Handbook of Schooling in Urban America

By Stanley William Rothstein | Go to book overview

19
Mathematics, Science, and
Urban Education

David Eli Drew

When compared with the education received by students in a variety of countries throughout the world, American science education can best be described as mediocre.1 Furthermore, the very groups that are overrepresented in our cities-- the poor, the disadvantaged, and people of color--are severely underrepresented in classrooms where mathematics and science are taught. Science education not only is vital for an increasingly technological society but also has become a vehicle through which the inequalities of our society are perpetuated and exacerbated.

Fortunately, research in a range of disciplines has suggested solutions for these problems. The disciplines include educational research (e.g., studies about cooperative learning), cognitive psychology (e.g., studies about the impact of selfesteem and self-efficiency), sociology (e.g., the links between reference group interactions and achievement), and the history of science (e.g., some of history's most powerful insights have come from "unlikely" people).

The single most important change that is required involves a national consciousness-raising. Teachers, parents, and the students themselves must recognize that virtually every child has the capacity to master mathematics and science and should be taught these subjects. This is true for females as well as for males, for poverty-stricken students as well as those from more affluent backgrounds, and for persons of every ethnicity. Beyond consciousness-raising, the research results provide guidance as to how the reform of science education can proceed most effectively.


THE URBAN CONTEXT: POVERTY'S PERNICIOUS
EFFECTS

Several years ago I spent a day in the classroom of a gifted junior high school teacher, the late Charlie Koepke, in Ontario, California. His principal described

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