Straighten Up and Fly Right !‏

7 Jun 2009

Hello there my soon-to-be summer travellers,
Question: Has the Swedish School Board been “Dumbing Down” Science teaching in schools in Sweden? 
Musical accompaniment for our latest Science in Society update:
 “Straighten Up & Fly Right”… a great Swing tune from the 1940’s.
 Ideal for “flying straight” through the glorious sun filled Swedish Summer days….
… and also our wonderful world of scientific achievement.  
 The Singing Pilot 

….but maybe you prefer the the original Nat King Cole version?
… or even his daughter’s, Natalie Cole’s tribute version… a treasure too!

Well …
….The international TIMSS survey thinks so (now including 4th Class and 8th Class students):
Svenska elever ännu sämre
“Svenska elever har blivit ännu sämre på matte och naturvetenskap, enligt den senaste TIMSS-undersökningen.
…I naturkunskapen är försämringen av resultaten ännu större än i matten mellan 2003 och 2007.”

Even our own Education Minister is not happy about this:
“-Det är mycket bekymmersamt. Det här måste tas på största allvar, säger utbildningsminister Jan Björklund om TIMSS-resultaten…Björklund skyller resultaten på den skolpolitik som förts de senaste 30- 40 åren… De resultat vi ser nu är en effekt av felaktiga reformer på 1980-talet och början på 1990-talet…”,,MC=16-AV_ID=838961,00.html
Even I find this Dumbing Down in the Environment and Energy chapters of our own current BLIC Science textbooks:
“There’s precious little science in that specification, very little of the precision and exact use of language that science requires. Instead, there are a lot of politicized social concerns (which we may often [not] agree with), but which, quite frankly, aren’t science”.

So … it looks like Skolverket’s butt has been kicked …
…and that things may be getting better in Swedish schools in the future:  
“Drygt 500 miljoner kronor på tre år satsar regeringen på att förbättra elevernas kunskaper i matematik, naturkunskap och teknik. Skolorna ska kunna ansöka om projektmedel hos Skolverket. En stor del av pengarna ska finansiera fortbildning av lärare.”,,MC=16-AV_ID=802618,00.html
Fan-bloody-tastic! … and Thank God for that! -I say .. (in a purely non-religious non-partisian aussie sort-of-way, of course )
But is this just a Swedish problem?….
Let’s have a peek at the Dumbing Down Science teaching in some other countries …
Here is the famous and powerful 2007 open letter to the UK Education Department:
A physics teacher begs for his subject back
“I am a physics teacher. Or, at least I used to be. My subject is still called physics. My pupils will sit an exam and earn a GCSE in physics, but that exam doesn’t cover anything I recognize as physics. Over the past year the UK Department for Education and the AQA board changed the subject. They took the physics out of physics and replaced it with… something else, something nebulous and ill defined.”–open-letter-aqa.html

And more recently from Australia by reef biologist Walter Starck
Postmodern Physics
“There is criticism amongst some physics teachers both in the UK and Australia that the physics curriculum has become corrupted in particular “calculation has been replaced by writing”, “precision is gone”.  Indeed according to one physics teacher: while physics was once a subject unpolluted by a torrent of malleable words, now everything must be described in words.”
There have also been a spate of popular books about the dumbing down of Science in the Public Media:
… On the many Public Health Scares….
… About the Popularity of Pseudoscience

…. and on how common bad reasoning and decision making is by generals, politicians and businessmen who simply ignore numbers and scientific facts. Amazing! (I like the “swirling” circles too!):
These 3 books have in common that they keep on stressing the importance of …
….the basic maths of probability and statistics…
… as well as the correct use of the scientific method …
… in our globalising world.
And suggest that these 2 skills have to be taught in school at early ages, just like reading, writing and arithmetic.
A wonderful site that combines these maths and science skills is:
by Professor  Hans Rosling of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm 
Here is an example of his famous coloured bubbles which move around as the years flow by. Inspiring!

<br />

I recently showed these 2 videos to the BLIC9s
… and recieved an applause afterwards (…maybe they were just glad when I finished!)
“Teach ‘Em Up” don’t “Dumb ‘Em Down” Skolverket!
So … this Science teacher “monkey” says to Mr Skolverket “buzzard”:
A buzzard took a monkey for a ride in the air
The monkey thought that everything was on the square
The buzzard tried to throw the monkey off his back
But the monkey grabbed his neck and said– Now listen, Jack

Straighten up and fly right
Straighten up and stay right
Straighten up and fly right
Cool down, papa, don’t you blow your top.

Ain’t no use in divin’
What’s the use in jivin’
Straighten up and fly right
Cool down, papa, don’t you blow your top.

The buzzard told the monkey “You’re chokin’ me
Release your hold and I’ll set you free
The monkey looked the buzzard right dead in the eye and said
Your story’s so touching but it sounds just like a lie.

Straighten up and fly right
Straighten up and stay right
Straighten up and fly right
Cool down, papa, don’t you blow your top.

Have a happy swinging sunny summer! 

Very best regards,
Your Flying Monkey Brady

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