I received a thoughtful response to this morning’s op-ed from Robert Sanchez, Policy Director at the James Madison Institute, a Florida-based research and educational organization. With his permission, I am sharing it here:
I read your thoughtful op-ed piece in today’s Tallahassee Democrat with considerable interest. I, too, wish that Florida’s high school graduates emerged with a better understanding of the sciences – and civics, the humanities, and lots of other material that every educated person arguably ought to know.
Moreover, advanced courses in the sciences certainly ought to be available to all of the students who intend to go on to college, where they’ll undoubtedly encounter further course requirements in the sciences.
However, not all students are college-bound, especially in Florida. Many drop out as soon as the law allows; others remain in school only long enough to earn the high school diploma deemed a minimal ticket for employment.
To dragoon these disinterested students into science classes whose relevance to their lives they probably do not understand or appreciate could burden the teachers with scores of unmotivated students and disrupt the learning environment for the college-bound students who are interested.
As a university professor of physics, you teach a comparatively elite group of students. Conversely, if you visit an American public high school, you will see a much more diverse cohort of students, quite varied in their intellectual ability as well as their interests – interests that often tend toward texting, Twittering, and hooking up with the opposite sex and unfortunately don’t seem to extend much beyond what they’ll be doing on Friday night.
Although we may wish that all of our public high school pupils were young geniuses or “science-fair geeks” full of intellectual curiosity, unfortunately they are not. To inflict them on science teachers is a disservice to science and to the students who are interested.