Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Science in Society

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Science in Society

Article excerpt

"Why do we need to know this?" It's a question that most students may be too polite to ask, but I suspect they think it fairly often. I have a feeling, though, that most would not care much for the following answer: "We are learning this because our science department has met regularly; thought long and hard about what topics to include in the curriculum; consulted state and national science standards; drawn upon our own lifetimes of experience as science educators; considered the overall educational goals of our school, community, and nation; and selected these topics--from among all the wonderful things we could be studying--as important enough to spend our limited time together learning. Although I have not actually tried this answer, I doubt it would completely satisfy the average high school student.

There are many important reasons for students to learn science. It prepares them, as the next generation of workers, for careers in the ever-expanding science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. It also enables them to understand scientific articles in a newspaper, make informed decisions about public policy, evaluate claims made in the media, and talk to their doctors. Learning intellectually challenging science content teaches students how to think critically and how best to learn. Understanding the science behind everyday phenomena can also be an enormous and inexhaustible source of pleasure, enriching simple experiences such as a walk in the woods or a trip to the beach.

The most compelling reason of all may be that students need to know science because it has important implications for human society and the future of our nation and planet. This is the case made by authors in this issue of The Science Teacher (TST), who argue for the importance of situating science in the context of personal, community, societal, and global issues. By emphasizing the connections between science and society, we simultaneously teach students important science content while developing their ability to think carefully and critically about complex issues and systems. …

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