Steve is a colleague of mine in the Biology department and we are in a CSUN K-12 email chat group. He started out being fairly pro reform but after much investigation he is for a more balanced approach.
Here is the Op- Ed piece.p.ll, Daily News, Monday June 16, l997. Throwing Out the Baby with the Bath Water Integrated Science Can Never Replace Traditional, Fact-Intensive Biology, Chemistry and Physics by Steven B. Oppenheimer
I would like to propose a better way of incorporating what's being called integrated science into the curriculum at Los Angeles Unified School District.
The program which will be expanded from l7 to 34 schools in the fall, seeks to present a combination of scientific disciplines in a fun and relevant way, rather than teach traditional biology, chemistry, physics and other sciences as separate classes.
However, as the Daily News reported June 8, critics say the concept looks good on paper but doesn't work in the classroom. Some of those critics include Bill Aldridge, a respected scientist who is often credited with creating the concept of integrated science, and Norman Lederman with the National Science Teachers Association. Both believe that integrated science is "not effective." (note the Daily News rewrote this --my statement was the Lederman used the term not effective and Aldridge talked about it being poorly taught by poorly trained teachers).
Typical of many reform movements, integrated science has been pushed on schools much too quickly and the result is the sort of damning condemnation from quite distinguished individuals. There are several specific solutions to this problem that may save integrated science.
l.Never institute integrated science as a substitute for biology,chemistry, physics and earth and space science courses. Always offer it only as a choice.
The University of California and the California State University as well as all other colleges and universities should immediately withdraw approval of integrated science as a substitute for the standard courses until it is proved that there is uniform quality and substance to LAUSD's integrated science offerings.
When the University of California was told that integrated science was a rigorous course with algebra 1 and 2 as prerequisites, and now it appears that these prerequisites are sometimes not instituted, we have a case of possible fraud and an insult to the people of the state of California.
2.Instructors who teach integrated science must have thorough university- level training over a several-year period. The zeal to implement integrated science quickly has resulted in another case of poorly trained teachers that cannot teach the subject properly.
3. Present integrated science in the seventh and eight grades as an introduction for, biology, chemistry, physics, and earth and space science courses in high school.
Naturally, it should not be a substitute for any Advanced Placement courses. That anyone even considered phasing out Advanced Placement courses is sheer lunacy.
4. Right now, those unfortunate students who are forced to take integrated science in place of, for example, biology, will enter college with 50 percent less biology content knowledge.
Despite all the hoopla about teaching kids to think and not retain facts, college biology demands a background in facts. One can't discover if one has a poor understanding of the facts of the discipline.
Here again, making integrated science a choice, especially for noncollege-bound youngsters, if taught well, could be a very useful option-- a choice only, never a forced substitute.
The intentions of the dedicated teachers who are working to implement integrated science in our schools are good. They feel that many noncollege- bound and science-phobic youngsters may benefit from this approach if taught well.
They also feel that the integrated approach will help more students understand science.
But to throw out the baby with the bath water, to replace traditional courses with integrated courses, in a rushed, sometimes poorly taught manner, may have resulted in dooming the very program they so deeply believe in. It's not too late to rectify the situation.
Steven B. Oppenheimer, Ph.D., is director of the Center for Cancer and Developmental Biology; and a Fellow with the American Association for the Advancement of Science. His e-mail is: email@example.com