Monday, December 8, 2014

Math and Science Education is Not Enough

I've spent my entire professional life teaching math and science education courses and have always been an advocate for the inclusion of those disciplines especially at the elementary school level. During the 42 years since I graduated with my freshly minted teaching license I have seen many changes in the field of education. The disaster that was New Math in the late 1960s and early '70s, the "alphabet" science programs such as SCIS and ESS of the 1970s and 80s. I have also experienced many different trends in education in general from the total integration of all disciplines in the '70s and '80s through the child centered movement of the late '90s and early noughties to the current standards/high stakes testing movement we are currently suffering through.

There have also been subtle changes in how our cultures view children and education in general. I will always remember the times I spent teaching in Mexico where it was so clear that parents and teachers expected children to be children and to make the most of that developmental stage that we all pass through. I was always so impressed that they didn't seem to view children as mini-adults, or childhood as preparation for adulthood.

Today, as this article on the BBC website illustrates not only do some view childhood as preparation for the future but they see it as an economic force for the future. In British Prime Minister David Cameron's words "There's no secret to success in the modern world. If countries are going to win in the global race and children compete and get the best jobs, you need mathematicians and scientists - pure and simple"......"It will take time but it's absolutely vital for the success of our country that we teach maths and science and computing in the modern way, because that will be one of the things that will determine whether we succeed or not," What happened to the idea that children need to be educated in all disciplines if they are to lead  fulfilled and happy lives? To focus on math and science to the exclusion of anything else would not be in the best interests of anyone. 

In the US we are currently going through an interesting time of paradox regarding the teaching of math and science; a time when the need for good math and science teachers is becoming increasingly important and yet a time when pre-service teachers' interest and skills in these subjects seems to be declining.     

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