“But you’re just a physics booster!” – Why political advocacy for high school physics is crucial

That’s the title of the talk I will be delivering at the annual meeting of the Southeastern Section of the American Physical Society (SESAPS) in October.  The meeting will be held at LSU (in Baton Rouge).  The talk will be part of a session of invited talks on high school physics and science.

More on the title below.  But first, here is the abstract:

There is no shortage of research-based arguments supporting the importance of high school physics.  A study from the University of South Florida demonstrates the importance of high school physics for the preparation of future STEM professionals [1].  A white paper from the National Academy of Education [2] states that the usual biology-chemistry-physics sequence in high school is “out of order” and points out that students in 9th grade biology classes are taught concepts that make no sense to them because they “know little about atoms and next to nothing about the chemistry and physics that can help them make sense of these structures and their functions.”  Nevertheless, in Florida the high school physics-taking rate has been declining for several years and a large fraction of the International Baccalaureate programs do not even offer IB Physics.  I will argue that physicists must collectively advocate in the political arena for the expansion and improvement of high school physics.  I will also provide a few examples of collective actions by scientists that may have influenced the formulation of the new high school graduation requirements in Florida.  Finally, I will argue that we must lobby our colleagues in the Colleges of Education to devote their scarce resources to recruiting and training teachers in the physical sciences.

[1] W. Tyson, R. Lee, K.M. Borman, and M.A. Hanson, Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk 12, 243 (2007).

[2] National Academy of Education White Paper “Science and Mathematics Education,” (http://www.naeducation.org/Science_and_Mathematics_Education_White_Paper.pdf).

Now about the title.  I gave talk in May to a group that included some folks who have been in K-12 education a long time as well as others who are not educators but have been active in their communities.  At the end of my talk, which was devoted in part to demonstrating the importance of physics in the high school curriculum, one of the long-time members of the K-12 community in the audience said “But you’re just a physics booster!”  To which I could have responded:  “If you understand the research on equipping students for STEM fields, then you are a physics booster.  If you are not a physics booster, you are not paying attention.”  Of course I didn’t.  But there’s no reason I can’t use that line at SESAPS.

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1 Response to “But you’re just a physics booster!” – Why political advocacy for high school physics is crucial

  1. Pingback: Physics First in Chattanooga: Turning high school science “upside down” « Bridge to Tomorrow

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