Falling Behind on Science Education

A national poll shows that 97 percent of American voters think improving the quality of science education is important to the country’s ability to compete globally. Yet most of those voters give the quality of science education in America right now only a “C” or lower and rate it behind that of most other countries. (This polls follows a report from the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute that gave a “C” grade to science curriculum standards in Texas and many other states.)

The poll was conducted for Achieve, a bipartisan, nonprofit education reform organization created by governors and corporate leaders in 1996. That organization helps states raise academic standards and graduation requirements, improve assessments and strengthen accountability.

Achieve is working with 26 state to develop a set of “Next Generation Science Standards.” Texas isn’t one of those states. But that’s OK because the insurance and software salesmen, dentist and assorted political activists who have sat on the Texas State Board of Education  in recent years are sure they know everything students should be learning in their science classrooms. Those wonderful board members have been busy “standing up to experts,” asking why we don’t have “cat-dogs” or a “rat-cats” if evolution is really established science, and calling critical thinking “gobbledygook.”

10 thoughts on “Falling Behind on Science Education

  1. From the article, “Those wonderful board members have been busy ‘standing up to experts,’ asking why we don’t have ‘cat-dogs’ or a ‘rat-cats’ if evolution is really established science, and calling critical thinking ‘gobbledygook.’ ”

    Obviously anyone who could come up with the stupid idea of cat-dog, knows nothing about evolution. Anyone who studies evolution would know that. People who don’t believe in evolution, don’t even know what it is.

  2. I wish some of these candidates, like this one, would say, “I and my family attend the First Lutheran Church in Waco. We all love Jesus too, but we are not all screwed up like these fundie candidates.

  3. I’m not a software salesman just program for my science work, but the article made me wonder (with “evolutionary theory” aside) where specifically in science does Dan and others maybe Charlene and Bluescat48 think Texas needs to go to be ahead of other states, when the future arrives. For example, after the Soviet Union launched the Sputnik satellite in 1957 there was a race to the moon. A state that was already strong in related subject areas would better prepare students for the upcoming scientific challenges, that are to some degree predictable. The state then becomes a technology leader and the US might have landed on the moon a little sooner, or maybe have had fewer mishaps getting there. Same thing with the discovery of DNA leading to what is now the science of molecular biology. Then later the Human Genome Project was a success. The only thing for sure now is that science is going to go somewhere most would not expect but might be predicted by knowing what the current trends are and what some of them ultimately lead to.

    What do you think is emerging from science that the future has in store for students now in K-12 that are destined to be scientists? It’s something science teachers have to try to predict too, and I was wondering your thoughts on what the next major scientific trend will be. Emerging science few know much about yet but all eventually will. If you can’t find any one thing then might maybe be less specific such as whether programming skills are becoming more or less needed in biology.

    I have my own ideas on future trends. But wondered what all here have, I would not think of.

    What else specifically does Texas need to prepare students for so they don’t fall behind?

    1. One of the situations, which makes forming a science curriculum hairy is that there is no dogma in science. Science is a progressive study, apt to change at any given time. What was accepted, last year might be different this year. Science courses must change with the flow, not remain stagnated is archaic ideology. For example, the curriculum for my High School Biology class 1963-1964, would be unrecognizable as biology today, in that research has changed many of the accepted idioms of that period. ie: at that time, Fungi were thought to be plants that lacked chlorophyll, now it is known that fungi are a totally separate life kingdom, more closely related to the animal kingdom than to the plant kingdom. Yet there ane many people who still consider mushrooms as vegetables.

  4. Gary Gaulin.

    1) I would suggest three things. I think biological/genetic engineering is one of the places things wil go. This is why our kids need to have a firm grip on biology that is grounded in evolutionary science. There are also moral implications for this, so I think the fields of scientific and medical ethics will become more important. In places like China, probably in secret labs, they may already be combining human DNA with assorted animals experimentally, chimps that can walk fully upright and that sort of thing, Can you say “Island of Dr. Moreau.”?

    2) Nanophase technology is another important area. I would suggest that you visit the websites for the national laboratories (e.g., Oak Ridge National Laboratory). These labs pride themselves on living at the “edge of the envelope”—to borrow a Chuck Yaeger term. The areas they are pursuing are the areas they think we are headed towards in the future. Here is the link to ORNL:




    3) Visit the website for Battelle Memorial Institute in Columbus, Ohio. I worked for them for 6 years. Their whole business is, quite literally, creating the scientific future in the NOW. They have scientific futurists on their staff that do nothing else but try to divine, anticipate, and pursue what our scientific future will be worldwide. Ask Battelle for a futurist’s name and write to them. Battelle invented many of the small and large things that touch our lives daily, like the special coating that makes M&Ms melt in your mouth and not in your hands.

  5. As a teacher in a texas high school, I would say there are more important things to worry about as far as education although please understand I am not belittling your efforts on science education.

  6. I have to first say that Charles/Charlene and Bluescat48 way outdid my expectations. Very useful information to add, some I will have to carefully follow up on. You’re already leading to ideas to try that I would not have thought up on my own. I have to thank you for taking the time to respond.

    And I was hoping that what I think Rtrev is describing would sow/show itself here too. I’m glad it did. Now that we are on such an excellent cliffhanger, I have to ask whether they can explain their experience with the more important things to worry about as far as education is concerned. Then sum it up to a single sentence that needs to be said, so none of us lose sight of that.

    I’m not a classroom teacher who knows all you know, but I need to know how to correctly word it. Maybe Dan does too. So teach on! I for one promise to be attentive. 😀

  7. Gary,

    The leadership in SBOE is so concerned about their agenda as far as Social Studies and Science that they are limiting the students ability to critically think. They push for high standards but don’t want failures. The kids they can’t write using correct subject/verb agreement. They can’t reason and yet this our future. Woe is us and thanks to SBOE and their onesided short-sightedness

  8. Okay Gary. Here is a simple education statement:

    “We most overcome the greatest of all crises in American education—which is this. How do we take 100,000,000 Americans with an IQ of 98 who were born to “work with their hands” and make them all EARN a legitimate Ph.D. in biology, engineering, or computer science so they will one day be able to feed themselves and their families with a real job.”

    That is the challenge. There is only one way to do that: genetic engineering. We have to create an American world where every child will be born with the brain chemical levels and neural architecture necessary have a 130+ IQ. I would say the Chinese are working on that right now. We are probably not. That will be a problem for us someday.

  9. I was hoping RtRev would have a good one about poverty and the streets more apt to take some of the best in science class to an early grave, than believing that “evolutionary theory” has limitations will end their science career.

    Now I feel obliged to say that a born-to-be scientist still in K-12 needs a place to go they call home, with lots of electronic parts and books how to turn them into robots and radios and such. As long as they don’t mix the wrong stuff together or something they’ll for the most part be fine on their own. Ones who are not even interested in science should be somewhere else, that interests what they were born-to-be in. Everyone should have a life-skills level science education, but all do not thrive on that alone. And all becoming a PhD would result in nothing else getting done, all would starve only feeding brain.

    It’s a plus to have a good science teacher and districts that have a big Science Fair but not all are that lucky. Some are thankful to have a math teacher subbing for science teacher who doesn’t always make science class boring torture.

    It takes a community to raise a scientist, in part because of being happy hitting a ball with a bat they need to build a rocket or something else that might blowup. Have to take the good with the bad and make sure born-to-be scientists get all the attention they need to safely keep their experiments going. That is not something that can be taught by a single theory, it’s giving them what they need to know to learn from there on their own, without getting lost.

    That’s my example, anyway, of what I was hoping for. But I know how the SBOE conflicts loom large.