Science education is a frequent topic in the news these days. This past Wednesday, Microsoft announced a campaign to improve math and science education in the Seattle area. According to Brad Smith, a senior vice president and general counsel for Microsoft: "We're very concerned about the possibility that our kids are falling behind in areas like math and science."
As well they should be. Study after study shows that the average American student has an abysmal level of scientific knowledge. And as we witness greater and greater demand for strong math and science skills—and the thinking abilities that math and science foster—a poor background in science is a greater handicap than ever.
Many smart, wealthy, and well-meaning people are attacking the problem of science education. Unfortunately, I am not optimistic about their chances of success.
Why? Because, from what I have seen, they are not getting to the core of the problem. They are trying to improve science education with a combination of money, computer programs, motivational speeches, and exciting field trips—but without changing the fundamental flaw of almost all science education today.
Consider this example from a newspaper story on Microsoft's initiative:
"One idea being floated is to have Microsoft employees volunteer to meet with kids to explain how they use math on the job, such as in developing the Xbox videogame player. If kids can see real-world applications for the advanced math skills they'll learn in school, it can get them more enthused about the subject, Smith said." . . .