Keeping Science Education on the Cutting Edge

Article excerpt

As president of the world's largest scientific society - the American Chemical Society, which represents more than 155,000 chemists and chemical engineers - I read "Science aversion looms as serious threat to U.S. economy" (June 19) with initial interest, but growing concern. This article contains many errors of fact, implication and omission, thereby putting your readers at a distinct informational disadvantage. They should know the facts:

Scientists did set the nation's science education standards. Your article states that the National Science Education Standards were written by groups "made up primarily of educators, not scientists." In fact, they were developed under the aegis of the National Academy of Science, whose elected membership constitutes the most prestigious scientists, and included members of our society and many other learned organizations.

What's more, scientists participated fully in every stage of the development of these standards. Science educators were also involved to ensure the success of these new standards in the classroom, as well as industrialists, who eventually employ the products of our educational system.

Providing access to science for all students does not mean dumbing down the curriculum. Your article implies that wider access means watering down the curriculum, but ignores several facts: First, as we approach the millennium, science is a basic subject that needs to be taught in a fashion that makes it accessible to all students. Second, the standards help all students to think more, rather than less, by emphasizing understanding and applying science knowledge rather than just memorizing science facts. They demand that students think in a scientific fashion and engage in the kind of inquiry that engages the working scientist - not an easier task, but a harder one. Finally, this approach not only shows students the real excitement and challenges of doing science, but also helps retain students' interest in science. We cannot teach science to students who have opted out of the pipeline, nor can we build jobs and keep our research enterprise vital without training as many bright young minds as we can reach while they are still in school. …