Sunday, September 25, 2011

Where Does This Problem Lie?

It's that time of year again, boys and girls--time to get California Educator magazine, the mouthpiece rag of the California Teachers "Association", and to pick apart its silliness. Take this article for instance:
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know science education is becoming extinct in California’s schools, producing a negative impact on society. It’s a domino effect: Science gets short shrift in elementary schools that focus mostly on English and math due to No Child Left Behind (NCLB) requirements. Students enter secondary school lacking a foundation in science, and their classes emphasize rote memorization instead of hands-on learning. With schools unable to afford materials for science labs, students think science is boring and pursue careers in other fields. Without a new generation of scientists, America loses its edge in creating new technology, finding cures for diseases and improving the overall quality of life.
I'm not sure when the "Golden Age" of elementary science education was, but there is definitely some interesting silliness in the above paragraph. First, of course, is tossing the blame at NCLB, to which I'll return in a moment. The next, though, is the emphasis on "rote memorization"; I ask, why aren't these teachers, professionals that they are, doing more than rote memorization? Do they really need Bill Nye The Science Guy setups before they can teach? And when did elementary school teachers, notorious for not wanting even to teach math, become the chemists and biologists of our age?

Sorry, I'm not buying it.

Now let's return to the Big Bugaboo, NCLB. Because of its emphasis on English and math (as if you could do science without either), science instruction is supposedly getting short shrift. But California Educator is a California publication about California schools--don't our state standards include elementary science? Why, yes they do! From what I can determine, science is tested by the state in grades 5 and 8-11, but there are standards that are supposed to be met in all grades. Is California Educator, and by extension the CTA, saying that California's professional teaching corps is focusing only on what's tested, and is not meeting all its responsibilities when it comes to teaching the required curriculum?

That's a big admission. What's the real problem here? Are school administrators forbidding the teaching of science?

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