Will the Next Generation Science Standards Succeed?

Maltobia has a national soccer team that has never made it to the World Cup. The players are simply not competent enough. However, it is a taboo for Maltobians to associate incompetency with the members of any sport team. Under pressure from the public and the government, the Maltobian Soccer Association (MSA), based on numerous researches done on the game, has periodically adopted various strategies to address the poor performance of the national team. The soccer fields were equipped with the latest technologically advanced billboards, goals that recorded the exact location of the ball upon impact, and nets that recorded the location and the speed of the ball. New shoes, with sophisticated electronic devices which correlated the direction of motion and the velocity of the ball with the point of impact with the shoe, were recommended for the players. However, after changing the shoes, the improvement in the game was statistically insignificant. Some researches concentrated on the outfit of the players and found that if the sleeves were shortened to a particular length, the players performed better. Changing the length of the sleeves did not improve the performance of the players either. One particular research done by a prominent soccer education researcher – for which she was awarded a million-dollar grant by the Department of Sport Education – found that cutting the hair of the players short had a positive influence on the performance of the team. This strategy was also a failure.

Recently, a committee of elected members of MSA, university faculty with expertise in soccer education, representatives of some major sport organizations, a delegate from the top Maltobian soccer ball manufacturing conglomerate, and the Deputy Minister of Sport Education came up with a master plan, which was recently published with huge fanfare and publicity. The plan promises to radically improve the performance of the next generation of soccer players. To make the next generation of players ready for the World Cup, the plan recommends changing the color of the panels of the soccer ball from black and white to red and green and to stitch them together with golden thread!


American students have been performing poorly in science and mathematics for decades. Educational, governmental, and business organizations have been trying to remedy the situation by articulating the “standards” to which teachers are to adhere. The appearance of Halley’s Comet in 1985 initiated Project 2061, a long-term effort of scientists and educators to help transform America’s school system so that all students become well educated in science, mathematics, and technology. The two books, Science for All Americans (1990) and Benchmark for Science Literacy (1993) promised to contribute to the way today’s young people will, as adults, influence what life on earth will be like in 2061, the year Halley’s Comet next returns.

Unfortunately, this long-term project did not seem to have a dent in the scientific illiteracy of Americans. The performance of the 4th graders saw no change over the 16 year period between 1995 and 2011 in Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) administered by International Activities Program (IAP) in 2011. American 8th graders ranked ninth and did slightly better than 1995 and 2007.

2 thoughts on “Will the Next Generation Science Standards Succeed?”

  1. Well articulated. I believe the same thing is happening in chemistry (my field). We need to get rid of these ridiculous rules that state that if you have degree in biology you can teach chemistry or physics. To teach a particular subject requires expertise in that subject. If you are planning to teach biology, you should have a degree in biology (along with any other teacher education needed, which I am not convinced is all that worthwhile).

    One other thing that bothers me about “modern” science education is the movement away from knowledge based teaching toward experience based teaching. You cannot really expect primary (or even secondary) school students to “think like a scientist.” Most scientists that I know didn’t really start to “think like a scientist” until they were in graduate school. And can we really expect primary and secondary school students to recreate 300 years worth of discoveries in a few years without any cognitive background on which to build?

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