January 3, 2000
Chancellor Greenwood focuses on science education issues at AAAS board meeting
By Tim Stephens
While recent discoveries and advances give scientists ample cause to celebrate, the United States may be slipping behind other nations in its ability to inspire and educate the next generation of scientists and engineers, Greenwood said.
"We can already see indications that the next generation is not receiving the preparation necessary to maintain the excellence that U.S. science currently enjoys," she said, pointing to the results of recent surveys that show, for example, U.S. 12th graders near the bottom in international comparisons of science and math ability.
The educational challenges and solutions of the Silicon Valley provide a unique context for the AAAS board to engage in a dialogue on issues of broad interest to the science and technology community, industry, and educators, Greenwood said.
Greenwood moderated the panel on Silicon Valley educational issues. Panelists included Carl Guardino, president of the Silicon Valley Manufacturing Group; Robert Caret, president of San Jose State University; Leo Chavez, chancellor of Foothill-De Anza Community College District; Susan Hammer, former mayor of San Jose; and Michael Englehardt, CEO of Technology Network. Other panels addressed educational outreach efforts and the role of museums in education.
The AAAS has a long history of involvement in education and workforce issues. In the 1960s and early 1970s, AAAS was actively involved in the development of school curricula and teacher training. In 1985, the AAAS board launched an initiative in science education reform called Project 2061, which has produced widely used standards-based guidelines for teaching science and mathematics.
In her presidential address and subsequent Science article, Greenwood proposed a new AAAS program called "Project 20/20" to encourage scientists, engineers, and other scientifically literate professionals to get directly involved in education issues by serving on school boards. Project 20/20 would sustain and support these school board members with information and advice to help them protect and enhance scientific content and accuracy in schools.
"There is a tremendous opportunity to be a positive influence and to touch the widest possible array of the public by helping to determine such essential issues as curriculum reform, textbook choice, and pedagogy," Greenwood said. "The need for this influence was forcefully demonstrated by the recent assaults on science education in Kansas and Illinois, where creationism has been added to state school board-approved curricula."
Greenwood acknowledged that concern over science education and public understanding of science is hardly new. She also noted the many valuable education initiatives undertaken by scientific organizations, universities, government agencies, and industries. Nevertheless, she said, scientists need to reexamine their own behavior and enterprises in light of the needs of the broader society.
"We are living in a dynamic time in which our personal and professional lives change rapidly," Greenwood said. "Education for our children, and lifelong education for all of us, must be paramount in this evolving era."