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A Different Take On Science Standards

July 16, 2012 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 90, Issue 29

“Unifying Science Education Standards” takes a very positive approach toward Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), which I believe is a mistake (C&EN, May 28, page 54).

To begin with, national standards are a bad idea. Children are different, and therefore one set of standards does not fit all needs. Also, standards tend to be “dumbed down” so that most students can meet them. And research has shown that national standards have no net positive effect on student learning.

I have carefully studied both the proposed science standards and the framework on which they are based. My overall impression is that NGSS advances a politically correct agenda that sometimes leaves objectivity by the wayside. This is particularly evident in sections that promote unguided macroevolution (common descent), stress the negative effects of human activity on the environment (e.g., global warming), emphasize “sustainability” and “green” initiatives for the future, and promote big-government solutions to societal problems.

The national science standards movement is really an effort to consolidate power and control in the hands of the Department of Education, the teachers unions, and the “science establishment” (including the National Research Council, National Science Teachers Association, American Association for the Advancement of Science, and Achieve). Thus the standards are more a political than an educational movement. Restoring control to parents and local school boards would be the best way to improve K–12 education in the U.S.

Scientific knowledge has traditionally been obtained by objective experimentation and observation. The NGSS framework, on the other hand, tries to convert science into an enterprise that is decided by “consensus.” That is, NGSS has brought together a team of like-minded “experts” from the science establishment who seem more interested in political goals and social policy than in giving students a balanced, objective education.

NGSS should be disbanded before it has the chance to screw up science education any further.

By Robert Lattimer
Hudson, Ohio



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