Shift in Science-Education Focus Urged
WASHINGTON--Schools should focus on improving science education for all students, not just those most likely to pursue science-related careers, a top industry executive told a national symposium here last week.
"The U.S. has and continues to produce outstanding scientists and engineers,'' said Robert C. Forney, executive vice president of the Du Pont Company. "The crop of available bright young men and women is better than it has ever been.''
The problem science educators must address, he said, is that students who do not become scientists are "bewildered by scientific and technological change.''
"We have to improve public understanding of science,'' he concluded.
Mr. Forney's remarks echoed the conclusions of a new draft report on science education prepared by SRI International for the National Science Foundation. That report is expected to help fuel the current debate over the proper focus of precollegiate science instruction. (See Education Week, April 8, 1987.)
Mr. Forney spoke at a conference marking National Science Week that was sponsored by the Triangle Coalition for Science and Technology Education, a two-year-old organization intended to link business, schools, and scholars in efforts to improve science education.
In contrast to the Du Pont vice president's comments, most other participants stressed the importance of preparing students for advanced study in science.
The N.S.F. has stepped up its programs for talented students, according to Mary E. Clutter, a senior science adviser in the office of the federal agency's director.
"This is an exciting time in science,'' she said. "But there is a paradox: Fewer kids are selecting science as a major, and fewer kids are selecting engineering as a career.''
Inadequate science courses in schools may be a reason for this declining interest, she suggested. "Students don't go into science in college because they are simply unprepared to take college-level courses,'' she said.
The National Academy of Sciences will hold a convocation this fall on programs for outstanding students who are interested in science, said Philip Smith, executive officer of the National Research Council, a branch of the academy.
Mr. Smith urged schools to revitalize the science curriculum to generate greater interest in the subject and encourage students to pursue careers in science and engineering.
"We have to describe the excitement of science and engineering,'' he said, "and translate it into the classroom, so students see science as a dynamic body of knowledge, not a static body of knowledge that is dead.''
To that end, Mr. Smith said, the national academy has over the past three years sponsored the creation of two groups aimed at improving science and mathematics curricula. Those groups--the National Science Resources Council and the Mathematical Sciences Education Board--are examining curricula with an eye toward producing materials that can be "plugged into'' schools, he said.
Another way of connecting the work of practicing scientists with precollegiate classrooms is to recruit scientists as part-time teachers,uggested Ronald P. Preston, the Education Department's deputy assistant secretary for educational research and improvement.
In another program marking National Science Week, the Association of Science-Technology Centers honored 47 teachers for their innovative use of science museums.
The second annual "honor roll,'' which includes teachers from Norway and Canada, is an effort to highlight the role of science museums in instruction and teacher training, according to association officials.
The 45 U.S. teachers honored by the association were:
Harvey Augenbraun, I.S. 143, New York City; Kathy Beauford, Grace King High School, Metairre, La.; Pamela Boykin, Johnson Middle School, Louisville, Ky.; Cathy Burch, Flat Shoals Elementary School, Decatur, Ga.; Rona Craddock, Allamanda Elementary School, Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.; Edna DeVore, Independence High School, San Jose, Calif.; Rebecca Ferguson, Cameron Middle School, Nashville; Gerald Graber, V.M. Wiley Elementary School, Hutchinson, Kan.; Niel Hansen, Dwight Rich Middle School, Lansing, Mich.
Pamela Barker-Jones, Lewis Fox Middle School, Hartford; Barbara Bergmann, Indian Trails School, Frankfort, Ill.; Lynn Brown, East Lyme Junior High School, Niantic, Conn.; Robert Burns, Ramsey Junior High School, St. Paul; Tom Cullinan, Walnut Springs Middle School, Westerville, Ohio; Betty Fellows, Y.E. Smith Elementary School, Durham, N.C.; Suzanne Fulk, St. Gabriel's School, Louisville, Ky.; George Granderson, Southwestern High School, Detroit; Sue Hardy, Union No. 36 Elementary School, East Corinth, Vt.
Betty Hess, Moreland School, Shaker Heights, Ohio; Pat James, Christ School, Arden, N.C.; Sandra Lefkowitz, Sand Piper Elementary School, Sunrise, Fla.; Connie McNatt, Sims Elementary School, Austin, Tex.; Marianne Moten, EPIC School, Birmingham, Ala.; Jean Oberbroeckling, McKinley Junior High School, Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Elizabeth Reagan, J.L. Mann High School, Greenville, S.C.; Tom Robare, Rocklake Middle School, Longwood, Fla.; Marie Sherman, Ursuline Academy, St. Louis; Pam Holst, Roosevelt School, Santa Barbara, Calif.; Marcia Knudsen, Hazelton Elementary School, Stockton, Calif.; Jeri Martin, McLane Junior High School, Brandon, Fla.; Edith Meints, Randolph Elementary, Lincoln, Neb.
Rebecca Neilsen, Gemini Elementary School, Melbourne Beach, Fla.; Mary Peters, Tapteal Elementary School, West Richland, Wash.; Jim Reid, Sexton High School, Lansing, Mich.; Dana Lee Robbins, Blackburn Middle School, Newton, N.C.; Sherry Shaaf, Forks Junior/Senior High School, Forks, Wash.; Selma Sleven, Cross Roads School, Santa Monica, Calif.; Jeanne Smith, Callahan Elementary School, Lynn, Mass.; Kenward Steinbach, Bagley High School, Bagley, Minn.; Renee Wilkerson, Portland Public Schools, Portland, Ore.; Shirley York, Prospect Middle School, Pittsburgh; J'neane Smith, Chubbock Elementary School, Chubbock, Idaho; Julie Thompson, Hill School, Troy, Mich.; Patricia Ward, St. Gabriel's Catholic School, Charlotte, N.C.; Jack Williams, Liverpool High School, Liverpool, N.Y.