Trivializing Science Education

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Science  20 Jan 2012:
Vol. 335, Issue 6066, pp. 263
DOI: 10.1126/science.1218912


I was prompted to write this editorial after playing an electronic version of the old board game Trivial Pursuit with my grandchildren over the holiday break. For decades, my favorite category of questions to answer had been “Science and Nature.” But in this 2009 edition, I could answer almost none of those questions—because “science” had apparently been redefined as knowing what disease killed character X in movie Y. Trivial Pursuit is of course merely a game; but it reminded me of the much more serious battle over the California State Science Education Standards that I and many others lost in 1998. As a result, for my grandchildren, “science” includes being able to regurgitate the names of parts of the cell in 7th grade, after memorizing terms such as Golgi apparatus and endoplasmic reticulum. Those of us who are passionate about science have thus far failed to get real science taught in most of our schools. Is it time to regroup with a different strategy?

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