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Why American Education Is Failing January 19, 2010

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Dwight Furrow's Posts, Education.
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Philosopher of science Michael Ruse recalls a science teacher who, as a witness in the Arkansas court case challenging the teaching of evolution in 1981, made the following comment:

“Mr. Williams, I’m not a scientist. I’m a science educator. I love science, I really do. And I love my students. My job is to take the science and teach it to my students. I am not a leading researcher. I am an educator, and I have my pride and professional responsibilities. And I just can’t teach that stuff [meaning creationism] to my kids.”

As Ruse points out:

The relevance of the Arkansas teacher struck home when I looked at some of the figures. Get this. In 2007 (the last year for which there are available figures) within the State of Florida 1,295 people were hired to teach mathematics. Of those, only 394 had qualifications in teaching mathematics. Within the state, 1,154 people were hired to teach science. Of these, 282 had science qualifications. In other words, and I can attest anecdotally to this at my kids’ high school, most of the people being hired in Florida to teach mathematics and science aren’t qualified. And note that these are the numbers of people being hired, not necessarily the numbers needed.

In other words, we are simply not getting into our classrooms people like the Arkansas teacher who just loved science (including mathematics) for its own sake. Or if we are, it is purely by chance. We are not getting people who were themselves so thrilled by astronomy or biology or algebra (and there are such people) that they wanted to do it at university — and then who wanted to go back into the classroom and teach it to others. We are getting people who for various reasons are taking the job of teaching mathematics and/or science, but who have no background training. And of course, not necessarily any passion or deep commitment to science.

The point is germane to any discipline. Successful teachers must care about their subject for its own sake—only then can their enthusiasm get students hooked on science, math, English, history or whatever.

In our culture, education is about getting a job and education policy is about putting a body in a classroom and pushing students out the door with good test scores. The intrinsic value of studying a discipline is not part of the equation.

Until we change that, American education will continue to fail.

book-section-book-cover2 Dwight Furrow is author of

Reviving the Left: The Need to Restore Liberal Values in America

For political commentary by Dwight Furrow visit: www.revivingliberalism.com

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Comments»

1. Zeus - January 24, 2010

Well studying is a tough job to do.I mean we are bombarded with loads of assignment every week.Luckily I found a gr8 site called http://www.tutor2help.com/ which actually helps to do my assignments free of any hassles.Its a gr8 site.

2. Nina Rosenstand - January 26, 2010

Well, Zeus, the first assignment lesson is to learn to spell “great.”


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