Thursday, July 22, 2004
From the S.F. Chronicle: "The Quiet Erosion of Science Education," an op/ed article in which Susan Kalmus deplores the fact that 84% of California's high school students take no physical science classes at all:
Department of Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham shared the concern of many science teachers and parents in his announcement earlier this month of a science education initiative. During a speech at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, he outlined a DOE initiative to stem the serious problem of science and math literacy in the United States. That we are losing ground in patents, scientific papers and Ph.D.s is clear from recent news. But how serious is the problem of scientific literacy in California's classrooms? . . . .Asking questions? Objective Evidence? Successful democracy?!? No wonder science is on the way out.
But does science really matter? It certainly matters to the economy. Physical science is required for college courses leading to careers in biotech, health professions, high tech, engineering and many defense careers. The low level of support for science education is particularly ironic in a state that has one of the world's largest economies, where much of that wealth is generated by science-related industries.
Being scientifically literate is more than knowing a body of facts. Science is a process of knowing. Asking questions, using a logical approach to solving problems and relying on objective evidence are all skills specifically taught in inquiry-based science classes. And they are vital skills not just to the economy, but to a literate citizenry that underpins a successful democracy.