Our Culture Keeps Students Out of Science, argues Peter Wood in the Chronicle of Higher Education. “Success in the sciences unquestionably takes a lot of hard work, sustained over many years,” while our culture tells students that learning should be fun.
At least on the emotional level, contemporary American education sides with the obstacles. It begins by treating children as psychologically fragile beings who will fail to learn â€” and worse, fail to develop as “whole persons” â€” if not constantly praised. The self-esteem movement may have its merits, but preparing students for arduous intellectual ascents aren’t among them. What the movement most commonly yields is a surfeit of college freshmen who “feel good” about themselves for no discernible reason and who grossly overrate their meager attainments.
The intellectual lassitude we breed in students, their unearned and inflated self-confidence, undercuts both the self-discipline and the intellectual modesty that is needed for the apprentice years in the sciences.
When I’ve asked high school students about their career ambitions, the honor-roll students often want to be geneticists, forensic scientists, doctors or architects. There’s a lot of interest in scientific fields. But are young people prepared for the challenges?
Science is cool, writes P.Z. Myers, a biology prof. If students realize that, they may be motivated to do the necessary work.
By the way, I have a column up on Pajamas Media on girls and math.