Basic science education

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2014/02/14/277058739/1-in-4-americans-think-the-sun-goes-around-the-earth-survey-says
Reading the comments on this, and at some point someone ask if this result is because of the kind of science education received. This is America so one would presume that they all received a good primary school education. What else can get 25% this far of the mark?
Exactly how was the question phrased? Maybe there was some confusion?
Maybe this result was because the basic solar system is not part of high school work.
Maybe this is evidence that 25% of Americans are truly daft?

I suspect that a similar survey here in South Africa would have a much worse outcome. I’ve had teachers (rural schools in Limpopo and Mpumalanga) asking me how it can be true that we are moving around the Sun?

Well, I’m a school teacher, so I’m supposed to know how this kind of thing happens. Except I don’t. I have the same thing with my own primary school pupils. With a very substantial number of them, this sort of basic knowledge simply never gets into their heads, no matter how much it is drilled or explained or practiced.

A lot of it isn’t even in the formal curriculum to begin with, but I make a point of introducing them to the very basic facts of planet Earth: its size, the sizes of the sun and moon, the distances between these bodies, and which orbits which. Not only do I do this when I get them in grade four, I redo that exact work year after year, from grade four to grade seven.

Some of the kids quite simply cannot retain this information - after four years of having studied it year after year, and written exam after exam on it, they still have not the vaguest clue of how big Earth is or how far the moon is; guesses range from, say, 200 km in diameter to 2 million. I.e. they do not have an even vaguely accurate intuition, which would lead to guesses ranging from, say, 8000 km to 15000 or so. The guesses are completely wild.

In short, as far as that basic information is concerned, these kids have learned nothing whatever. Same thing goes for most of the rest of their curriculum: they retain nothing of it.

I have to ask myself how this is possible. Perhaps I’ll eventually find an answer. But I do not have enough experience in the job yet, so at this point my guess is as good as yours. My guess is this: a substantial number children are so severely neglected by their parents that by the time they reach schooling age, they have quite literally sustained a form of brain damage, and there is preciously little even the best school in the world can do for them.

But perhaps I’m wrong.

I actually want to start a whole new thread on the subject of education, because this morning on my long walk I had some thoughts that I would like to bounce off the heads of some of our fine thinkers here…

People may lack the abstract thinking ability,
to look at a diagram and get a mental image is harder for some than other.

It could well be that many (most?) kids are simply not interested in the subject?

My youngest changed schools this year (Grade 11) and for the first time, due to the class sizes being so much smaller, had the opportunity to do experiments in the class, his interest in the subject went from mediocre to almost fanatic within a couple of weeks, all because of the manner in which it is presented.

It is unfortunate that public schooling is of such a nature that it isnt possible to provide constant “hands on” education, as I’m sure it would make all the difference in the world.

Think I linked in shoutbox recently about a survey showing some high percentage of young Americans believing that astrology is science. Shortly after an independent person did a survey of his own, and confirmed that most of those asked had simply been confused between astrology and astronomy. Once it was pointed out what was meant by astrology, the research was sharply contradicted.

Sometimes, the survey just has shitty questions.

Well now I wonder what it says that they can’t tell astronomy from astrology.

Is this kinda like stalactites and stalagmites? I struggled with that till I learned that tits hang…

Not if they are small and perky.

And what’s more, you may have to explain it to kids some time. Rather use the mnemonic that the guide at the Sterkfontein taught us: StalacTITES have to hang on TIGHTly, while stalacMITES MIGHT one day reach the ceiling.

fair enough but every rule needs an exception anyway…

Far as I recall, I was a kid when that was explained to me. Was an epiphany. >:D

Something seriously wrong here. Yesterday, a grade 4 teacher admitted to me that she now finally understands why the phases of the moon change. Normally I explain that to smaller kids, Gr 1 and 2, but I got a question in this Gr 4 croup. Geography and science are subjects she teaches.

Oh, don’t even get me started. The B. Ed. degree apparently doesn’t include much in the way of subject knowledge. At the school where I work, the other teachers are constantly asking me to help out with the most elementary science and math. They all get significantly higher salaries than I do; they are after all “fully qualified” whereas I have a mere B.Sc.

I am actually kind of close to giving up on education altogether and go get myself a little job as store clerk or something like that, so that I have less stress and responsibility and can spend more time painting.

No doubt to the detriment of the kids you’ll leave in the charge of those “fully qualified” individuals. Yours is not the only story in this vein that we have heard.

And that’s the true cost of SA’s insane basic education policies, a cost that will only become apparent a dozen years or more down the line. We should be celebrating excellence, not burying it under state-imposed mediocrity where meeting three-tenths of the criteria suffices for success.

'Luthon64