Allen's students will become researchers and problem solvers while studying "brownfields"; a real-life local environmental problem. More than 400 students in grades six through eight will be involved in researching and analyzing the effects of Utica's historical textile mills on various sites throughout the city and will determine its environmental impact.Researchers? Problem solvers? Determining environmental impacts? . . . Sounds awfully impressive . . . impressive enough to get a grant . . . impressive enough for TV coverage . . . but who are they kidding?
Through the study of environmental science, students will increase their knowledge in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and will feel a stronger sense of responsibility for the environment and a heightened connection to their communities.
These are 6th, 7th and 8th graders! They are still at an age where they should be . . . but in all likelihood are not ... still learning the basics . . .
Environmental science is not basic. Before one can understand the problems of "brownfields," one needs to know and understand the basics of chemistry, physics, biology, earth science, ecology, hydrology and other disciplines. It's a safe bet that 99% of these students do not. Its also a safe bet that those students who seem to do well at these activities likely have extensive help at home.
Without a thorough grounding in science basics, the students' "research" and "problem solving" activities are akin to children playing "cowboys and indians," "detective," or "cops and robbers" two generations ago. The difference is that two generations ago no one would have confused "cowboys and indians" with the study of history, "detective" with the study of forensic science, or "cops and robbers" with the study of criminal justice. The Board of Regents/Department of Education would not have written standards that require such "performances." Parents would not have felt compelled to assist in such play. And teachers would not have been paid to "facilitate" such play. . . but play it was . . . and play it is.
Students, parents, taxpayers and even some educators have been sold a bill of goods by teacher college intellectuals, government bureaucrats, big business hawkers of textbooks and technology . . . and now even discredited automakers.
At best, students may pick up a few interesting facts along the way that they can use to impress the old folks . . . and some students might be encouraged to take up science and pursue studies further.
The likely result, however, will be like the student sleeping in the back of the room on the story's photo. Students, hungry to learn how the world works, will instead be herded into tedious group activities where, if they are lucky, they might learn a few things about science, but no where near what they could have learned had they been taught science in the manner that their grandparents were taught. Bits and pieces of knowledge picked up along the way may or may not be relevant to what is learned from the next teacher, or the next after that. . . . lacking the cohesiveness that can lead to a deep understanding of subject matter.
At worst, the students are being trained to work for the good of their group . . . the collective . . . to accept the fact that slackers and doers will all receive the same "collective" grade. . . being programmed through group activities to respond to stimuli in a predictable fashion . . . to become dependent upon their group and "mentors" rather than themselves . . . perhaps even to police themselves for behavior that is outside the "norm." Students are deluded into thinking they have "expertise" that is lacking in the older generation . . . and they learn to be arrogant. And if they manage at some point in their lives to get into a position of responsibility, their gaps in basic knowledge could have disastrous consequences.
It should be apparent why students are shying away from majoring in science and engineering in college. Activities such as this one have turned science, which should be fascinating, into drudgery. Additionally, so little substantive science is actually learned in such activities that students find themselves ill-prepared for the rigors of science study in college.
Of course, that will all change when the current generation becomes the college professors of tomorrow. There will be no rigor there . . . except, perhaps, the rigor of conformance. They will have been groomed into the "group think" mode, knowing what will please their handlers and reaping their rewards for compliance . . . marginalizing anyone who thinks or acts differently.
The ignorant will be teaching the ignorant. . .
And when that happens, what will be left of our society?