Are we killing scientists with schooling?

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Jared Alesi's picture
Are we killing scientists with schooling?

Something that's been brought to my attention recently is the dire lack of quality in school science programs. By this, I mean public schools 6th through senior. I'm currently a junior at a decent school (as decent as you can get in an Arkansas town of 723 people... but others come from the neighboring city of 2200), and I took my first science class there in 6th grade. I didn't think much of it, but we never experimented with anything. It was truly no different than my English class, a format in which we are fed curricula and made to pass a test regarding only that curricula. 7th grade was better, as I had a more interesting teacher, but the core structure was still lacking, and virtually no different. This was the norm all the way up until this year's Advanced Chem. I've never been made to think or wonder about anything, and I've never performed an unstructured experiment. How is that science?
The thing that bothers me the most is that there is no discovery. Sure, the student might enjoy the concepts, but there has never been a moment that myself or any of my classmates reached an 'Aha!' moment. The answers are just given to us. That's not how science, real science, works. I'm sure a few scientists use this site, so I'm sure you know that curiosity is THE building block of discovery. It's the entire reason science exists. Without constructive use of students' imaginations, where is the actual learning of science?
I conducted my own survey of my graduating class, juniors this year, and I asked every one of my classmates what subject they enjoyed the most, and to give a brief description of why. I also asked them their least favorite class and why. My result? Zero percent said they enjoyed science the most, and most said they didn't enjoy the class on any level. Science related classes were revealed to be the second-most hated class behind Math, beating English, which took third place. I found this quite troubling, as one could imagine.
In my high school career, I can remember performing twelve experiments in our lab. That's over five years. Every single one came with a worksheet, and none of the questions asked us why we thought the result was what we found it to be. The only thing that came close was a line that read HYPOTHESIS: and a blank line we were made to fill. What do you think? Is that science? How could that be improved? Do you think it's a problem? And, of course, the age-old question of why. Please explain your sentiments logically, if possible. Thank you to all who endured this long post and decided to leave an answer.

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Nyarlathotep's picture
Most "science" classes are

Most "science" classes are just memorizing facts. Which of course you point out isn't science (and I agree 100%). The only solace I can offer you is it has probably always been that way.

And as far as the labs with worksheets: at least that is something, more than most people get.

Jared Alesi's picture
The whole construct seems to

The whole construct seems to help out a religious agenda, in a way. Here's the answer, moving on. No time for questions, we have so many other things on which to indoctrinate you, we really must hurry. Here are the rules, just make sure you know them for the final exam. Hauntingly similar, isn't it? Almost like there's a hand working in the crowd to make sure the reaction to the performer is positive. As Neil Tyson put it, "It's almost like there's someone trying to keep America dumb. Let's make America smart again."

pijokela's picture
Bad schooling probably does

Bad schooling probably does kill potential scientists. A colleague of mine told me how his daughter used to love math and excel in it. For a few years she had a really bad math teacher and she ended up hating the subject. It was not challenging to her and she just had to stay quiet and wait while others struggled to understand the material.

But schooling, memorizing and repetition are needed to become a scientist. Somehow you need to keep your curiosity alive through that.

Jared Alesi's picture
I have the same problem in my

I have the same problem in my Precalculus/trigonometry class. Which, it's an optional class, so one would think only those who are proficient in maths would take it.

Nyarlathotep's picture
For what it is worth, pre

For what it is worth, pre-calculus is the hardest math class (IMO). It ranges over a wide variety of topics, most of the content is unmotivated, and is presented as fiat.

Jared Alesi's picture
Fair enough. I'm just glad it

Fair enough. I'm just glad it's not a common core class.

heretic's picture
I have a grand daughter who

I have a grand daughter who went through something like what you described, and did not get the labs that the course called for, and just generally poor instruction. . In an Advanced Placemen Chemistry Course, the instructor was not a chemistry major, and my grand daughter knew more chemistry than he did. Unfortunately, it was a course that she needed for the college science major she intended to pursue. The instructor wasn't qualified to teach the course, and that caused her to have to retake the course in college. This is a really bright kid, who completed a 4 year study program in 2 years, and got her major with minors in chemistry and biology, and graduated as a 5th year senior, on full academic scholarship.
Science can be a fascinating subject, but more qualified teachers are needed.

Kreston's picture
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demik's picture
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anthonydrowow's picture
I'm sure that's an

I'm sure that's an exaggeration. Especially since schooling is no longer that important these days. We all have the opportunity to study online and choose for ourselves where and with whom. I say this from my own experience. Because I myself have recently, with the help of opened an online foreign language school. Yes, there are many of them. But each has something special, their approach, their people. So to learn and even teach in ours is a pleasure.

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