The National Research Council’s new K-12 science framework will prepare students to be technology consumers not creators, writes Ze’ev Wurman, a high-tech engineer who’s worked on education standards and advised the U.S. Education Department.
The framework has prestigious authors in science and science education and they promise a “coherent and consistent approach” that will enable students to “actively engage in science and engineering practices and apply crosscutting concepts to deepen their understanding of each fields’ disciplinary core ideas,” Wurman writes. Furthermore, engineering is introduced as a K-12 subject for the first time.
But “the framework does not expect students to use any kind of analytical mathematics while studying science.”
By grade 12, students are supposed to be competent in “recognizing,” “expressing,” and “using simple … mathematical expressions … to see if they make sense,” but not in actually solving science problems using mathematics.
Before Lavoisier’s quantitative approach there was no chemistry, only alchemy. Before Newton’s invention of calculus, physics was more a craft than a science. Mathematics has been inseparable from science for the last 300 years, and has been largely responsible for the world we live in. Yet here we have a “21st century” science framework for our students that effectively ignores mathematics.
Wurman went back to the first page, which explained the framework’s purpose.
The overarching goal of our framework for K-12 science education is to ensure that by the end of 12th grade, all students have some appreciation of the beauty and wonder of science; possess sufficient knowledge of science and engineering to engage in public discussions on related issues; are careful consumers of scientific and technological information related to their everyday lives; are able to continue to learn about science outside school; and have the skills to enter careers of their choice, including (but not limited to) careers in science, engineering, and technology.
The framework isn’t teaching students to solve science problems, Wurman concludes. It’s teaching science appreciation. He doesn’t think a math-free, science lite curriculum will prepare U.S. students for Silicon Valley’s high-tech jobs, many of which are filled with engineers trained in India, East Asia and Israel.