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Science Ability Down in U.S. High Schools 650

Posted by Zonk
from the let's-talk-about-evolution dept.
An anonymous reader writes "According to the International Herald Tribune, a nationwide test has shown that the ability to reason scientifically is less well developed across the board for high schoolers. Fourth graders, ironically, are actually better at reasoning in the sciences now than they were ten years ago." From the article: "The drop in science proficiency appeared to reflect a broader trend in which some academic gains made in elementary grades and middle school have been seen to fade during the high school years. The science results come from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a comprehensive examination administered in early 2005 by the Department of Education to more than 300,000 students in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and on U.S. military bases around the world."
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Science Ability Down in U.S. High Schools

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  • by 0racle (667029) on Saturday May 27, 2006 @03:39PM (#15416955)
    That's what happens when the most important part of your 'academic' life is the Football team.
    • by grub (11606)

      ... and outside of the Football team you learn about Intelligent Design in the Science class..
      • by cagle_.25 (715952)
        Intelligent Design and Creationism play a very small role, if any, in the decline. Even biology teachers who teach some form of creationism (I know two) also make sure that students understand the underlying ideas of evolution. To find the problem, you'll have to look elsewhere.

        Note from TFA, for example, that the issues cited by the article were,

        There was some debate about how to explain the 12th-grade declines. Assistant Secretary of Education Tom Luce said they reflected a national shortage of fully

    • by mctk (840035) on Saturday May 27, 2006 @03:55PM (#15417025) Homepage
      Well, football has always been (and will always be?) the most important part of some students' academic life for years. But I don't think that's the main issue. To me, it's a question of two things: student work ethic and curriculum.

      We Americans are very good at pointing at others and coming up with excuses. But I'll tell you, the Asian students I have aren't good at math because they're Asian, they're good because they (gasp!) actually do homework. That's an investment most students don't care to make.

      And why should they? Our curriculum presents science as a static, lifeless adventure. It's a collection of worksheets and vocab lists. The teacher has all of the answers; it's simply a question of memorizing the correct response.

      We need a curriculum that supports inquiry and thought. We need to give students the responsibility of choice and experimentation. We need to get them generating real results and using those in real world situations. Reasoning and problem solving skills do not come without authentic practice.

      • by Xzzy (111297)
        A lot of my lack of desire to do well in math/science was caused by a complete lack of understanding why any of it mattered, and how I could apply it to things I wanted to do. In general, if I couldn't make use of information I generally got bored with learning it.

        Literary classes were a bit easier because it was tied closely to liesure, I liked reading, so it was easy to to do well at it.

        Since finishing high school (and dropping out of college), I've gone back and self-taught myself a lot of the math skill
      • by Senjutsu (614542) on Saturday May 27, 2006 @04:19PM (#15417146)
        We Americans are very good at pointing at others and coming up with excuses. But I'll tell you, the Asian students I have aren't good at math because they're Asian, they're good because they (gasp!) actually do homework. That's an investment most students don't care to make.

        And why should they? Our curriculum presents science as a static, lifeless adventure. It's a collection of worksheets and vocab lists. The teacher has all of the answers; it's simply a question of memorizing the correct response.


        A better question might be: why do Asian students make that investment, given that their education systems generally focuses on rote memorization and the ability to lifelessly regurgitate solutions on command? If you want to create a curriculum that supports inquiry and free though, don't look to East Asia for inspiration.
        • Perhaps because if you're able to "regurgitate" solutions you can concentrate on the problem at hand as opposed to making sure your figures are correct?
          While it's critical that a student understands the concept of multiplication it is just as important to memorize their times tables.
          Calculating in your head that 6x7=42 wastes time and risks error and the only way to 'know' that 6x7=42 is to drill, repeatedly.
        • What always comes to mind when I hear of "Asian performance" is the posting of scores so that students can have the fun of competing against each other. The United States is too afraid of its students getting an inferiority complex when it comes to doing well academically, which is the explanation given for why they don't do it, but that goes out the window when it comes to Sports. The high school sports scores even get published in the local paper if that don't beat all!
        • Asians (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Mark_MF-WN (678030) on Saturday May 27, 2006 @06:22PM (#15417728)
          Probably because the teachers and parents don't encourage wide-spread abuse of anyone who demonstrates a shred of intellect or individuality.

          Americans put sports first, and guess what? America produces some of the world's best atheletes, while having to recruit its scientists from countries where the intellectually-gifted weren't pummeled half death on a daily basis.

          It's all about who you encourage and who you disparage. When take an illiterate coke-snorting fuck-up who has had everything in life handed to him on a silver platter, and make him the leader of the entire country, it sends a clear message that trying hard in school is a waste of time.

      • Well, football has always been (and will always be?) the most important part of some students' academic life for years. But I don't think that's the main issue. To me, it's a question of two things: student work ethic and curriculum.

        The student work ethic is fine, as evidenced by the amount of time, effort, and dedication put into sports. Students have no problem dedicating themselves to sports while letting their grades slide. Why? Football and other sports are highly valued in the high school setting.
      • by sinclair44 (728189) on Saturday May 27, 2006 @04:57PM (#15417360) Homepage
        We need a curriculum that supports inquiry and thought. We need to give students the responsibility of choice and experimentation. We need to get them generating real results and using those in real world situations. Reasoning and problem solving skills do not come without authentic practice.
        That is why my AP Physics class is so awesome. We have a great teacher who actually understands that. Calculators are allowed on nearly every test, and he realizes that we will put all the formulae for the chapter into our calculators' memories (and he will even show you how to do it if you ask). But that's really very little help if you don't have the problem solving skills to apply what you know, and often make a small leap of intuition -- that's what the class is mainly about: not memorizing a bunch of physics formlae, but learning how to apply what you know and put it together in new and sometimes strange ways to solve a problem.
      • I quite agree. And I have an interesting example to share with regard to some foreign exchange students at my parents' house. I'm a college student, recently graduated from undergrad. I graduated in December and lived with my parents for 8 months between the time I graduated and moved on to graduate school. My parents had two foreign exchange students during that time--one from Germany and one from Brasil. Both of these girls arrived in America the summer before the school year began barely able to spe
    • That's what happens when the most important part of your 'academic' life is the Football team.

      Is this some ironic example of the lack of science reasoning or something?

      You don't like sports, fine, I get that. But to think that somehow liking sports is inversely proportional to academic ability is just stupid. In fact, I argue that sports are part of being a well-rounded individual.

      The truth is that kids are doing worse because parents are worse. They're too afraid to discipline their kids and insist t

  • but I'm not sure what this article is talking about. :-(
    • This article's results are obvious. When Spider-Man went to high school in the 60's he was able to synthesize web fluid in his chemistry lab. What do modern high schoolers make? A fat load of nothing that's what. I say we need more web fluid in schools.
  • by Wellington Grey (942717) on Saturday May 27, 2006 @03:43PM (#15416972) Homepage Journal
    The falling average science test scores among high school students, announced Wednesday, appeared certain to increase anxiety about American academic competitiveness and to add new urgency to calls from President George W. Bush

    Yes, if anyone can save science education in the US it's going to be Dubya.

    -Grey [wellingtongrey.net]
    • Re:From the article (Score:5, Informative)

      by Wellington Grey (942717) on Saturday May 27, 2006 @03:59PM (#15417050) Homepage Journal
      Why was my comment modded troll? Is it at all suprising that people are less interested in science and teaching when a man like Bush is in charge? This administration expresses active hatred for scientific knowledge. You may be interested to know that I'm an American and a physics teacher, but I work abroad and have no intentions of ever trying to teach in America after I had a friend fired in New York for mentioning the existence of evolution in a class.

      -Grey [wellingtongrey.net]
      • Re:From the article (Score:3, Interesting)

        by wanerious (712877)
        have no intentions of ever trying to teach in America after I had a friend fired in New York for mentioning the existence of evolution in a class.

        Assuming the above is accurate and not hyperbole, it sounds like a slam-dunk case of wrongful termination, even if he had a *bad* lawyer, and your friend might even come through with quite a bit of cash. It's too bad you're accommodating those who would cheapen scientific education here in the US by not fighting their culture of fear.

      • by jcr (53032)
        Why was my comment modded troll?

        Let me guess... Because someone with mod points didn't like what you had to say?

        That's /. for you.

        -jcr
      • by Bogtha (906264) on Saturday May 27, 2006 @05:24PM (#15417477)

        I had a friend fired in New York for mentioning the existence of evolution in a class.

        That wasn't very nice of you!

      • by phantomlord (38815) <slashdot.krwtech@com> on Saturday May 27, 2006 @06:05PM (#15417672) Journal
        Is it at all suprising that people are less interested in science and teaching when a man like Bush is in charge?

        I graduated 11 years ago and Bill Clinton didn't inspire me to do anything with science either. The reason why you got modded down, I'm sure, is simply because you just had to throw a Bush attack into something he isn't remotely responsible for. Science and math education have been sliding for years before he even thought about running for President.

        The way science and math are taught these days aren't conducive to learning science and math, much less making kids inspired enough to seriously considering a future with them. More cool stuff in science class, make sure the kids get the basics at an early age in math and then do fun stuff as they get older with it.

        In 6th grade, we spent the whole year working on the biology of whales, learning how an ecosystem worked, etc and that culminated in a weekend fieldtrip for anyone who got a passing grade to the Atlantic Ocean three states away to go on a whale watch. THAT was fun and we all learned a lot that year. The same year, we took a few days and built our own model rockets, launched them and used a protractor with plumb string from a fixed distance to measure how high they went (we didn't even know what trig was yet but we were already having a blast using it to see who's rocket went the highest). We also learned how to develop (black and white) film, made our own prints and did all kinds of great stuff that year without even knowing that we were learning about math and science until we look back on it.

        I guess I'll have to thank Reagan and Bush41 for their inspiring leadership in 1988 instead of the very talented teachers who creatively taught us by making it interesting.

      • by tsotha (720379)
        ...after I had a friend fired in New York for mentioning the existence of evolution in a class.

        I don't believe you. Do you have some kind of link or documentation to support that assertion? You can barely fire a teacher for committing a felony - there's no way the mere mention of evolution could get you fired in one of the bluest states in America. Bullshit. Your friend certainly left part of the story out, like how he slept with one of his students, or something like that.

        In any event, cirriculum se

  • Remeber (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Kortec (449574) on Saturday May 27, 2006 @03:44PM (#15416976) Homepage
    Despite the fact that our universities are filled with foreign nationals, as there simply aren't enough smart Americans to fill them, and as the rest of the world laughs at us for stupid things we do academically (like not adapting to the metric system, or teaching people interesting math or science), we can all take comfort in the fact that No Child Is Left Behind.

    Except for all those poor kids, I guess, but who's counting?
    • I suppose it's true that if everyone is behind, then no one student is behind the other. Or is this a case where students must all be equal, but some can be more equal than others?

    • If 'no child is left behind', and you're only as fast as the slowest part, well... you can see where this is leading our kids.
      I always said: "no child left behind == no child gets ahead".
  • Lazy (Score:4, Informative)

    by Hiro2k (264020) <[Hiro2k] [at] [gmail.com]> on Saturday May 27, 2006 @03:46PM (#15416982)
    Most high school seniors are lazy and blow off thier senior year. Add to that the fact that most of them don't care about tests that don't affect your grade, and you get those results. In my HS when we were given "extra" tests, a lot of my classmates would skip class or just fill in bubbles.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 27, 2006 @03:46PM (#15416988)
    ...I think there's a big problem with apathy. Most students just don't care about learning. There's a few of us that take honors/ap classes and go to good universities, but the majority are just going through the motions to get out of high school. I also blame a lack of competitive spirit--it gets beaten out of us so nobody can be made to feel bad, the same reason my school no longer does anything to honor academic excellence like it does for sports.

    The blame really belongs with the parents, of course. My parents are why I worked to get into the computer science program at UCI.
    • by Kortec (449574) on Saturday May 27, 2006 @03:55PM (#15417026) Homepage
      Yeah, I'd have to agree. In some respects, our cultural trend towards political correctness has really come back to bit us. There's a trend towards mediocrity, as we leave the door open for the unmotivated or unable as long as possible. The result of this is that the students that really could be doing interesting things (weither that happens to be linear algebra, or Chaucer) in their early years are kept in pretty repetative classes, or meaningless requirements, and end up joining the unmotivated masses.

      That's not to say that public schooling need not be regulated -- the recent debacle over intelligent design should be suffiicent evidence of that. It's a difficult problem to administer such a large system as the public schooling of a state -- let alone 50 -- with out administering the very life out of it. The only hope is that most schools end up with a small crew of truely gifted educators, the sort of folks who know when to ignore the rules and when not to, and are actually passionate about their topics, and that makes the experiance slightly bearable.
      • In some respects, our cultural trend towards political correctness has really come back to bit us.

        Who would have guessed that suppressing freedom of expression and thought so that "no one would ever get offended" would have any negative side-effects?
      • In holland we had a system that basically split school up into trade schools and theory schools. Plenty of students just don't want to spend all their time in stuffy classrooms. That is great. Go learn a trade. 8 hours of shop will take the boredom right out of you AND the real world NEEDS mechanics and builders etc etc. Trade school didn't teach you much in the way of social studies or language beyond the basics (dutch and english and for the brightest german but no french (except for the cooks/butlers))

        S

    • I also blame a lack of competitive spirit--it gets beaten out of us so nobody can be made to feel bad, the same reason my school no longer does anything to honor academic excellence like it does for sports.

      Here's my idea: at the end of every year, hold a public assembly where the bottom 25% of students are called up in front of the entire school and laughed at. Let's call it a "social experiment."
    • I hate to admit it, but I went through the motions to get out of high school so that I could go to college and (a) study what I was really interested in, and (b) study other subjects at a higher level. Although I'm not sure how I got into a good college by just coasting in high school. Maybe it was my entrance application essay -- I tried a sales pitch approach.

      --Rob

    • As a parent of a rising high school senior with AP calc and Latin on the schedule I agree. Seems like academic performance is considered genetic but the sports participants have to work or their success. My kids, the rising senior and the college junior worked very hard for what they earned. As parents we set standards and provided an environment condusive to learning but the kids did/do the work.
  • Interesting (Score:5, Funny)

    by Wellington Grey (942717) on Saturday May 27, 2006 @03:48PM (#15417002) Homepage Journal
    Michael Padilla, a professor at the University of Georgia who is president of the National Science Teachers Association, said that the problem is not that universities are failing to train sufficient numbers of science majors or that too few opt for classroom careers, but that about a third of those who accept teaching jobs abandon the profession within five years.

    Wow! I've just finished my first year as a teacher. Only four more to go before I'm filled with apathy and burned out on my chosen profession. I can't wait.

    -Grey [wellingtongrey.net]
    • Re:Interesting (Score:3, Interesting)

      by grapeape (137008)
      The biggest problem with Science starts with grade schools. In most schools today the amount of hoops you have to go through to make the class interesting. Over the top safety concerns and budget cuts have really restricted the ability to provide interesting presentations and interactive experimentation. Sometimes "think of the children" tends to result in children that can't think.

      I spoke with my oldest daughters teacher about the experiments they would be doing this year, sadly they cant even make a po
      • Re:Interesting (Score:3, Interesting)

        I spoke with my oldest daughters teacher about the experiments they would be doing this year, sadly they cant even make a potato battery or pickle light due to the threat of fire or something goofy.

        No kidding! In my school we have a model steam engine that I used several times as a how-does-this-machine-work kind of lesson. I let all the kids (about 12-13yrs) poke at it and try and play with it to make it go. As they had never seen such old technology they had lots of fun trying to figure it out.

        How
  • by Distinguished Hero (618385) on Saturday May 27, 2006 @03:51PM (#15417013) Homepage
    Makes sense. After all, science plays no prominent role in hip-hop "culture," sports "culture," or Hollywood "culture." When you have a whole generation which idolizes only members of those three groups, what else should one expect?
  • The Cause (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Crussy (954015) on Saturday May 27, 2006 @03:54PM (#15417023)
    The cause is no child left behind and like action. As someone who is a senior in high school, I've watched as literally half of my science classmates had no business in my level of courses. Parents believe that their children should be able to do the top level no matter what and many times this is not the case. Worse, schools believe if a child accels at one subject then they should be in equal level classes for the rest.

    The effect of this is that students potentials are limited. There are a few people in my classes who know absolutely nothing about the material at hand, and no matter how many times it is presented to them cannot grasp it. This is an honors (we don't have AP) level physics class. They slow the progression of the class, and in doing so limit people like me who grasp the concepts easily. People don't realize how it only takes a few lower people to ruin the atmosphere in a classroom. When parents strive to place their kids in classes above their abilities, they are not just jeopardizing their own child's learning, but the learning of everyone who is brought down by them. No teacher wants to fail a student, and many won't. They instead slow the class to the pace of the slowest kid. This is clearly acceptable in remedial classes, but in an accelerated class it should not happen. There should be a curriculum to follow and if someone is holding back the class, they should be let go.

    Sadly the present state of education in America is to help the remedial students while squashing the advanced students' potentials. No child left behind and naive parents who believe their child is better than everyone else are two of the most detrimental things to the education system today. Schools need to stand up and say no to both of these if they want students to reach their potentials today. Fail a girl who cannot grasp a physics class she doesn't belong in if she cannot handle it. There is no other way to show that some people do not belong in advanced classes, and when they're placed in them ruin the environment.
  • by bhirsch (785803) on Saturday May 27, 2006 @03:57PM (#15417039) Homepage
    Recently, I remembered doing lab experiments in middle school and high school. I remember that if we ever got results that differed from those necessary to support the theory we were experimenting with, we were told we did the experiment wrong and either downgraded or told to redo it.

    Not that we always did the experiments carefully or properly, but it is a little bit ironic to have something like that in a science class. Shoving the popularly accepted theories in our faces was the primary goal and teaching us to think and reason scientifically was a distant second.
  • If the fourth graders are better, maybe we can just wait until they make it to high school and the problem will go away.
  • Did they try turning it off and on again?
  • Seniors (Score:3, Insightful)

    by donaldGuy (969269) on Saturday May 27, 2006 @04:05PM (#15417073) Homepage

    Yes, but the study was only given to high school seniors..

    I am a high school sophmore and generally I consider myself well versed in most sciences (except more than intermediate physics, but I am taking physics courses next year) and to have rather well developed scientific reasoning ability. I have several friends, however, who are seniors, they are also almost invariably lazy. With this on-set of senioritis and the way curriculum/graduation requirements shake out many of them cop-out and take basic earth sciences, meteorology or anatomy, for example. While these sciences aren't unimportant they are a) semester courses (here at least), b) not given as much importance (and therefore the teachers hired to teach them aren't as good), and c) need less traditional scientific reasoning than the required sciences (biology, chemistry, physics, etc.)

    I am not saying that senioritis (and the thereafter self-incurred lack of reasoning neccesity) is the only cause of this lack of reasoning ability, but I think it may be a major factor. Especially depending when the test was given, I know that once my friends have gotten their college acceptence letters they work just hard enough to meet the requirements for the mid-term grade reports for their college, not to achieve their potential.

    One issue, however, may be my frame of refrence.. I go to a "Math and Science Academy" school-within-a-school magnet program and mosts of my friends do as well. I know that occassionly when my "Magnet Molecular Biology" teacher got bored and lazy (granted he is busy, he just got married last summer and is moving to Poland at the end of this school year, so its partialy a function of a lack of planning time) and gave the class a lab or worksheet from the core biology curriculim I was shocked (and frankly appalled) at how easy and simple they were.

  • Well, it doesn't surprise me a bit. My nephew who is just 10 is obsessed with sports to the point of taping the NFL draft proceedings...several hours worth. Beyond that I have a friend whose daughter was failing math in high-school. She was already an accomplished equestrian and was trying out for the cheerleading squad. The mother actually encouraged her to drop riding in favor of cheerleading. I told her that in the first place there was no olympic medal for cheerleading and in the second place these
    • And why don't we have big audacious signs proclaiming the home town of Jonas Salk or William Shockley or people who actually accomplish something intelligent?

      Not to say that I disagree with the point, I agree that it's all about money and popularity is what brings that, but the two examples weren't very good ones. Jonas Salk was born in New York City and William Shockley was born in London :)
  • by Bamafan77 (565893) on Saturday May 27, 2006 @04:08PM (#15417089)
    Philip Greenspun says it best [greenspun.com] and I've seen this firsthand. ---
    Why does anyone think science is a good job?
    The average trajectory for a successful scientist is the following:
    1. age 18-22: paying high tuition fees at an undergraduate college
    2. age 22-30: graduate school, possibly with a bit of work, living on a stipend of $1800 per month
    3. age 30-35: working as a post-doc for $30,000 to $35,000 per year
    4. age 36-43: professor at a good, but not great, university for $65,000 per year
    5. age 44: with young children at home (if lucky), fired by the university ("denied tenure" is the
    more polite term for the folks that universities discard), begins searching for a job in a market
    where employers primarily wish to hire folks in their early 30s

    This is how things are likely to go for the smartest kid you sat next to in college. He got into Stanford for graduate school. He got a postdoc at MIT. His experiment worked out and he was therefore fortunate to land a job at University of California, Irvine. But at the end of the day, his research wasn't quite interesting or topical enough that the university wanted to commit to paying him a salary for the rest of his life. He is now 44 years old, with a family to feed, and looking for job with a "second rate has-been" label on his forehead.

    ---

    What does this tell us? If you believe in supply and demand, this tells us that there are MORE than enough top quality scientists being produced and that science education is not lagging in the least and that science knowledge is a commodity. This article is a bunch of hand-wringing over nothing.

    • Step 5 is at 34 or about that, not 44.

      I you drop out after step 1, you get to live in a cubile for the rest of your life.

      Either way, educated folks have a life that sounds like shit to most teenagers.
    • So where does this idea come from that high school science is only good for a career in science?!

      It teaches you to think, to handle numbers, to comprehend difficult texts, to have a method to what you're doing, to understand how things work, etc etc etc. It's important for everybody.

    • While the things that you list are true, there is one crucial difference between scientists and 99% of the rest of the working class: they love their work. They enjoy exploring new concepts and testing predictions. Unlike the guy working drive-thru at McDonald's, scientists get a real sense of joy and accomplishment out of their work, which in large part diverts their attention from mere financial gain. If scientists hated their jobs half as much as most people, they could be making as much money as the pup
      • by Bamafan77 (565893) on Saturday May 27, 2006 @04:53PM (#15417348)
        While the things that you list are true, there is one crucial difference between scientists and 99% of the rest of the working class: they love their work. They enjoy exploring new concepts and testing predictions. Unlike the guy working drive-thru at McDonald's, scientists get a real sense of joy and accomplishment out of their work, which in large part diverts their attention from mere financial gain. If scientists hated their jobs half as much as most people, they could be making as much money as the puppets in their universities' administrations.
        I've found that sentitment to be true for the vast minority of scientists. I've worked in biotech and in science labs in university. Many scientists are forced to work in areas they don't like simply because those areas are "popular" (thus insuring publication), that's what their principle investigator tells them to do, etc. I rarely find the scientists working on the thing he wants to work on. He, like many of us, is doing the thing someone is willing to pay him to do and that's rarely the thing he wants to do.

        Greenspun further describes the typical scienst [greenspun.com] in his article :

        Some scientists are like kids who never grow up. They love what they do, are excited by the possibilities of their research, and wear a big smile most days. Although these people are, by Boston standards, ridiculously poor and they will never be able to afford a house (within a one-hour drive of their job) or support a family, I don't feel sorry for them.

        Unfortunately, this kind of child-like joy is not typical. The tenured Nobel Prize winners are pretty happy, but they are a small proportion of the total. The average scientist that I encounter expresses bitterness about (a) low pay, (b) not getting enough credit or references to his or her work, (c) not knowing where the next job is coming from, (d) not having enough money or job security to get married and/or have children. If these folks were experiencing day-to-day joy at their bench, I wouldn't expect them to hold onto so much bitterness and envy.

  • by LionKimbro (200000) on Saturday May 27, 2006 @04:09PM (#15417095) Homepage
    Philip Greenspun had some interesting things to say about careers in science: [greenspun.com]

    In short, some young people think that science is a good career for the same reason that they think being a musician or actor is a good career: "I can't decide if I want to be a scientist like James Watson, a musician like Britney Spears, or an actor like Harrison Ford."

    Philip's argument makes good sense to me.

    The article was noting that teaching Science isn't very rewarding, either:


    "What happens is that the system tends to beat them down," Padilla said. "Working conditions are poor, it's a difficult job, and the pay isn't that great."


    So, I would say that, on the face of it, Science just doesn't pay, and a lot of us are really interested in getting paid.

    What does pay? Perhaps research, (which Vernor Vinge called [amazon.com] "Search & Analysis," and noted was at "the heart of the economy,") perhaps technology, perhaps being a system administrator, or being a mechanic, or something like that. Perhaps being a business person or a manager. I wouldn't really know; I've not asked the question "How do I make more money?" deeply enough.

    But answering the question "How does the natural world work?" doesn't seem to be where the money is at. "How do I make this better?" seems to be only a little bit closer.

    I would prefer that we asked the question: "How do we make the world a more satisfying place for all people in it, and ensure that nature grows healthier and healthier?" Unfortunately, the pay isn't so good. Perhaps the questions necessary child is: "How do we make this pay?"
    • by Bamafan77 (565893) on Saturday May 27, 2006 @04:20PM (#15417151)
      I posted similiar comments [slashdot.org] linking to the same article exactly one minute before you. :)

      Another great quote from Philip's article is that "Adjusted for IQ, quantitative skills, and working hours, jobs in science are the lowest paid in the United States." This is absolutely true.

      Now a lot of people say that one shouldn't do science just for the money, a fine sentiment. However, you're not allowed to say we're coming up "short" in science education when salaries seem to indicate that there are *too many* scientists in many areas(assuming you think scientist's salaries should be higher than they are).

      • Now a lot of people say that one shouldn't do science just for the money, a fine sentiment.

        No kidding. Those people should talk with their wallets when the person who has a doctorate in science can't make a car or mortgage payment (or cannot even get a mortgage) because the sciences don't pay. It's a heck of a lot cheaper for corporate america to bring aliens in on H1B or L1 visas than it is to pay the American a reasonable salary he can start a family on, or even keep a roof over his own head.

  • ...before it gets any better!

    I have a 6 year old nephew who is in the US public education system. This individual does not know what eleven looks like. When asked to add 6 to 5, he'll count six balls and another 5 balls, combine the two and then count the combination up to eleven. Because he does not know what 11 looks like, he'll use a counting board, (counting from 1 to 11) in order to figure out what eleven looks like!

    He's not alone. So many students are being let down by the system they find themselve

  • Rather than using the word to describe the process for evaluating empirical knowledge, we need to redefine "science" to mean the process for watching TV, playing videogames, getting high, and meeting up at the shopping mall food court... then we will have the very creme of the crop here in the good ol' USA.
  • FIRST (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Stalyn (662) on Saturday May 27, 2006 @04:21PM (#15417162) Homepage Journal
    Here is a online NewsHour story [pbs.org] about FIRST [wikipedia.org] founded by Dean Kamen. An excerpt..
    DEAN KAMEN: In this country, we have kids who think what they want to excel at is football or basketball, what they want to do with their time is the entertainment industry, and I think the balance is so distorted that it literally leaves our country at the risk of losing its position in leadership, in technology.
     
    And, as a consequence of that, we will lose our position of leadership in quality of life, standard of living, security, health care, and all of the other things that Americans somehow take for granted. And we've got to change kids' attitudes fast.
  • Fourth graders, ironically, are actually better at reasoning in the sciences now than they were ten years ago.

    Well they better... I'd hope our 4th graders can reason better than a newborn...
  • because they don't read or write to well either. The problems in our schools are many, but alot of the problem, I really believe is that teaching methodologies (btw, I have an MA in Education) specifically eschew content acquisition and analytically skills. The whole shift the last 10-20 years has been towards constructivism, authentic assessments, hands-on learning, etc. I'd go on with a long post, but suffice to say the type of teaching needed for scientific mastery is a far cry from what is being done
  • Some interesting historical insights are provided in Mark Gottlieb's essay The Arrogance Of Ignorance [freerepublic.com], in the 2006-02-18 issue of Industry Week. A quote: A new generation of the serenely clueless is ready, willing and able to destroy your company.
  • by dpbsmith (263124) on Saturday May 27, 2006 @04:38PM (#15417267) Homepage
    Use standardized tests as your criterion, and you will develop... students with a high ability to score well on standardized tests.

    If you want the ability to reason scientifically, you will need to do something different.

    Unfortunately, the ability to reason scientifically is closely correlated with the ability to reason, the ability to challenge authority, and the ability to insist that 2 and 2 make 4... whether or not that happen to be the official test answer.
  • I watched a multimillion dollar football/track/soccer statium go up at my High School while math and science teachers were using 4 year old books and 6-8 year old computers and software packages. there is your answer.
  • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Saturday May 27, 2006 @05:07PM (#15417409) Journal
    How many times have we seen articles that claim that Linux is too complex to learn? That is should be simpler so the average joe can use it?

    If you dare to suggest that Linux is only for people willing to spend time learning an OS then you are an Elitist.

    The same is true in schools. No kids left behind CANNOT work unless you are willing to lower the passing grade so people with IQ's in the double digits can pass.

    Linux is a center of excellence. Windows is no user left behind.

    But saying this is elitist, your an asshole for suggesting some people just aren't smart enough to graduate. In holland we had a system for this. It seperarted schools into theory and trade. Kids who didn't want/couldn't study theory could learn a trade instead. This went so well that trade schools were actually rated higher then theory schools. Higher Trade School was a lot thougher then Higher Administrative School. The same was true for mid level and lower level. Basically you could go from MTS to HAVO but not from MAVO to MTS.

    But no, we had to make everyone the same and so tradeschools were cancelled. Dropout rates have never been higher as the kids who could get rid of their energy in practice now are forced to spend all their time in theory. Those kids that get their diploma find they haven't learned anything usefull and business can no longer get qualified personel.

    But hey, no kid is left behind. Well except for the dropouts. And the kids who wanted to learn a trade. But who cares about them.

  • ID (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Alioth (221270) <no@spam> on Saturday May 27, 2006 @05:21PM (#15417466) Journal
    This is the sort of thing you get when conjectures such as "intelligent design" is pushed as science by people who don't even know what science is, and teachers who are bound up in their religion so much they have to give "intelligent design" a fair hearing in science class - when it's not even science.
  • A Comparison (Score:5, Insightful)

    by clragon (923326) on Saturday May 27, 2006 @06:00PM (#15417646)
    I am a Canadian citizen, immigrated to Canada when I was 10.

    Now, even thou the article is focusing on American education, I just thought I bring Canadian and Chinese education into the mix.

    First 10 years of my life, I went to school in China. In kindergarden, addition and subtraction were briefly introduced to us. We were easily able to do one digit addition/subtraction, however some parents like mine pushed us to do more, so as a result, on the first day of school in grade 1, I was able to do two digit addition and subtraction already.

    School in China was hard, since the starting of grade one I had to do homework constantly from after school (around 5pm) to 8, or 9 PM. On the weekends most kids were sent to private lessons for various kinds of things like piano, English (you dont start learning English in school until grade 5, but parents send grade 1 kids to English lessons so that they can have a head start), or just for core classes like Math or Chinese.

    In elementary school, there are two exams, one is midterm and the other is final. These were basicly your report cards, everything you do in the year basicly prepares you for these tests. Much is dependant on the result of your final exam each grade. I remember my teacher saying "if you got below a 90 on the final exam, it would be the equivilant of failing." She wasn't exatrating either, middle school in China accepts students based on their final exam mark in grade 6. If you did not get a good mark on that exam, too bad, you will have to go to a crappy middle school. To people living in Canada or the US, they would probably say "so what, it's just middle school." It's much more than that, if you were in a bad middle school, high school wont even take a look at your application despite your mark. Universities will do the same to bad high schools. So it was made very clear to us when we were in grade 1, that if you were to do bad on the final exam in grade 6, your whole life is ruined.

    Then I moved to Canada.

    Everything changed. I was living in Vancouver at the time. (I had to take a 45 min bus to my school, because all the schools near my house were "over populated", but thats another issue)I walked in a Canadian classroom for the first time and found out these kids were doing two digit addition and subtraction, the same ones I knew how to do when I started elementary school in China. All of the sudden, I became a "genius". But soon I discovered that being a genius in a Canadian school isn't all that great. you see, in China your popularity depends a lot on your marks, just like in Canada and the US, but in an opposite way. If you had the best marks in the class, everyone will want to be your friend. If you were failing, you would be that "failure", or loner that everybody stays away from. In Canada however, I found out the hard way that if you were getting good marks for classes like Math, the chances are you will be pretty unpopular.

    I had another thing to discover in Canada, when I went into high school I found myself hang around people who are "gifted". I found out that kids in Canada take a test in grade 3 and 6 to see if they have a high than averge IQ. They are put into the same class and were taught harder things than the normal kids.

    Now, why did I write all that? It is to give you a bit of info before I present my opinion about why the quality of education here is not as good as it could be.

    First, a lot of kids in Canada and the US have this weird ideology that if they arn't born smart, there is no way in the world for them to become smarter. I was considered a genius by kids in my class when I came to Canada, but they didn't say that because they knew about all the homework I did in grade 1 in China, they said it because they thought I was born smart since I was Asian or something. They refuse to work harder to achieve things because they believe that there is no point because they are not smart to start with.

    On the other side, you had many of these gif
  • culture of stupidity (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Edmund Blackadder (559735) on Saturday May 27, 2006 @06:00PM (#15417649)
    Lets face it the last several years the country has been clouded by a culture of stupidity. And it is no wonder that children's ability to understand sciance is good at young age but drops off sharply at high school because high school is where children are exposed to the 'adult' culture and politics.

    Lets face it everyone knows how stupidity penetrated politics, I dont have to spell it out. But from there it spread out and went everywhere. All of a sudden anyone remotely intelligent on TV was deemed to be part of the "old liberal media" even if they were not liberal at all.

    Every one on television and in popular culture was pressured to show and give credit to the point of view of stupidity and complete idiocy or they risked being labeled part of the old liberal media. Half wits that specialized in entertaining complete uneducated idiots (like the various radio talk show hosts) were elevated to respected status. Don't get me started on bill oreilly.

    And the most offensive thing is that stupidity invaded popular culture under the disguise of religion. Every complete moron that went on TV perpetuating some lowest common denominator 'theory' awlays said that he was taking directions from jesus himself and therefore one could not use logical arguments against him because that made one a godless liberal elitist that disrespects ordinary americans. As if believing in God gave everyone the right ... no, the duty and repsonsibility of being as stupid as possible.

    One wonders how we never saw an intelligent promoter of Christianity on TV. I know they exist, because I have read their writings, but for some reason when you turn on your television set all you see is some half wit foaming at the mouth bible thumping neo fascist.

    And dont get me started about popular culture. We worship dumb bimbos that act like sluts but assure everyone that they are good christians. Oh and where we once had comics that made us think now we have ... larry the cable guy.

    Its not even only stupidity ... it is mediocrity at every level of culture ... just like the comedians are not very funny, the younger actors are not especially good at acting, the movie directors suck at directing, the newscasters do no serious journalism, the popular writers cant write very well, the policy makers make terrible foreign policy etc. Mediocrity is being worshipped and talent, intelligence, etc. are being punished.

    Meanwhile university professors are eyed with a lot of suspicion, there are organizations being started for the purpose of spying on proffessors and reporting the "dangerous ones", think-tanks have sprung up so that no journalist ever has to ask the opinion of a university proffessor if they need an "expert".

    Some kids are born smarter and some arent. But in order to learn one need not only be smart one need to want to learn. When stupidity is being worshipped and intelligent or otherwise talented people are simply embarassed of their talent, then fewer and fewer kids will want to learn.
  • by Spock the Baptist (455355) on Saturday May 27, 2006 @06:14PM (#15417706) Journal
    I'm a middle-aged nerd from Texas with a Master of Science in Physics.

    I substitute taught a couple of years in several local ISDs while writing my thesis.

    Here's the scoop. Few folk with that majored, or minored in Natural Sciences, or Mathematics, or who have earned advanced degrees said disciplines, are interested in the low pay and benefits that go with teaching in public high schools in Texas. They are still less interested in jumping through the bureaucratic hoops of the Texas Education Agency (TEA), and other red tape gauchos that currently inundate the public school systems of Texas.

    There are jobs that are very much less frustrating, and are an infinitely better deal on both personal, and professional levels than teaching in public high schools. With a major, minor, or advanced degree in math, and the physical sciences a person has put forth a great deal of effort, and spent much time on his/her degree. Persons that have earned such degrees have little tolerance for the intellectual laziness, and a slacker attitude. The bottom line is that 'teaching' is not an attractive career for such a person.

    This being the case the persons that end up teaching the hard sciences, and mathematics in H.S. are not the brights candles on the tree, or are making, well some times, a valiant effort to teach a subject outside their mastery.

    I can recall at least a half-dozen times that I went into a Jr. High math class and went through a cold turkey, non-rehearsed lecture on some aspect of intro. to algebra turned around to see students with looks of amazement on their faces. The reason for the looks was that that 'got' what I was lecturing on. Their regular teacher had gone over the material the day before to their utter confusion. In each case their teacher did not have even a reasonable math background, but had taken the job because of pay incentives for teaching math. They were regurgitating the material from the textbook. They didn't understand the material themselves.

    This is why there is such problems with math and science education at the H.S. level in the U.S.

    STB
  • That's GREAT!!! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by melted (227442) on Saturday May 27, 2006 @08:29PM (#15418210) Homepage
    This means I'll be still making good money when I'm 50 because there won't be any "fresh blood" to replace me with. Let 'em wash the dishes and dream about Hollywood and hip-hop.

To be awake is to be alive. -- Henry David Thoreau, in "Walden"

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