An Inconvenient Truth About Science Education

19 04 2007

The Columbia Teachers College online journal TC Record popped up with *temporary* — as in go read this week — free access to this commentary today:

Too many of
our citizens simply don’t understand how it is that researchers figure
out what’s going on in the world. It’s this misunderstanding about how
science is done that has been and continues to be exploited by various
business and political interest groups.

. . .What should be done?
More science isn’t the answer, especially in the current climate of standardized testing, where additional facts will only exacerbate the problem, reinforcing in students’ minds the identification of science with certain knowledge.
Neither is greater emphasis on the nature of science likely to help as long as such instruction remains limited to a monolithic picture of how science is done. . .
Should we teach the facts about global warming and other subjects like evolution? Absolutely. But we need to teach what we know about these subjects along with the various, specific ways these facts came to be. We need to help students understand the variety of methods and techniques that scientists use to explore the diverse phenomena in the world—that is, the process of knowledge construction as it’s actually practiced . . .this aspect of science education is one that has been and continues to be overlooked, and this “inconvenient truth” is sure to have grave consequences for the future.



12 responses

19 04 2007

This post will no doubt outlive the access, so here’s citation info and the references —
“An Inconvenient Truth About Science Education”
by John L. Rudolph — February 09, 2007


David, L. (2006, November 26). Science a la Joe Camel. Washington Post,
p. B01, accessed online at

IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change]. (2001). Third
assessment report, 2001 (vols. 1-4). available online at

Longino, H. (2001). The fate of knowledge. Princeton, NJ: Princeton
University Press.

McClure, R., & Stiffler, L. (2007, January 11). Federal Way schools
restrict Gore film. Seattle Post-Intelligencer, accessed online at

Mooney, C. C. (2005). The Republican war on science. New York: Basic Books.

Rudolph, J. L. (2000). Reconsidering the “nature of science” as a
curriculum component. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 32, 403-419.

Shulman, S. (2006). Undermining science: Suppression and distortion in
the Bush administration. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Strauss, V. (2006, December 19). Global warming another emerging topic.
Washington Post, p. A10, accessed online at

Weart, S. R. (2003). The discovery of global warming. Cambridge: Harvard
University Press.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: February
09, 2007 ID Number: 13216, Date Accessed: 4/19/2007

19 04 2007

Boil it all down, we need education, not schooling. Kids need critical thinking skills and habits, not the idea that once they get a diploma, they know it all. That should truly be the “commencement” of a lifetime of adult learning and thinking and contributing.

19 04 2007

Isn’t teaching scientific method and research methods basically teaching more about science? I think that is what they are condoning and I’m not sure why it isn’t considered more about science. Maybe it is the very foundation of science.

20 04 2007

This is off-topic, and I think you already got this, but anyway, I just gave you a “Thinking Blog” award in my post:

Congratulations! 🙂

20 04 2007
Nance Confer

Hurray! Another parade!! 🙂


20 04 2007
Nance Confer

Hi Kim —

I think the history of how some scientific theories have been developed is more along the lines of what this is about.

Not the standard “here, memorize these steps and we’ll all pretend you understand science” method of teaching the scientific method. But a broader context for the way science connects — or doesn’t — to decisions in the world. How our religious or political or economic goals bend science in one direction or another. Etc.


20 04 2007

Ice cream cones and birthday balloons, now a parade? Are we evolving in the blogosphere, from Thinking Parents into Party Animals?!

I’m not sure how successfully adaptive that would be. I warn you, even when I go to real parties in local habitats now, people just wanna talk education and I can’t even get my share of the food. . .

20 04 2007

(If I can stop partying a minute)
Back to the subject of inconvenient truths and open inquiry rather than political tunnel vision warping science education, I just checked out an email on and was uncomfortable to see it is TRUE —

How about y’all, have you seen this yet?
“Glass Houses”

25 04 2007

Doesn’t it seem like schools and education HAVE TO be about “knowledge construction” — if they aren’t, then what else can they possibly be about?

We need to help students understand the variety of methods and techniques that scientists use to explore the diverse phenomena in the world—that is, the process of knowledge construction as it’s actually practiced.

26 04 2007
Nance Confer

Fabulous test scores!!

That’s all the local papers are talking about today. We scored (as if “we” had anything to do with it; it was the children who drilled and practiced during the time they might otherwise have been engaging in some “knowledge construction”) a point higher or a point lower than the next county.

Ain’t we some kind of educated!


26 04 2007

And we all know it! No one really believes test scores are what education is about, why do we go on with these destructive myths??
Our education ecology is not healthy. So I’ve been thinking lately, that if education is important to the climate and environment, then surely climate and environment are important to education? We can start connecting these ideas overtly, building some new frames and hanging them in public galleries to provoke folks into some new thoughts?

And today is Teresa Heinz Kerry’s day to visit Snook!
Right here to talk with us about these important connections. I will be having a lot to say in a new post, and I know Nance will join the conversation along with lots of you evolved homeschoolers and Thinking Parents who read here. Please. It’s all connected and we’re gonna have to count on ourselves, not the government, to do the thinking.

17 07 2007
Greg Laden Blog Full of Unscientific Crap That Keeps On Giving « Cocking A Snook!

[…] science and open-minded inquiry is not the point over there. Was there ever better evidence that just because we call something science or education, it doesn’t make it so . . […]

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