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She Blinded Me With Science

August 12, 2012

On August 6, the SDE’s spokesperson tweeted the following:

On one August weekend, we saw a new Martian landing and a man in the Olympics running on carbon-fiber blades – let’s remember this.

In her weekly newspaper column Friday, Superintendent Barresi in fact did remember this:

On one weekend in August, 2012, the world witnessed two remarkable scientific accomplishments. While South African runner Oscar Pistorious sprinted towards the tape in his first Olympic semifinal race, the rover Curiosity barreled towards a very different finish line about 35 million miles distant.

I guess it’s not theft of intellectual property if it’s your own staff. And I shouldn’t be too hard on them – it was an amazing weekend for science, discovery, and imagination. I was also in awe of both events. It’s just too bad, though, that we live in a state that denies so many tenets of science.

One of the great talking points of this administration is that our state is doing a lousy job teaching science. As with any national comparisons, you have to look first at the policies and standards in place to get a good understanding about why that happens. Our state standards are poorly written and not up-to-date. Our legislature maintains a focus on Creationism and limits the emphasis in the curriculum on environmental science.

As our state pursues the development of new, “C3” standards in science, we’re going it alone. We are not participating in the development of Next Generation Science Standards being spearheaded by Achieve, even though it says right across the top of the page that the standards are geared at College, Career, and Citizenship readiness. I’ve asked this question on my blog before, but if a big picture approach to math and reading was best for Oklahoma, why shy away from that in science.

Another angle from which to look at Barresi’s column is the way she closes it:

This is the kind of ingenuity and drive we would like to see in the students who will fill seats in our STEM classes as they return to school this fall. We want them to dream that their creativity and their inventions can change the lives of people both on the surface of this planet, and those whose work takes them a bit further afield.

Two things that diminish the “creativity” she discusses are the suppression of facts in science curriculum and our national obsession with testing. As teachers are now going to be evaluated by the test scores of their students, curriculum will rarely stray from the path of published test blueprints. In the event that current events such as these provide us with teachable moments, they will be lost in the corporate education culture that results from the farce education reformers call “accountability.”

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