Scientists at Royal Holloway, University of London, have studied more than 200 million Twitter messages to try and unravel the mystery of how language evolves and spreads.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.