Oregon's flawed new science standards
Overbearing and ill-informed state interest in measurable objectives seeks to refashion the wild thickets of learning with rather sterile grids and metrics for efficient management. Rather than true reform, the new standards are merely old wine in new bottles as well as a thinly veiled promotion of the myth of "the" scientific method. Mapping the aims for learning science remains stuck in the quagmire of overzealous simplification — a boon to measurement but a curse to cognitive and disciplinary complexity. "Standard" phrases have persisted for decades in the reform movement: observation and inference, stability and change, modeling and hypothesis testing. Whether debating the number of steps in the scientific method (ongoing), reducing all fields to small set of process skills (1960s), teaching the skills of scientific inquiry (1970s), defining the habits of mind common to all the sciences (1980s), characterizing the nature of science independent of subject (1990s), or seeking insight into the culture of science (2000s), reformers across decades have unwittingly yet repeatedly reinforced a stereotypical, generic portrait of the sciences.
Efforts to frame all science teaching with a small number of discrete categories independent of subject have failed schools again and again. Recycling the jargon delivers very little. Rather than universal abstractions, the tools of the trades should be drawn upon to promote interest and develop expertise. Climate science and medical research differ in fundamental ways with significant implications for teaching and learning. This is an abridged version of an op-ed post in the Oregonian, May 21, 2016. Click on the Dinochicken to visit the original Oregonian editorial