Reaction to "Gathering Storm" U.S. science education report

A National Academies report Thursday warned of a crummy economic future unless fixes are made to U.S. science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education.

Included below are longer reactions to the "Rising Above the Gathering Storm," report:


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We see governments all over the world rising on the golden sun of education reform, and even more rapidly disappearing without a trace into the eternal waves.

If we were minutely studying these patterns throughout the time zones, we would be far more skeptical about glib talk of the latest fix. (Last Sunday's New York Times Magazine--except for the excellent Livescribe report--contained a good selection of blather about American education and utterly trivial ideas about the future).

We need to begin with the student extended phenotype, the set of material tools and cognitive skills that will help make a highly skilled biologist. You can infer from the Livescribe report that we do not even have the comparative studies of that method of note-taking as compared to an old-fashioned Moleskine Diary (365 pages) as class notebook with the Sanford uni-ball micro super ink pen as compared to the ASUS Eee PC 1015PN.

You might have thought that at the RFK schools in LA such experiments would already be in play in cooperation with Harvard. But no. Sleep is the best formula, Mr. Laden. A deep sleep at Science, with its dopey website and goofy editorial practices. I nominate Terry McDermott ("101 Theory Drive") to edit Science and impose at least a regime of fundamental honesty.

Nature is more effective at distributing its products, has a robust website, and is not too delicate to publish hard-hitting commentary on the lapses of science (I was about to say Science). Yet Scientific American Mind is a failed venture. Is that the very best that can be done, when Nature itself has carried a valuable review of "Inception"?

Science reporting is in disarray: note the inexplicable poverty of comment on Carl Wieman's appointment when his methods have no sure application to biology. I attempted to determine if there was an association of American biologists with a powerful website where I could raise this issue. There is no such association, and there is no such website. Scientists think that they have the right to act in obscure and ineffective ways just because they have contempt for language and communication.

There is no such right. A nuclear physicist in Vancouver is going around trying to convince people that there is no real need to practise remediation of school buildings here for earthquake preparedness because these events are rare. He is doggedly positioning himself to be chosen scientific goof of the year. It will be a bitter competition.

By Clayton Burns (not verified) on 24 Sep 2010 #permalink