K12 Science Lacks Vision, Excitement

Joy Hakim, board member of Common Core and author of several books on various aspects of science, believes that K-12 science is neither challenging nor imaginative, writes Hakim at the Common Core blog.

After being inspired by an article in the Washington Post about microbiology, Hakim decided to see if any of the excitement from the field is conveyed in the National Research Council’s Framework for K-12 science education, a document which will frame a common core science curriculum for states.

“I read the 300 page NRC document to see if that is likely. Does it describe good science? Good pedagogy? No: The science is not challenging enough. The pedagogy it suggests is not likely to be imaginative.”

Microbiology is today’s revolutionary science; the excitement in the field is palpable, and The American Society of Microbiologists now has 38,000 members.

“We’re seeing an unprecedented rate of discovery. Everywhere we look, microbes seem to be involved,” says a Colorado University scientist quoted in the Post.

Hakim highlights that the NRC document is not just uninspiring, but it is also out of date.

 “In the section on biology bacteria and viruses are mentioned briefly, but archaea not at all. That’s out of date science.”

Archaea are one of the three forms of life, known as domains, broadly accepted as the base of the evolutionary bush.

But this isn’t overly complex. Hakim points out that at the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History, even t-shirts for kids now come with the three-branched bush of bacteria, archaea, and eukaryota.

Luminaries such as Darwin, Newton and Einstein are not mentioned in the document. Something that worries Hakim because she believes the story of science, its history, is not suggested or even hinted at.

The endpoints and boundaries for each grade in each subject are not challenging, writes Hakim.

“Good teachers will see the document as dumbed down; ordinary teachers will be constrained by the boundaries. Yes, for low-performing schools, they will provide guidance and goals. But, overall, this is not visionary science, it is not exciting science.”

41 already-hired teachers will use the “lengthy but undistinguished” document as the basis for what will essentially be a set of national science standards — which, to Hakim, is a worrying prospect.