On the Larry Moran and PZ have recently commented on this article, discussing the lack of critical thinking/science home-schooled creationist students get exposed to. Being that such homeschool programs lack scientific content, create mistrust of scientists, and intellectually shortchange the kids through a lack of critical thinking in the lesson plans, I have no problem saying that such courses shouldn’t be accepted for credit and those students should have to take remedial-level science courses. If they don’t like it, there’s always Liberty University, right?
This isn’t to say children in public schools are doing better, science taking a back seat to the most important topics on standardized tests (language skills and math). The only standardized test I ever took with a section devoted to science was the ACT, and I scored a 95% in that section (much better than in math, let me tell you). When I was in high school the standardized testing blitz was just becoming more apparent, weeks out of the school year taken out to devote to not only the actual tests but prototype versions of tests that would be taken in years to come, and as far as I can recall there was no major difference between any of them. PZ recognizes this as well and states;
In my perfect world where colleges are not facing a painful lack of support from their state governments and were we aren’t scrabbling for students to keep our funding up, I’d tighten up admission standards across the board: you don’t get into any college unless you can read and write grammatically correct English, unless you know the elements of trigonometry, unless you’ve had at least a year’s instruction in a foreign language, and you’ve been exposed to at least algebra-based physics and have had a good lab course in chemistry.
No problem with the English part of it; I placed out of both semesters of “Expository Writing” because of my AP scores (to tell you the truth, I never even read Hamlet but I still nailed the essay). The math part though, that’s a different story. Math and I don’t get along, and I typically do whatever I can to avoid it (which is now impossible; I have to take precalculus and statistics before I graduate next year). I’ve never done well in that subject and likely never will, and if my admission to college depending on knowing basic trig and algebra-based physics, I probably wouldn’t be in college. Granted, math education is important and I’m not about to say “Math, who needs it?” but I think it’s also important to note that not every student is the same. In my case, I did exceptionally well in english classes but passed by the skin of my teeth (if that) in my math classes, yet I showed an aptitude for science; what am I to do?
Perhaps it’s the college I’m in an the courses that I’ve taken, but I have to say that I feel the college professors I’ve come in touch with generally haven’t done a good job at education either. Huge lectures where ppt slides go whizzing by and the students are told to buy a $100 book that is never referred to or used don’t exactly strike me as the pinnacle of higher education. Even in some of the smaller classes a lecture is merely a place for a professor to stroke their own ego for an hour, and overall I can’t say I’ve really learned much of anything during my years at college. Perhaps it’s my fault; I have changed majors a few times and haven’t always been the best when it comes to class attendance, but I’ve learned far more in one year of private study than I have in nearly 6 years of college. Sure, there might be some vestiges of understanding here and there, but I generally feel like I’m just paying to get a degree because that’s what I have to do; I don’t feel like I’ve been prepared for any type of career, profession, or to be any kind of scientist.
I’m sure the story is different elsewhere and other people have had more pleasant experiences, but I think the American education system is fraught with problems from top to bottom. Hopefully I’ll be able to escape the education system for a time (although graduate school is going to be necessary), but for the amount of money I’ve spent on tuition I would have much rather kept the money and educated myself.