Science Education in an Age of Misinformation is an important new report from Stanford University. We welcome this report, especially because the authors reached the same conclusion that we have, namely that national and state science education standards need to be revised in order to teach students to distinguish between real science and junk science. As the Stanford report notes, the cultural context is significantly different now than it was when the NGSS was developed and published, with misinformation playing a far greater and more harmful role than it once did.
Discussions leading to the report were led by Jonathan Osborne, an emeritus Professor of Science Education at Stanford, who was also the lead author. More than a dozen people contributed to the discussions and writing of the report, including Bruce Alberts, who currently holds the Chancellor’s Leadership Chair in Biochemistry and Biophysics for Science and Education at the University of California, San Francisco. Professor Alberts is a former President of the National Academy of Sciences and a former Editor-in-Chief of Science magazine. It seems significant to us that Alberts, a pillar of the science community, recognizes that current science education standards need attention.
To the best of our knowledge, the work of the Stanford group and our own work were entirely independent. Certainly, we were unaware of their existence until last month. Nonetheless, there are a great many similarities in our concerns and recommendations. Among the overlaps are these: recognizing that educating students about misinformation and judging the quality of sources is vital; helping students develop a better understanding of how scientists reach consensus; developing “competent outsiders” who can make use of science; the need for greater digital literacy; reducing emphasis on teaching science that few students will ever use; and changing other elements of the education system associated with standards, such as high-stakes assessments.
We are encouraged by publication of this report and hope that it stimulates further discussion and, eventually, action to revise and improve science education standards. Our previous post offered specific suggestions for how and why the NGSS should be improved.