Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Science Education in the US

One of the best days I ever spent was being very sick watching Mythbusters marathon all day. If you don't know this show, Adam, Jamie and their minions take a myth and use the scientific method (most of the time although n=small) to either confirm, deny or consider it plausible. I have seen shows about movie myths and whether shooting a gas tank makes cars blow up to shark myths to my favorite -blowing up cement trucks.

Adam Savage of the Mythbusters has written an article in the Popular Mechanics about 3 ways to fix science education. If you are too lazy to read it, I will sum it up for you. He says the 3 ways are:

1. Let the students get their hands dirty
2. Fund Science Education
3. Celebrate Mistakes

I agree although I think he is being a little vague.

One thing I do take issue with is the lack of students doing research BEFORE they "get their hands dirty" that he fails to mention. You can't just do fun stuff i.e. labs all of the time. Being able to articulate your results are just as important. Reading about what other experiments have been done before are just as important. They go together like Germany and crazy-paprika flavored chips.

This is not to diminish the experience of labs themselves. How many of you were talked blue in the face about HOW to ride a bicycle but then just got on it and learned yourself? (no matter how many helpful adults were around!) You just can't learn by only reading or being talked at.

Another point that many parents fail to realize is that children need science education from elementary through high school. Science in some districts has been taken down to a person coming in once a month or less to do an experiment with the kids. Sometimes, that is the only exposure to science young children are getting these days.

Before one should pick a school, make sure there is a well developed science program in elementary school. I can guarantee you that these students not learning science in elemtary school are not taking science electives in high school. We are losing our kids early folks...time to stand up and demand that schools make this a priority. And who doesn't love hearing at the dinner table the disgusting things that your child did in science class?

Why is science one of the few subjects that is only required to have only 2 classes in high school? That means to me that the MAJORITY OF ADULTS IN THE US HAVE NOT LEARNED ANY SCIENCE SINCE THEY WERE 16! I don't know about you folks, but I would not want these people becoming my politicians and receptionists at Dr's offices making decisions for me.

Also in my humble opinion (if you have read this far with me), I believe this would solve our math problem. What is science? Why merely applied math...

No go out there and GET MESSY! Throw some Mentos in Diet Coke and see what happens!


Anonymous said...

Myhtbusters, really? Come on, this is the opposite of science.

Tessa Enright said...

boo on anonymous comments.

mythbusters makes science seem fun, and encourages interest in it.

nothing wrong with that, in my opinion.

Andrea said...

Love love love Mythbusters! (And pretty much the whole Discovery line up). We were so happy to discover our SKY box allows us to watch this show.

If this show makes my child think about what happens if I do x and then z, I am all for it!

Yelli said...

@ Anon - Hee hee I have my first troll! Oh wait..I am in Germany. Maybe it is a Gartenzwerg..

Regardless, Mythbusters is done in the Spirit of Science. If Science is following the scientific method, (coming up with hypotheses and then testing them) then Mythbusters definitely fits this description.

Of course, it is also done on TV and a requirement for TV and not necessarily science is entertainment which they also do very well.

Yelli said...

@Tessa - I agree. I wish I could watch it here but alas I can't seem to find it except on my DVD's.

@ Andrea -Thanks for stopping by! I can't wait to introduce my son to this show. He has 2 science nerd parents anyways so he will probably need the entertainment side of it!

Anonymous said...

Blowing up cement trucks doesn't have anything to do with science nor entertainment, well I guess you could entertain a two-year-old or those five-year-old man from the show.
To be a bit more constructive here:
Since you're living in Germany I suggest you check out "Die Sendung mit der Maus". While this show also doesn't have much to do with science it's at least informative and not based on blowing things up.
It runs every Sunday at 12:00 on ARD.
They show things like:
How do they make photos for food ads?
How does a washing machine work?
What's vitamin C good for?

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, the show is on at 11:30, not 12:00

Anonymous said...

More information here:

Yelli said...

@ Anon - Well that 2 year old person entertained by blowing up cement trucks is me! So watch who you are bashing on MY website!!!!

I would also argue that blowing things up is a sort of science. What else would you call the careful precision required to mix a certain ratio of chemicals that will explode? Some might actually call it "chemistry."

On another note, thanks for the helpful tip about the show. I will definitely watch it and it sounds very interesting.

Anonymous said...

You are two years old? Actually I was referring to your son and didn't intent to bash anyone (except the men on the show).

"What else would you call the careful precision required to mix a certain ratio of chemicals that will explode? Some might actually call it "chemistry.""

Sure, but they don't show you that on the show, do they?