Saturday afternoon, a Chinese astronaut orbiting Earth made his nation’s first spacewalk. Chinese stopped to watch television screens broadcast this new leap forward in their nation’s scientific advancement. A report two years ago revealed that, while China (as Education Week reported) “suffers from a large disparity between the quality of education in relatively advanced urban areas and poorer, rural communities, and from a system that encourages relatively rigid teaching methods,” the United States still could learn from the Chinese when it comes to science education:
China uses a dramatically different approach to building students’ mathematical and science skills from the United States’, with strong national standards, a structured progression from easy to difficult subject matter, and extensive teacher training serving as core tenets of the communist country’s educational system.
Critics will, of course, focus on the line noting that China is a communist country (which it is, nominally if not in reality). But they will miss the point. Other developing nations, such as India, as well as the rest of the developed world have also been focusing heavily on giving their students a sound science education.
Back in the United States, creationists who control the Texas State Board of Education are arguing that public school science standards should challenge the overwhelming evidence supporting evolution — a subject that provides the foundation for study about all of the biological sciences. Even worse, the state board’s creationist chairman argues that science should be redefined to include supernatural (religious) explanations.
Clearly, we have a problem. It is astonishing — and alarming — that among the world’s developed nations, it is in the United States that teaching about the science of evolution continues to be so controversial.