[Science & Math Education (and educators): A mini essay]

The problem with education is — in truth– we have no idea what’s coming.

We cannot predict with certainty the evolution of thought, environment or the coming demands on our individual intellectual capacities. There are simply too many variables.

Yet, each year, we churn out(?) more children to be nestled within "educational" systems. (Churn out seems such an unfair word when fertility and procreation are arguably decreasing.) And yet still — we have no fixed idea on what it "means" to be "educated" even amongst "educated" adults.

How to have "education" reach all? How to "educate" all equally? So, on and so forth. And of course, we should not forget our natural curiosity and inquisition that takes place outside of educational systems. And really, I think that is key. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. However, you can make drinking really really appealing. Yet, still, anyway, some horses will jump over and through anything to drink. No prompting necessary.


What does this clipping mean? A percentage of science and math educators apparently do not have degrees nor certifications in subject taught.

First, there were a few things missing from this article. 1) What population of educators are being referred to? 2) Age range of students 3) Education environment (public/private, non specialized general education in K-8, etc.) So, I wanted more detail. That’s an aside.

But assuming referred topic is primary education — what are the potential detrimental effects?

And, data can be misleading — does the absence of an educational certificate or degree make the educator any less educated/ qualified?

Because academic institution policies can muddy majors, certifications and "what gets printed on the diploma" results in funky ways — example: My undergraduate degree is in Liberal Arts. My degree granting institution did not have majors, so, despite having 40+ Biology credits on an undergraduate and graduate level and having passed all NYS Biology teaching exams (Content Specialty Test, ATS-W, LAST) — I still, do not "technically" have a degree in Biology.

Considering that, even if I was teaching Biology in NYS on a high school level, I still would be considered in the article-mentioned-population — although I have equivalent Biology credit hours. I wonder if a portion of the educators referred to in this article might have similar situations. In such a case, I’m not concerned about the overall effect. Debated on formal vs. informal education aside — 40+ credit hours in a subject is 40+ credit hours in a subject. What we declare it as — doesn’t change the content. I really would have liked to have seen a citation for the statistics (I would assume) Gordon is referring to.

Now, super, super, super off topic. I’m not always worried about an impending "science crisis" because "interest" is there. I think a fairly good level of science popularization has been achieved. Well, sort of. Example:

I spent a chunk of time in college working with truckers. Not because I wanted to — but because it paid the bills. One day I was studying my Neurobiology text at work when one of the workers asked me "what that shit is all about?" I said it was "about the brain". He responded he "likes the brain and shit". "Like when I’m smoking weed man, it’s cool how chill everything is". I nodded my head and launched into an extremely simple explanation of the possible chemical underpinnings of such a reaction. To which his eyes got all wide with some kind of recognition — and he said — "Oh like seramatoninin and shit".

I checked my reaction, I tried not to overtly show disdain or immediate correction. (Because part of teaching others is not making them feel like they’re stupid for the few things that they know, that only "approximate" the area of correct.) Opting instead to ask him where he learned about a neurotransmitter like "serotonin". His answer was that he learned it from that "blue cloud thing on tv". Presumably he meant a pharma ad for a well known antidepressant.

So — it’s not that information is not out there. Nor an absence of interest. Nor a potential to develop that interest. I think the problem, if we do indeed have one, comes from the quality of information available. Following an academic model, "we" want most education to occur in our predetermined plans and initiatives within academia.

But, I often think general improvement to open access quality information and public educational programs may do proportionally more good at the basic level. As often, I feel, academic programs self select for those who have previously succeeded in prior educational/academic programs. But that will turn into a longer rant tangent. (To be continued.)

The above "clipping" is from the New York Academy of Sciences Magazine – Winter 2010 issue. The article was entitled "Science Education Crisis Intervention" by Alan Dove. I don’t know if the spring issue is out yet. It may have gotten lost in my massive pile of periodicals. Yes, I am wacky and still read print media. Call me old fashioned. You’re not wrong to do so.