ficulty as the children age,” Alberts stated. “Children who are prepared for life in this way would be great problem solvers in the workplace, with the abilities and the can-do attitude that are needed to be competitive in the global economy. Even more important, they will be more rational human beings—people who are able to make wise judgments for their family, their community, and their nation.” The challenge, he said, is enabling teachers to be comfortable with this way of teaching and providing enough time in the school day for this kind of teaching to take place.


Business and industry would welcome this kind of education, said Alberts, because it precisely fits the workforce skills that employers say they need. These skills 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 work groups and environments in which communication skills are vital.

The bad news, he commented, is that most adults have incorrectly defined what science education means for students. Adults tend to think that the object of science education is to memorize facts and be able to repeat them on tests. In his own field of cell biology, he noted that by the end of their biology classes, many high school students hate cells, because biology classes focus on the names of cell parts and their processes. For example, he referred to a seventh-grade life sciences textbook that includes the sentence, “Running through the cell is a network of flat channels called the endoplasmic reticulum. This organelle manufactures, stores, and transports materials.” The self-test at the end of the chapter says, “Write a sentence that uses the term ‘endoplasmic reticulum’ correctly.” Alberts commented, “I didn’t learn about the endoplasmic reticulum until I was in graduate school, and I don’t think kids need to know it. It’s incredibly depressing to realize what’s happening in schools.”


When he was editor-in-chief of Science magazine, Alberts prominently featured STEM education, both in his editorials and in the rest of the magazine. The magazine published two-page articles from the 24 win-

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