The National Research Council’s Framework for K-12 Science Education amounts to little more than “science appreciation,” complains Ze’ev Wurman, demanding little actual science or mathematical knowledge of students.
Known in education circles as a math standards and assessment expert, Wurman is the Chief Software Architect for MonolithIC 3D Inc.. In a blog post on his company’s website that is being passed around widely via email, he points out that fewer and fewer American students are interested, let alone able, to enter demanding science and engineering programs.
“ In 2006 the fraction of foreign undergraduate students in engineering reached 45%, in computer science 44%, and in physical sciences 40%. In 2007, the fraction of foreign students receiving doctorates in science and engineering was even larger: 62% in engineering overall, 73% in electrical engineering, and 57% in computer science.”
Given these alarming numbers, Wurman not unnaturally assumed the NRC’s Science Framework would tackle the problem head on. “Yet as I kept reading the document’s 280 pages of lofty prose, I noticed something odd. The framework does not expect students to use any kind of analytical mathematics while studying science,” he writes.
“For example, the framework promotes a practice called Using Mathematics, Information and Computer Technology, and Computational Thinking (p. 3-13). Yet one observes that after singing paeans to the importance of mathematics, it only expects students by grade 12 to be competent in ‘recognizing,’ ‘expressing,’ and ‘using simple … mathematical expressions … to see if they make sense,’ but not in actually solving science problems using mathematics.”
The Framework’s “overarching goal” he points out, is to ensure that by the end of 12th grade “all students have some appreciation of the beauty and wonder of science; possess sufficient knowledge of science and engineering to engage in public discussions on related issues; are careful consumers of scientific and technological information related to their everyday lives; are able to continue to learn about science outside school; and have the skills to enter careers of their choice, including (but not limited to) careers in science, engineering, and technology.” Observes Wurman:
“Suddenly it all became clear. This framework does not expect our students to be able to do any science, or to be able to solve any science problem. This framework simply teaches our students science appreciation, rather than science. It expects our students to become good consumers of science and technology, rather than prepare them to be the discoverers of science and creators of technology.”