incorporates the creativity, rationality, openness, and tolerance inherent in science. The mathematician, biologist, and author Jacob Bronowski spoke to the same idea in his 1956 book Science and Human Values:

The society of scientists is simple because it has a directing purpose: to explore the truth. Nevertheless, it has to solve the problem of every society, which is to find a compromise between … (the individual and the group). It must encourage the single scientist to be independent, and the body of scientists to be tolerant. From these basic conditions, which form the prime values, there follows step by step a … (range) of values: dissent, freedom of thought and speech, justice, honor, human dignity, and self-respect.1

Bronowski also wrote of the way in which science has humanized values. As the scientific spirit spread, it generated calls for freedom, justice, and respect. But “if you watch American television today, or listen to our political debates, you have to worry about what’s happening to our scientific temper,” Alberts said.

Giving Students 21st-Century Skills

The vision of science education laid out in reports like Rising Above the Gathering Storm and A Framework for K-12 Science Education would prepare children to be problem solvers in the workplace, said Alberts, with the abilities and can-do attitude that are needed to be competitive in the global economy. This vision for science education also precisely fits the needs for workforce skills widely expressed by U.S. businesses. As Ray Marshall and Marc Tucker pointed out in their 1993 book Thinking for a Living, the workplace skills needed for success in the modern world economy include:

•  A high capacity for abstract, conceptual thinking;

•  The ability to apply that capacity for abstract thought to complex real-world problems—including problems that involve the use of scientific and technical knowledge—that are nonstandard, full of ambiguities, and have more than one right answer; and

•  The capacity to function effectively in an environment in which communication skills are vital and in groups.2

As president of the National Academy of Sciences, Alberts took on the challenge of education reform that would produce these kinds of skills.


1 Bronowski, Jacob. 1956, Science and Human Values. New York: Harper and Brothers. pp. 87-88.

2 Marshall, Ray, and Marc Turner. 1993. Thinking for a Living: Education and the Wealth of Nations. New York: Basic Books, p. 80.

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