Several years ago, a lot of press was given to the new Common Core standards that were implemented nationwide. At the request of several state school boards, the Common Core standards are English and Math requirements handed down by the federal department of education. These set new federal requirements in reading and math, and were highly criticized by nearly everyone.
The Department of Education has learned its lesson. More quietly than Common Core, four years ago they introduced the Next Generation Science Standards. Over the next three years this program will be rolled out and has already been adopted by eighteen states, with more likely to follow.
These standards change much of the traditional methods of teaching science, introducing what they call a “Three course model.” In high school, only three lab sciences are taught: The Living Earth, Chemistry, and Physics. Gone are both Earth Science and Biology, which were traditionally the building blocks of a high school science curriculum.
The Living Earth, which will be taught to freshmen, is a radical departure from a traditional Biology course. Genetics, animal classification, and a hefty amount of microbiology are all gone. These have been replaced with units on ecosystem management, climate change, and a heavy dose of evolutionary biology. Although many of these classes are hailed as introducing more “hands-on” activities, the “labs” are actual computer simulations that students run online. Spoonfed data has replaced real hands-on activities like animal dissection.
Although much of this new Living Earth class appears to be indoctrination, even more troubling is the return it represents to a science based on deductive reasoning. The Greek philosophers were experts at this type of science, where they used general principles that they observed and applied them to particular situations. Much of their general principles were influenced by their pagan theology, like Aristotle’s idea that objects naturally inclined to be close to the ground. This faulty notion of the physics of motion reigned supreme for nearly 2,000 years, until Newton used experimentation and mathematics to prove it wrong.
The Scientific Revolution of the 17th and 18th centuries turned scientific study into one based on inductive reasoning. The scientific method was humble in its aims and was designed to disprove theories, but was never meant to prove the truth. As Einstein once said, “No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right, but one experiment can prove me wrong.”
Galileo, Kepler, and Newton ushered in this new era by as the first scientists to base their theories on actual experiments, instead of the other way around. This study was inextricably linked to these scientists’ faith. Kepler is famous for describing his scientific study as, “merely thinking God’s thoughts after him.” God had created an orderly universe, and the scientific method used orderly trial and error to determine how it works.
One undergraduate geology textbook I was reading recently mentioned that although science has traditionally been based on observable and reproducible phenomena, and can be reproduced in the laboratory, this cannot be expected when studying the origin of life and the universe. Therefore, the textbook argued that we need a “broader view of the scientific method,” one which allowed science into territories where it has previously been denied.
The scientific method is the fruit of a Christian civilization, designed by Christians to study the Creation of a Triune God. Secular culture cannot handle any honest study of the world, whether in history, literature, or science. These Next Generation Science Standards further indoctrinate students rather than educating them, teaching them assumptions about the natural world rather than experiments they can discover on their own. In this environment, it is vital that Christian educators maintain a rigorous science curriculum. Four hundred years ago Christian scientists toppled the old pagan myths of the natural world, and we need to prepare scientists who are ready to topple the new ones.
Resmovits, Joy. 2016. Say goodbye to science class as you know it. Los Angeles Times, November 3.