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Re: California Science Framework

Thanks to all those who responded. I am in agreement with your assessments.

As some background, I testified to the California State Board of Education
about a draft of the framework (although in the 2 minutes that you are
allotted, you have to be very particular and limited in what you say.)

I excerpted some parts from the final published version that I found
particularly distasteful.

Some of my own personal opinions about these 4 excerpts that are in addition
to the wise comments in the previous posts.

1. I found it absurd that a quality science education for elementary
students would involve a short spirited discussion about the phases of the
moon. This topic involves a first object illuminated by a second object
observed by an observer on a third object, with rotation and revolution of 2
of the bodies thrown in for good measure - probably beyond the ability of
most elementary students to understand in a 10 minute spirited discussion.

2. Nothing in this statement about why science is studied indicates the
beauty of science, the joy of discovery and understanding, the usefulness of
science for understanding the world around us, or the enhancement of life
provided by science.

3. This statement is so ridiculous that it needs no further comment.

4. Many commented on the illogic of this excerpt. My opinion of this is very
much in line with what Robert Cohen wrote:

"I believe the implication is that Ohm's law must be provided
via direct instruction because students would be unable to
"discover" the relationship on their own (due to the many
complications that could arise). Investigations can then
be used to demonstrate ohm's law. This conclusion supports the initial
statement (at the beginning of the section) which is that "some knowledge is
best learned by having students read about the subject or hear about it
from the teacher" (quote taken from Larry's link).
Regardless of whether I agree with their conclusion (I don't)
and regardless of their confusion about what Ohm's law is,
I find the use of this example as support for their conclusion
quite misguided and a bit frightening."

This is why the author tried to pass off Ohm's Law as one of the "guiding
principles of physics" - the rationale being that you can't learn a guiding
principle of physics by discovery or lab work so you therefore must learn it
by being told it is true. It is a not so cleverly disguised attempt at what
I call political science education - the use of misleading information to
support a narrow view of science instruction.

It is indeed frightening.

The framework claims that "effective science programs are based on standards
and use standards-based instructional materials." Standards here means the
standards that were developed by the people and processes comparable to that
which produced the framework.

Contrast this with the guidelines used by NSF for instructional materials:
"IMD develops high-quality, research-based instructional and assessment
materials for students that enhance knowledge, thinking skills, and
problem-solving abilities of all students, as well as incorporate recent
advances in disciplinary content, research on teaching and learning, and
instructional technologies."

Perhaps better to heed the words of Feynman: "Science is the belief in the
ignorance of experts."

What is the moral of this exercise?
1. Trying to modify or correct state frameworks or standards at any point in
the revision phase is probably too late.
2. The members of the committee charged with developing state standards or
frameworks are effectively in total control of the final product.
3. The only way to affect these state documents or policies is to interact
directly with legislators as they are creating their bills or to become
members of the curriculum/standards/framework committees.
4. Any attempt to make positive changes at the state level will require the
efforts of much more that just a handful of political activists. It will
require the concerted and sustained efforts of many.

Larry Woolf;General Atomics;San Diego CA

-----Original Message-----
1. "When large blocks of time for science instruction are not feasible,
teachers must make use of smaller blocks. For example, an
elementary teacher
and the class may have a brief but spirited discussion on why plant seeds
have different shapes or why the moon looks different each week."

2. "Science education in kindergarten through grade twelve trains the mind
and builds intellectual strength and must not be limited to the lasting
facts and skills that can be remembered into adulthood. Science must be
taught at a level of rigor and depth that goes well beyond what a typical
adult knows. It must be taught “for the sake of science” and not with any
particular vocational goal in mind. The study of science disciplines the
minds of students; and the benefits of this intellectual training are
realized long after schooling, when the details of the science may be

3. "In doing their research good scientists do not attempt to prove that
their own hypotheses are correct but that they are incorrect."

4. "For example, students might learn about Ohm’s law, one of the guiding
principles of physics, which states that electrical current decreases
proportionately as resistance increases in an electrical circuit operating
under a condition of constant voltage. In practice, the principle accounts
for why a flash-light with corroded electrical contacts does not give a
bright beam, even with fresh batteries. It is a simple relationship,
expressed as V=IR, and embodied in high school Physics Standard 5.b. In a
laboratory exercise, however, students may obtain results that seem to
disprove the linear relationship because the resistance of a
circuit element
varies with temperature. The temperature of the components gradually
increases as repeated tests are performed, and the data become skewed.
In the foregoing example, it was not Ohm’s law that was wrong but an
assumption about the stability of the experimental apparatus. This
assumption can be proven by additional experimentation and provides an
extraordinary opportunity for students to learn about the
scientific method.
Had the students been left to uncover on their own the
relationship between
current and resistance, their skewed data would not have easily
led them to
discover Ohm’s law. A sensible balance of direct instruction and
investigation and a focus on demonstration of scientific
principles provide
the best science lesson."