Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Cultural Factors Hindering Science Education

By Sean Scarpiello In his article “How Our Culture Keeps Students Out of Science,” Peter Wood touches on many of the important aspects of how there are decreasing numbers of students interested in science. Many of these factors are caused by American culture and education system. It is important to fix these problems because there are other countries competing with the US as the world’s superpower. If we can fix this problem, the U.S. would have more scientists to advance technology in all fields of science.

One of the first problems which needs to be fixed is the type of visa going to foreign students in the United States. The current types of visas are set up so that the smartest scientists in the world graduate from Ivy League schools and go back to their home country instead of working in the United States. This is definitely a problem because it raises the demand for qualified scientists to study in the United States. It also makes it difficult for employers in the United States to hire scientists which would not only bring success, money, and power to the employers, but also the United States. This causes countries like China and India to have some of America’s best workers because they are being sent off by the US government.

Wood also touches on the problems of America’s education system. One of the problems he highlights is how the system actually hinders the learning process for the sciences. First off, it is obvious that learning science is difficult for many reasons, including the type of work load and labs in college, as well as the type of knowledge that must be previously learned to perfect a scientist’s skills. For example, scientists use math every day at their job. This sort of math is very tough to learn for many students and only a few students develop a high affinity for math. The educational programs at many of the schools in the United States are very poor and do not exactly motivate learning science and math. This only hinders us down the road when there is a shortage of scientists.

The general mindset that many schools take also acts as a problem in many elementary schools. Many schools try to instill self-esteem into students, rather than allowing them to feel achievement after a job well done. Wood describes how many students feel a false sense of accomplishment after working on trivial tasks. In other parts of the world, many countries do not praise their students for doing poorly, even if they had tried their best. This also causes a problem because it draws students away from entering the fields of science. I feel that this is partially true because in my experience there have been many students which had dropped from science classes because the information, concepts and ideas were simply too difficult to grasp. Furthermore, I can relate to Wood in the ways that this eventually leads to a problem. Since many students give up in the area of science, there is an overall decline in the amount of students entering the field of science.

One last subject Wood talks about is how women would be very useful when it comes to helping out society. It would be very nice to see more women in the workforce - especially women who are hoping to enter the science field. If more women were working in engineering, mathematics and other fields of science, there would definitely be an increase in the number of well-educated scientists.

In all, it is quite important to recognize these problems and fix them so that we can create a better future for the future generations of human beings. Also, it would be beneficial to the United States as we compete with China, India, and other countries for the position of a world superpower.



Anonymous said...

Re: “... in my experience there have been many students which had dropped from science classes because the information, concepts and ideas were simply too difficult to grasp...”

If this is so and wherever this is so, it means that (a) either the students are intellectually underdeveloped as well as lack curiosity, or (b) the presentation of the “information, concepts and ideas” is not made in a form which the audience understands, as for example if it were made in an unknown language. I don’t think that American students lack sufficient native intelligence as well as curiosity. They are just as smart and curious as students elsewhere. However, their home- and societal values might be different in that they are not expected to deal with and tackle difficult or even merely complicated tasks, but try to look for and choose the “easy way” to go. In real life, of course, what promises to be the “easy way” often turns out to be the most arduous and unrewarding way in the long run. But that doesn’t occur to the students who have learned how to build and maintain their self-esteem regardless of non-accomplishment, or particularly on non-accomplishment. In other words: American educational principles in this department are disingenious, not only in many a home, but undoubtedly overwhelmingly in the education establishment.

And teaching in a “language” the listener is going to understand is a basic requirement for anything to be taught. If, from the student’s perspective, "the information, concepts and ideas” are “simply too difficult to grasp,” then the information is being presented in an ungraspable form. And that, I can see, is common practice in many schools. Yet, if the will were there, it could be changed.

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