View Full Version here: : What do you think???
17-07-2012, 03:03 PM
A huge debate is going on over the proposed oz science curriculum especially the interfearence being imposed by the post modern social science crew. From my persepective as a teacher things have become so watered down that much of the rigor that used to be present has gone by the wayside. What do you think? Is this enough for your kids?
17-07-2012, 03:32 PM
I haven't had time to read the links but I don't think I need to. I've known for a while that science is being dumbed down and that learning science is being replaced by a discussion on science policy. Discussion of science in society and other social policy matters are vitally important but their place isn't in a science class. Science classes are there to impart the knowledge that informs the social debate and without such knowledge there can't be a reasoned debate.
Even 15 years ago some physical geography academics I know, who also did HSC exam marking at that time, were saying that they wouldn't recommend HSC geography to anyone. I also know that a very large number of students who enroll in uni chemistry, perhaps even a majority, have not done high school chemistry. Talk about being behind the eight-ball.
17-07-2012, 04:15 PM
I may be overstating it a little, but personally, I think any further watering down of science is dangerous. There are already far too many members of society who believe wild and wacky things (due to a lack of sound knowledge of scientific fundamentals) and, perhaps worse, have not been well taught to research and reason things out for themselves (due to ignorance of scientific methods and lack of foundation to build on). This leads people to often mistrust those who advise them even when the advice is flawless.
IMHO, a knowledgeable and enlightened society is an empowered one. A dumb society is easily manipulated.
BTW, if you ever want to see what learning is like when based just on broad exposure to different ideas in some semi-structured, partially-philosophical way (which seems to be the direction that "they" want to take science) then try Marketing. I did Marketing at post-grad level (formal course at a top-tier Uni) and, coming from a scientific and technical background, was horrified at the lack of foundation and structure. The texts were complete waffle and, so it seemed to me, there was no wrong answer, just opinion. They may as well have been teaching finger painting for all the good it was going to do.
17-07-2012, 04:55 PM
When I went to school in the late 50s/early 60s, science was taught as either proven facts or theories, and there was a clear distinction between them.
Nowadays theories seem to be accepted as fact in some instances. My stepson asked me to help him with science when he was in year 10, as I used to be pretty good at it. I could not believe some of the crap being bandied about, particularly climate change stuff.
17-07-2012, 05:20 PM
Actually, in science, a theory is more developed than a fact. Blame the media (and a lack of good science education in schools!) for the misunderstanding.
17-07-2012, 06:58 PM
By all means raise the standards and give the best and brightest the opportunity to progress.
I agree there needs to be a humanities component to science. Apart from teaching science for science sake, the methodology of science should be also taught in schools.
This is important as ultimately the important decisions in science are in the field of funding determined by non scientists, namely the politicians and private benefactors.
Unfortunately for the individual who doesn't know science operates it is easy to be influenced by the considerable ideological opposition to science.
The misrepresentation of science and the vilification of scientists and mathematicians is absolutely disgraceful.
This is a typical example.
It must be said the comments opposing the article are not of great standard either.
17-07-2012, 07:31 PM
I don't mind the responses as much as you, not that I would respond that way myself - that's because I've grown very aware, and tired, of the tactic used where a minute's worth of lazy/ignorant or provocative comment requires many times more work to logically dismantle or disprove. Idiots don't have to prove anything to achieve their effect - they just have to be heard.
I like the idea of teaching "philosophy of science" (caution: what that means could vary widely depending on the chosen course material) but it would only be a small part of a science curriculum, and a part that should, IMHO, be reserved for Universities. A good secondary school science teacher should put forward material that is appropriately weighted with regard to the reliabiity of the material (which, by the way, has nothing to do with what the popular press may say!) - I don't think that entails, or requires, philosophy of science.
17-07-2012, 08:52 PM
Science is still like "Alchemy" to most of our citizens, stange and a bit scary. Whenever the media mentions Mars or other planets, it always involves aliens and life out there. (Sorry folks but we are utterly alone!)
The public receives most of their knowledge from poor quality news stories
I agree that science is being 'dumbed" down with arty farty humanities chat. Time to get back to basics, physics and chemistry not developmental psychology!
21-07-2012, 12:47 AM
In the 'Enlightenment' of the 18th Century, the view was formed that there is such a thing as truth to be uncovered and error to be exposed, by means of the application of the human mind to the observation of the world and to the creation of rational, causal, materialistic and logical explanation.
But today, a philosophy called post-modernism, that was created by some fairly wacky French philosophers such as Derrida, has infected all of our educational systems. It is what they teach our schoolteachers at teacher's college, and it is now mandatory, even in many university courses.
Post modernists believe that all statements are of equal worth and truth, because every statement made by a human is 'true', at least from the standpoint of the person making it.
Thus, we have a Rock'n'Roll unit currently being taught at an Australian university which is regarded as being completely equivalent to a course about the music of Mozart.
(I have nothing against the latest "Rock song"..... but Mozart is still listened to after hundreds of years, and the mean listening life of a rock song is extremely short!!)
We have people in English classes studying text messages, because this is thought to be as valuable as Shakespeare.
And I read that our universities must now incorporate 'aboriginal knowledge' into all of their curricula, as this is thought to be every bit as true as scientific hypotheses.
(for instance, tribal cultures believe that sickness is not caused by material causes, but instead is invariably caused by witchcraft!!)
(furthermore, 'aboriginal knowledge' teaches that the landscape was made by creator spirits moving across the landscape rather than by geological processes!!)
It is no wonder that many people today are totally confused about what is real and what is not!!!
21-07-2012, 12:07 PM
I have no problems with the education system involving "esoteric" subjects provided these subjects are presented in a correct perspective and not passed off as alternatives to mainstream subjects.
For example if people want to learn about intelligent design, it should be taught as a religion subject not as science subject which it clearly isn't.
21-07-2012, 05:57 PM
Science has been dumbed to for a long time now, one just has to read some of the comments on this site to see how bad it's got.
It's all part of this every child wins a prize crap. Bad parents and bad teachers. We need to find a way to get better teachers, only a small percentage of teachers are any good, most are failures with now other employment prospects.
Ultimately I blame the baby boomers they will be gone soon, but their hippy dippy child rearing ideas will live on.
456 visa's will sort the problem out as far as a decent workforce for Australia. It takes less time to teach english then to teach an average Aussie kid to think and work.
I have no problem with aboriginal knowledge being taught at a university, as long as it is taught as a part of a degree that is appropriate, such as an arts degree, but certainly not as a part of a science degree. If we incorporate aboriginal knowledge into a science degree then we must also incorporate the "medical" and "superstitious" beliefs of our European ancestors into university courses. (Note to self: European superstitious beliefs are taught at universities under the heading of "religion")
But science takes no prisoners. There is correct scientific methodology and there is incorrect methodology. There is the "currently accepted as correct" theory and there is the theory of the maverick "scientist" (who, on the very odd occasion turns out to be correct, but far more often is incorrect). There is current knowledge and then there is the re-appraisal that results in the "currently accepted theory" requiring an update.
The dumbing down of science in schools (does not appear to be happening at my children's school....because it is a private school??? Not sure) the lack of teaching critical appraisal at schools so as to allow people to assess information and make a fair judgement of its value, rather than take things at face value. For example, this homeopathic treatment will cure your cold. Well, no! NO homeopathic treatment is likely to have any effect other than to lighten your wallet and potentially cause further illness via avoidance of proper medical therapy. And yet people go for this rubbish in droves despite its complete and utter lack of scientific plausibility. Teach science and critical appraisal and perhaps we won't have an increase in whooping cough cases rising from 332 in Australia in 1991 to 38,584 in 2011, measles from 12 in 2007 to 193 in 2011. Why does this happen? Because of anti-vaccination web sites spreading mis-information , because people are just too slack, because so many people cannot sort the real information on the interwebs from the chaff.
Science education in Australia needs to get rid of the post-modern concept of science and go back to teaching science as I was taught and as my children are still taught but not as many Australian children are currently being taught.
22-07-2012, 01:50 PM
It is certain that the Ed Psych's have a lot to do with the current problems in education but there is also a strong drive from industry to back such theories. EQ is now considered a much greater attribute then IQ it seems. I posted a link to the proposed curriculum so can you make a judgement on weightings. The new oz curriculum appears to be very much like the one they tried to force on us here in WA a few years ago. Maths and science teachers , parents and interested bodies fought hard (PLATO) to remove or change the proposed curriculum suffering many slanderous and outragous comments made by the supporters of the curriculum framework through the press including the premier of the time. Never the less we fought on and the document was put to rest after a change of state government but we still ended up with a unworkable version that tried to cover everyones concerns. The new oz curriculum is very much like the curriculum frame work in that it gives little direction for teachers and will drive students to mediocrity rather then excellence. WA used to sit second only to Singapore in the global education stakes, now we are in the high twenties. For Science it has been a knee jerk reaction to the ever falling number of students taking the harder disciplines, a simple matter of bums on seats (same for uni's too). Under the old far more rigorous courses I may have only had 12 -15 kids in a senior class but if they did well I knew they would cope with the demands of university and beyond. Under the new system I have up to 30 kids in a single class and this coupled with maths I did in year 9 being taught at a senior level really is a recipe for disaster. Many students cannot do simple arithmetic even with a fully programmable calculator and the result? Well the 12 -15 kids still pass with the rest either pulling out in year 11 or failing miserably in year 12 in some cases preventing graduation (we cannot kick them out for their own good even though we are a private school). I fear for the future. The change needed to improve education in Australia is well known and outlined in the Grattan Report. Which Australian Gov't would have the balls to do it though? Would cost a lot of money. Well worth a read.
22-07-2012, 01:56 PM
I think core subjects teaching the 'nuts n' bolts' should be compulsory as a base and not be diluted or even replaced. Then all the rest can be laid on top and given as options if students have the time or metal capacity to fit more in.
I've always taught my boy what I learnt at the age I learnt it and I'm doing the same with my daughter. Never stopped them from learning other things or whatever the school taught them but they always could do it 'the other way' as well and fall back on the basics.
I feel that unfortunately a lot more relies on parents nowadays to complement and do the right thing, not leaving it all to the schools. The days were you'd just send your kids to school and expect them to learn something useful and practical are getting counted IMHO.
22-07-2012, 05:44 PM
It's one thing questioning the intrusion of social science into science subjects but a more fundamental question exists.
Is the science curriculum in schools these days structured towards rote learning or understanding?
Back in my days at school (a long time ago), the emphasis was definitely on understanding. One of the flow on effects to understanding, is the development of critical thinking skills. I doubt rote learning will have the same benefits.
The ability of thinking critically seems to be an ever decreasing commodity as given by the examples in Stuart's post. People are too easily swayed by dubious "science".
I would extend Stuart's post even further by suggesting that science bashing which is now a very popular pasttime on the Internet and in some media circles is another example where critical thinking is replaced by emotive and irrational ideas.
22-07-2012, 07:00 PM
I can state categorically that at the University of Wollongong 'aboriginal knowledge' regarding the shaping of the land is not taught as part of any science course. I can say that as a past student, past teacher and current staff member. Ditto with creation/evolution of life and the cause of illness. If any Uni is teaching these beliefs as part of any science course you could knock me over with a feather. There are certainly researchers who gather traditional knowledge of environmental management (I don't imagine anyone thinks they have all the answers but they have been watching and manipulating the place for a long time), traditional medicines etc. One thing that is taught at undergrad level is the debate about aboriginal influence on the landscape (eg fire-stick farming, overkill as the cause of the megafauna extinction) but there is nothing 'special' about that. If we were in Europe it would be appropriate to talk about the human alteration of that continent. I have many concerns about the way science is taught but this isn't one of them.
22-07-2012, 09:20 PM
The focus is self exploration of concepts.
23-07-2012, 12:50 PM
Very well said. Often you can see misinformation touted as 'expertise', leading to ordinary people not knowing the difference between real expertise and junk science. The equivalent of ignoring the advice of the cardiologist (or 99 of them) and letting the dentist perform your heart surgery.:eyepop: If you end up with the misguided view that everyone's opinion is equally valid, you can quickly get led down the garden path and be horribly misinformed (or worse, see above!). But we have the scientific method to avoid that. The well-accepted scientific theories underpinning our core knowledge of subjects such as medicine, climate and evolution have been in existence for over a century, are supported my multiple independent and mutually-supporting lines of evidence, and are not threatened by the crackpottery of homeopathy, climate "skepticism" or intelligent design. But you do not have to go far to find people who adhere to these (and other) unscientific views through being misinformed and their having not challenged the evidence for their misconceptions.
We have the scientific method to separate entirely natural human frailties from what we describe as scientific knowledge. It has allowed us to develop enormously since the Middle Ages. If as a society we allow ourselves to fail to pass on both the knowledge we have built up over the past two centuries, as well as the critcal thinking skills and scientific methods that brought about that knowledge, we will be all the poorer for it.
Australia is in real trouble if the science curriculum is watered down any more. I am a science educator teaching expat Taiwanese, Korean, and American students in China. What they learn in primary school here would put many Aussie high school students to shame. My grade six science students are doing experiments with chemical reactions and the brightest of them can comprehend basic chemical equations. Most of my grade five students know how the sun produces its energy and influences our life on Earth and that it is the source of most of our energy (photosynthesis, weather, fossil fuel etc...). Most of my students use English as a second or third language.
There are no excuses, Aussie science is going down the drain!
31-07-2012, 09:48 PM
For parents. Here are some useful insights into perceived flaws in the new oz curriculum available at the Australian Institute of Physics. Hopefully they will be addressed before it is rolled out. The inadequacies highlighted will vary from state to state depending on the current curriculum being taught. I am still looking for decent references for chem.
01-08-2012, 04:14 PM
It is a shame to see schools slipping so much in recent years. i am not in the ranks of some of our senior members, but even since i left school 10 years ago i have seen a rapid decline.
I appears from an outside observers view point science is more about passing the exam, (i.e. plugging the numbers into a formula correctly) as opposed to an understanding of how the formula is derived, and the experimental observation leading to the outcome.
I guess good astronomy teaching has to begin at home... My three year old saw Saturn about a week ago through the scope, correctly identified and was ridiculously excited for the next few days. Her favourite book at the moment is "Practical Astronomy" - Think I am doing something right as a parent.
in defence of schools, they can only do so much with the limited resourses and enforced ciriculum.
02-08-2012, 11:41 AM
You have hit the nail on the head Aidan.
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