Friday, April 21, 2017

And let the Whining Begin!

As predicted, a whine over Texas "Our Day in Austin, Defending Critical Analysis of Evolution". Here's a quote that tells me the Discovery Institute misses the point completely:

"When you identify a theory, you merely regurgitate information about it. There’s a place for that, of course. But when you evaluate you critically analyze. That’s a skill essential to doing good science."
High School science classes do not merely regurgitate information, that's a level of educational objective called 'Remembering'.  Yes, there is some of that because for a student to begin any level of understanding, they have to start with knowing something about the topic.  And example would be teaching students what the Theory of Evolution actually is.  But high schools do not end there, regardless of the DI's unsupported opinion.

The next level is called 'Comprehending', which goes much deeper and reaches a point where the student is understanding the information they have learned.  Examples are tracing how the Theory of Evolution was developed, what went into it on its path from concept to scientific theory, and the supporting evidence as to why it is the predominant biological theory today.  They gain an appreciation for not just a theory, but the process by which actual science is done.  But, once again, HS science classes do not stop there.

The third level is called 'Applying' where the students take the theories they have learned and gain a deeper understanding and apply them to classroom and real world experiences.  Everything from dissecting a frog and growing bacteria to building structures.  One class even held an environmental cleanup of a local stream and then the next several years the same teacher, with new groups of students, monitored how their clean-up affected the local fish population.  A group measured the effects of various mouthwashes on germs and bacteria common in the human mouth.  Their conclusions were that a specific commercially available mouthwash that marketed itself a a germ killer -- wasn't very good at it.  Another class used both scientific theories and the engineering principles created based on those theories to build a bridge capable of many more times it's own weight with just paper and Elmer's glue.

To be honest, that's pretty much where HS science leaves off, but isn't that enough?  Each level requires time and resources and the end result are students who not only know the basics of many scientific theories, but understanding them and have actually seen them in action or put them into action.  Isn't that the type of education you want at that level?

There are three more levels, the highest type of learning objective is the one this particular DI talking head is wanting students to reach, 'Evaluating'.  But rather than the cavalier attitude the DI places on 'evaluating', I would like you to think about what it takes to properly evaluate something.  We are not talking about taking a test, but to be able to compare and contrast the merits of multiple ideas.  We aren't just using an opinion here, but the level of detailed knowledge to pass judgment on various scientific theories.  HS science classes are not equipped to take things to that level.

But the DI thinks they are, one reason is because the DI never defines what an 'evaluation' is or how you do it.  Don't believe me, check out the DI's own "Educator's Briefing Packet" and show me where Evaluation is explained?  Oh it's mentioned, but how to do it, or even what it means, is never explained.  The DI just expected teachers to do it, I guess intuitively.  They don't explain it with their curricula page either.  While they do use the word in the College Student Guide to ID, they also never explain what it is or how to accomplish it.  Please note this last one is intended for college students, not high school!

As I said, and the DI's own pseudo-educational material seems to bear out, to properly evaluate a subject requires a great deal more time and resources than remembering, understanding, and applying require.  The educational objective for 'Evaluating' isn't appropriate for high school -- so the Texas education board is acting both properly and responsibly.  I hope more states realize that as they contemplate similar changes.

No comments:

Post a Comment