Why Johnny can’t hypothesize: A discussion about math and science education

Why Johnny can’t hypothesize: A discussion about math and science education @ SciAm…

A panel of experts, moderated by The Wall Street Journal’s managing editor, Alan Murray, gathered recently to discuss some of the challenges behind improving K-12 math and science education across the country.

Research and experience have shown that even more than good schools, good teachers are key to improving individual students’ learning. “We know today that good teachers make all the difference,” Amy Gutmann, president of the University of Pennsylvania, said at the panel.

“The most important thing is to bring to K-12 education college graduates who excel in math and sciences,” added Joel Klein, chancellor of the New York City Department of Education. Whereas other countries recruit teachers from the top tier of graduates, he said, “America is recruiting our teachers generally from the bottom third.”

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  1. As usual equating ability to teach with expertise in a subject matter. Which, comparing my HS teachers to my College Profs, wouldn’t be terribly correct and might be terribly incorrect.

  2. As a working engineer for better than 25 years, I often think about the literally thousands of real problems I have solved using scientific and mathematical principles, and how I could use them in a science or math classroom. How many times, after all, have you ever heard students moan, “Why do I have to learn this?” or “Of what earthly good is this concept you’re trying to teach us?”

    The sad thing is that too many teachers cannot answer those eternal questions imaginatively, if at all.

    I’m not here to slam teachers, by any means. I am, rather, slamming a society that doesn’t value education or the experience of people who have actually done real things using math and science. Think about what an awesome educational system we could have in this country if we replaced even 10% of our math and science teachers with retired, or semi-retired engineers!

    Neither my wife nor I are trust-fund kids, and at age 50, I am a long way from retirement. If I wanted to shift gears and be a teacher, I’d have to take a 50% cut in pay. While I have considerable (private) teaching experience, and would love to teach HS Physics, that is not a sacrifice my family can afford to make.

    Teachers have always been the favorite whipping boys of the plutocrats (and the ignorami who are happy to do their bidding, even to their own detriment). Every dictator knows that the ease of controlling the peasantry is proportional to their ignorance, and for years, I have seen this happening all around me in the good old US of A.

    Anyone who would knowingly take a career as a teacher these days is a saint, in my opinion.

    Interesting that ever since the cold war ended, the powers that be no longer give a damn about education, or even the Middle Class… well, actually they NEVER gave a damn, but only grudgingly went along with the government’s need to demonstrate to the Russkies how much better American-style Capitalism is than Communism.

    So here we are.

    Depressing, isn’t it?

  3. I’m sorry to have ended my previous comment on a rather negative note, so please let me fix that.

    I teach because I have to. I love to share, and I love to inspire. Even though I can’t afford to do it professionally, I still do it whenever I can.

    I have mentored many new-hires at my company, help anyone who asks, and spend lots of time with young people to get them interested in technology. I can’t do everything, but dammit, I can do something.

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