The arguments:

  • Science, energetically pursued, can provide humanity with the knowledge of the biophysical environment and of social behavior that it needs to develop effective solutions to its global and local problems; without that knowledge, progress toward a safe world will be unnecessarily handicapped.
  • By emphasizing and explaining the dependency of living things on each other and on the physical environment, science fosters the kind of intelligent respect for nature that should inform decisions on the uses of technology;without that respect, we are in danger of recklessly destroying our life-support system.
  • Scientific habits of mind can help people in every walk of life to deal sensibly with problems that often involve evidence, quantitative considerations, logical arguments, and uncertainty; without the ability to think critically and independently, citizens are easy prey to dogmatists, flimflam artists, and purveyors of simple solutions to complex problems.
  • Technological principles relating to such topics as the nature of systems, the importance of feedback and control, the cost-benefit-risk relationship, and the inevitability of side effects give people a soud basis for assessing the use of new technologies and their implications for the environment and culture; without an understanding of those principles, people are unlikely to move beyond consideration of their own immediate self-interest.
  • Although many pressing global and local problems have technological origins, technology provides the tools for dealing with such problems, and the instruments for generating, through science, crucial new knowledge; without the continuous development and creative use of new technologies, society will limit its capacity for survival and for working toward a world in which the human species is at peace with itself and its environment.
  • The life-enhancing potential of science and technology cannot be realized unless the public in general comes to understand science, mathematics, and technology and to acquire scientific habits of mind; without a scientifically literate population, the outlook for a better world is not promising.
The text makes the case for crushing workloads of teachers, lack of a modern support system to back them up. As the world approaches the 21st century, the schools of America - when it comes to the deployment of people, time, and technology - seem to be still stuck in the 19th century.

“As the world approaches the 21st century, the schools of America - when it comes to the deployment of people, time, and technology - seem to be still stuck in the 19th century.” This text was written 18 years ago and the case could be made that we have not improved anything yet.

The paradox is emphasizing learning of answers vs. exploration of questions, memory vs. critical thought, pieces of information vs. understanding in context, repeating information vs. argument (read: conversations), and reading vs. doing. It describes the failure to encourage students to work together and to share ideas and information.

Got to love that last bit: Encourage the working together and sharing of ideas and information.

So, what are the recommendations?

“Science for all Americans is based on the belief that the scientifically literate person is one who is aware that science, mathematics, and technology are interdependent human enterprises with strengths and limitations; … and uses scientific knowledge and scientific ways of thinking for individual and social purposes.”

Whether you teach science, math, technology, or any other subject, the premise of the book speaks loudly. A scientific way of thinking creates a more informative, resourceful, and creative human being.

The habits of mind are not specific to science and every teacher can cultivate:
Computational skills, observation and manipulation of data and information, communication skills to share with truth and clarity and read/listen with understanding, and critical response skills.

As I skim through the book to read to the end, it strikes me that what is being done in the edublogospere today is the premise of the reform. Not top down but bottom up linking those at the heart of the discussion to one another in order to support and exact change.

Reform is essentially about people and not policies. We tend to change slowly as we have our own beliefs. We don’t change on whim, but instead respond to ideas and positive experiences developed from our colleagues that allow us to explore the possibilities. Those who are for the change need to continue their collaborative, reflective nature!

Rutherford, F. James and Ahlgren, A. Science for all Americans, Oxford University Press, 1990.