But all is not well. The good folks at the Fordham Foundation have assembled a
crack team to take a closer look at what the NAEP drafters are up to. The signs are not encouraging. Apparently, the discovering drafters are smitten by the fashionable but absurd educationist creed according to which barely literate pupils can "discover" the vast knowledge contributed by giants of science and accumulated over thousands of years on their own. Ignis fatuus is their guiding light.
Let's not allow the reinvent-the-wheel crowd to follow the will-o'-the-wisp unhindered.
Our basic position is that every child in America should receive a rich and rigorous science education in the primary and secondary grades, one that provides a broad understanding of key scientific concepts and ways of thinking. We reject the trendy notion that children, unaided, can “discover” key scientific concepts. Most of science must be taught if it is to be learned.
In these ways we demur from the “consensus” represented by several professional organizations that have offered national guidelines for science education (the National Science Education Standards of the National Research Council and Benchmarks for Science Literacy of the American Association for the Advancement of Science [AAAS]). Unfortunately, the NAEP Science Assessment Steering Committee encouraged the Framework’s authors to rely upon those very documents as their guide stars. This was a mistake. Just as the National Council for the Teaching of Mathematics (NCTM) is a partisan in the “math wars,” so, too, do these organizations represent one pole of the debate over science education and instruction. To follow their guidance is to “take one side” in an important debate rather than to strive for balance.