Rethinking America’s Science Education

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There is wide agreement that the future competitiveness of the United States, and more specifically of American children, rests on raising the quality of science and mathematics education in primary and secondary schools. Making that happen, in turn, requires that those students actually take to learning those subjects. There is considerable debate as to whether the right approach to getting the kids to do well in maths and sciences is to instill more discipline and focus in the students, add greater structure to education, or somehow craft the subject matter into more palatable forms.

In A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas, the authors dodge the philosophical arguments that frame the debate above. Instead, they begin with the levels of subject knowledge that high school graduates should possess, and from that build backwards, creating a framework of concepts, ideas, and best practices from which a unified primary and secondary curriculum can be developed.

Not satisfied with making recommendations in the basic theoretical sciences, the authors devote extensive coverage into introducing applied science fields like engineering and space science into the curriculum. From the point of view of this former student, who eschewed sciences after his first year in university, this approach looks like a winner – if followed. At a time when school systems in the US are struggling just to pay the bills, one wonders how many administrators will opt for a major revamp of their science curricula.

For the sake of the nation, I hope the answers is “a lot.”

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