Forum on Education of the American Physical Society
From the Editor
This is the space where Letters to the Editor should go, but no one sent us any, so a letter from the editor will occupy the space. Where are your letters? A Forum on Education should be just that; a place for members to share their opinions about physics education with others. Please send us your letters; it is YOUR newsletter.
Today (October 25) I was startled by a headline on the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle that read “Science in lower grades near extinction.” WHAT? According to a new survey of 923 Bay Area elementary school teachers by researchers from the Lawrence Hall of Science and WestEd, an education think tank based in San Francisco, about 80 percent of elementary teachers in the Bay Area said they spent less than an hour each week teaching science. Sixteen percent of the elementary teachers said they teach no science at all. Ten times as many teachers say they feel unprepared to teach science than feel unprepared to teach math or reading.
How can this be in an area that has the Exploratorium, the Lawrence Hall of Science, San Jose’s Tech Museum of Innovation, the Computer History Museum, and some of the best schools in the country?? As a newcomer to this area and sheltered in the ivory tower of Stanford University, I am apparently out of touch with reality. “It’s alarming because it’s a very short amount of time per week dedicated to a subject that’s considered a core subject in schools,” commented the lead researcher in the study. One teacher commented that the demands of No Child Left Behind have made it almost impossible to devote enough time to science. A few teachers try to “shoehorn” science into reading and math lessons.
Should this be a wakeup call for those of us who are concerned about the future of science in the United States? Most of us had the benefit of science in our early years. I attended a small town school where we enjoyed few of the advantages of modern schools, but we certainly were exposed to science and encouraged to read science books. Why else would we be physicists?