Steve is NYSCI’s vice president of science and technnology, with a PhD in network science and a passionate believer in the interdisciplinary nature of contemporary science.
The Next Generation Science Standards have a living web site, and a process for inviting critiques, here: http://www.nextgenscience.org/
Here are steve’s very thoughtful notes, which I am posting with his permission. Thanks Steve!
“There are some really interesting and compelling critiques of NGSS, some of which were mirrored in my feedback to them, others that really get to the heart of issues around curriculum and assessment in all K-12 learning, which could be summed up as permitting form to negate function. In particular, some important issues include (these are excerpted from my responses, but mirrored in the linked critique):
- Math is the language of science, and with the emphasis on engineering and technology, highlights the paltry attempt to integrate ideas from the math standards into the science standards. God forbid they use and equation anywhere. As reflected in the standards documents for both math and science, they continue to be safely siloed. What this means is that math will continue to be the teaching of equations, and science will be occasionally “disrupted” by some of these equations.
- Widely assumed in the standards is the understanding of underlying concepts and definitions of terms whether they are part of the standards or not. Ideas like:
- Analyze and interpret data
- Construct explanations
- Engage in arguments
- Construct models
- Empirical evidence
- Scientific reasoning
Cross cutting concepts are even more cavalierly used. things like:
- Flows and cycles
- Cause and effect
- Differentiate between cause and correlation
- Patterns indicating causality
- Feedback mechanisms
- Dynamic equilibrium
- Define the boundaries of a system (gets into cybernetics territory will teachers be teaching cybernetics?)
There is no indication that these ideas will actually be taught,
- There are concepts that are simply misstatements of the facts. For example, they state that color is a characteristic of light, when in fact color is a characteristic of vision.
- Evolution has gotten better since the first draft, but there are still fundamental ideas that are missing, like human evolution, the function of the central dogma (molecular evolution), or other basic mechanisms like lateral gene transfer or endosymbiosis.
- They make sweeping and overreaching statements like: “scientific knowledge assumes an order and consistency in natural systems (3-PS2-b)” When we know that emergent systems abound in nature (we have an exhibit on this upstairs), and making believe nature is consistent and orderly ignores much of 20th century science, nevermind 21st. Anyone who watches the weather report knows this is just incorrect
- They are still scared by any form of complexity (except the traditional ones) and deliberately avoid seeing science in light of many new ideas. I can understand why they might not address morphogenesis, but they also avoid some of the key complexities around biodiversity- more is still better.
- They talk about modeling everywhere, without indicating even the most basic examples from traditional science, never mind more advanced ones. The pretext seems to be that software and computer simulations will save the day, without even having defined models or created any framework for scaffolding modeling. Kids are just supposed to model everything… of course without grounding any of it in math or computer programming. Its just supposed to happen by magic.
- the most important ways science is crosscutting through interdisciplinarity in systems science, sustainability science, network science, ocean sciences, even earth systems sciences, are not addressed in any systematic way, just stated as if they are just name dropping.
- throughout the standards is the gnawing teleological assumption that humans are different from nature and no effort is made to dissuade people from thinking this. There is a constant mantra of distinguishing the human made world from the naturally occurring world. It is extremely useful to compare how we behave and what we do as compared to other animals and plants as fundamental to understanding the role of behavior and the brain (something else that is conspicuously missing). But to make the artificial distinction between natural and human made is simply erroneous and makes everything from animal behavior to ecosystems ecology, more confusing.
This document (http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/curriculum/2013/02/in_science_standards_draft_lar.html) is long, but not as long as the standards themselves. It is helpful in going into discussions about the progression of STEM education, and the potentially important role institutions like NYSCI have in moving science learning forward. I hope we can all begin a useful, ongoing dialog about the implications of these new standards and how we can respond to it productively in our work. Honestly, I had hoped we would leave the 1980s behind when we went into the 1990s, but I feel like we are reliving them all over again. It looks like the opportunity to really teach science will be missed again as the gap between the teaching of science and science practice continues to widen.