I attended Back to School Night at my children’s school. I went into the science classroom eager to meet the teacher and to discover how she would be inspiring her students to love science and nature.
I departed in sorrow. The science teacher is also the social studies teacher. She happens to know there is very little science on the standardized test for this grade level, so she won’t be focusing too much on it.
If this is the sentiment of educators in a magnet school whose students were accepted for admission based on their above-average aptitudes, how could I hope it is any better in general population schools?
I knew there was much grumbling about ‘teaching to the test,’ but I could not have imagined that educators would forsake their higher mission. I have never met a person who said “I wanted to be a teacher so I can encourage learners to learn only what they must to get by.”
The pragmatist in me wants to scrutinize the curricula of social studies, and other subjects, to find areas where science overlaps in order to argue the importance of teaching science. I want to find the research articles that demonstrate that students with a solid science education score higher on those tests in other subject areas as well. I need to prove that programming at the nature park is worthwhile. I need to demonstrate why I – the natural science interpreter – am relevant to society. But, I can’t help but feel sad that I must show these things to – of all people – professional educators.
I wish the schools had the courage to put those standardized tests in their place and get back to the business of exposing young minds to existing knowledge and encouraging them to explore and make new discoveries.