Up Close, Typical State Biology Standards Don’t Have the Content or Coherence of the International Baccalaureate

Paul Gross:

Since the beginning of the standards movement, national and state science standards have been padded with politically correct matter having little to do with the substance of scientific knowledge. According to philosopher of science Noretta Koertge, this invasion can be traced to the 1996 National Science Education Standards. They were developed by the National Research Council and have served as a model for the states. Koertge doesn’t blame the national standards; she merely notes that they created the opportunity:

[The National Science Education Standards] note that learning about science as process is not enough. Understanding of content is also required…. But one of their goals opens wide a door [for] … political correctness [to] … intrude. This is the requirement to present Science in Personal and Social Perspectives. “An important purpose of science education is to give students a means to understand and act on personal and social issues.” What might this mean in practice?1

In practice, it could mean almost anything except the actual content of science. As she notes, the national science education standards do recognize content as important. But they don’t resist the politicized formulas and prescriptions for science, nor the sociological turn, that came into prominence during the 1980s and 1990s. Since then, many 18-wheelers, loaded with cargo other than science content, have barreled through the wide-open door.