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Nationalizing Standards?

Science Under the Microscope

NationalizingThere are times when my political leanings--my voter registration cards reads "Libertarian"--come into disagreement with my educational philosophy, and it can be very difficult to reconcile the differences. It gets worse when my views are tinted by my experience as a scientist.

 

This kind of perfect storm of personal dilemma has occurred recently on the issue of national education standards.

President Obama's plans for education seem to include a push for them, and the issue has come up in conversations around the water cooler at school. While many of my peers have clear opinions about whether common curricula are a good idea or the end of the American education system, I have yet to decide how I feel.

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Here's the rub. On one level the idea of a standard for teaching science seems to make sense. It would certainly prevent states from creating pseudoscientific curricula that include creationism or worse. As a nation, with advice from the National Academy of Science and other prestigious scientific organizations, we could determine where the gaps in our nation's science education are and how best to fill them.

 

On the other hand, my libertarian leanings make me think about the foolishness of centralizing decision making and the inefficiency of federal tax-collecting and spending. Don't individual states (and even districts) have a duty to implement educational priorities appropriate for the needs of their communities? Doesn't living in a democracy mean that the people should decide what is important to them? I struggle with the idea of collecting money and decision-making power with a very small number of people who are tasked with determining what's best for everyone in the entire country from poor to rich, rural to urban, conservative to liberal.

 

But, then again, Science should be walled off from politics and immune to the whims of public opinion, shouldn't it? A discipline based on objective data and logical reasoning should be absolute and not vary in different parts of a state... country... or even planet, right?

 

So, how do I feel about the push for National Science Standards?

 

I don't know.

 

Do you?

Share you opinion in the comments section!