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OCR for page 360
360 THE LIFE SCIENCES doubled in 1966 a period during which similar figures for the physical sciences had fallen by half. Thus the requirements for support of research training in the life sciences are generated not only by the demands of society, but also by the wants of intelligent students who sense that biology is ready for new discoveries and that the life sciences seem both most relevant to human problems and most distant *am military use or the furtherance of polluting forms of technology. An important activity of the biological community is neglected if one considers only its contribution to the store of knowledge. It must also provide, directly and through the training of primary and secondary school teachers, for the instruction of large numbers of future citizens who, though not scientists themselves, will be asked to make decisions concerning public issues affecting or affected by science. ELEMENTARY AND SECONDARY EDUCATION Education in the life sciences at these levels is apt to involve exposure to "science" or "general science" in the elementary or junior high school grades and to a course in biology in high school. The overwhelming ma- jority of secondary school students study biology in the tenth grade; a small but increasing fraction are exposed to an advanced-level course later. Two aspects of the secondary school experience are of special interest: it pro- vides the only formal exposure to a science for many of the large number of citizens who will not become professional scientists; and it must supply the background and the motivating force for those students who will under- take work in the life sciences at the university level. The elementary level is nearly terra incognita in understanding of how learning about science occurs. Among the few scientists now beginning to work seriously in this area, the general feeling is that methods of science teaching need drastic reorientation in particular, toward taking advantage of the child's natural tendency to explore and to make use of materials. These considerations lead naturally into an experimental approach in which the child is left to reach independent conclusions, not to work toward a set of results that have been given textbook justifications in advance. Some experienced scientists who have worked with elementary school children state that this new approach demands a new philosophy of educating the teacher. There is little correlation between the success of teachers in com- municating science in this manner and the teacher's own science training. Unfortunately, this approach is also expensive. Even the simplest collection of experimental materials-caterpillars, flowerpots, and aquaria-cost more than books.

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EDUCATION IN BIOLOGY The secondary school curriculum has been the more frequent target of reform by professional life scientists. As a part of the assault on science education in general, biologists examined the secondary school curriculum and found it wanting. Compared to the excitement and stir in "modern bio. logy," the average high school course was strongly oriented toward systematics and comparative morphology. The new insights of molecular biology and genetics were missing; so were up-to-date treatments of the biology of populations, of animal behavior, and of physiology. Secondary school curriculum revision in the life sciences has been prin- cipally effected by one group, the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study- an organization staffed largely by professional biologists, with its policies established by a steering committee drawn from the scientific community. The Study was organized in 1958 by the American Institute of Biological Sciences and has been financed by the National Science Foundation since 1961. Using writing teams drawn from both secondary school and uni- versity faculties, the Study has completed three major secondary-level textbooks. All are comprehensive and reasonably modern in that they have increased emphasis on chemical biology, genetics, and other topics, but they differ in approach. The "blue" version is more biochemically oriented, the "yellow" uses development and genetics as a unifying focus, and the "green" version stresses environmental biology. With their sup- plementary volumes (teachers' guides, laboratory exercises, options for advanced students, film clips, and the like) these books comprise an im- posing shelf. They have been produced at a cost of over $10 million, much or all of which will be recovered by the government in royalty payments from users. What results has this curriculum reform produced? As with all such efforts, evaluation is difficult. About 1.5 million of these books had been sold through 1967; apparently, however, less than 20 percent of the students in secondary school biology used the Study materials in 1967. Surveys currently in progress tend to show that colleges receiving students who used this material are pleased with their performance, but this is difficult to separate from the general improvement in secondary education and from increasingly selective admissions policies at most colleges. Critical appraisal of the Study materials has been generally favorable, although biologists have criticized them for being too molecular, for treating complex modern topics in a way that provides verbal facility without real understanding, for slighting development and "organismic biology," and for a variety of more minor sins. These judgments notwithstanding, the Study materials represent a major increment in quality over what had gone before. For a substantial percentage of high school students, the biology course is not a foundation for other studies; it is a terminal course. Some biol 361

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362 THE LIFE SCIENCES ogists have asked whether "professionally oriented" curricula like the Bio- logical Sciences Curriculum Study are optimally designed to meet the needs of these students as well as the college-preparatory group. To meet this need, future consideration might be given to a course that might be described as "humanistic biology." It could be called "human biology" as indeed it is in some nascent university curricula-except that, at the secondary level, by previous usage "human biology" is equated with human physi- ology. Human physiology should be a proper part of the secondary school course, but only a part; more attention should be paid to man's place in the living world. This would include a recounting of the evolution of the physical world and its biological inhabitants in such a way as to give an appreciation of their dimensions in space and in time; attention should be given to the present position of man in the biosphere. Current concern for environmental quality suggests that the approach should be essentially ecological. The complex interdependencies of living organisms lead to the basic rule of practical ecology that "we can never do merely one thing to an ecosystem," that the more man manages the natural environment, the more he generates the necessity for yet more management. By historical examples, the future citizen needs to be shown that knowledge is a pre- requisite to intelligent interference in the scheme of nature, and that there are practical limits to what man can do. Problems of food production, pesticides, radiation, pollution, conservation, and population all have their place in secondary school biology courses and will find an appreciative, understanding audience. These considerations are crucial if we want a citizenry equipped to make intelligent decisions about the variety of ques- tions facing society that have biological roots. The nature of our environ- ment is determined in large part by decisions about landscape management that are made at local levels by zoning boards, county supervisors, etc. These decisions are thus especially sensitive to the wishes of immediately concerned local constituencies, and it is in the nation's interest that these decision-makers have the greatest possible awareness of the scientific issues and complexities underlying their decisions. It seems likely that a course so structured could be maximally useful to future citizens, while including a sufficient presentation of cellular and genetic biology to afford a tempting glimpse of the elegance and intellectual attraction of current frontiers of biological progress. Perhaps the greatest problem confronting the adoption of this and other experimental courses in the high schools is the education of a sufficient number of teachers with the training, insight, and enthusiasm to teach them effectively. The difficulties are grounded not so much in intellectual considerations as in the sociology of science. Biology teachers must be

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EDUCATION IN BIOLOGY trained in colleges, but the curricula of colleges and universities are often structured almost entirely to meet the needs of college teachers, research biologists, or future physicians. With rare exceptions, college biology curricula are neither broad nor humanistic. High school teachers, so trained, tend to structure their high school courses in the same way. The resultant instruction may be well suited to proselytizing students for careers in bio- logical research, but it is ill suited to the education of the citizen. With the best of motives and largely ignorant of what they do, university faculties deflect would-be high school teachers from preparing themselves for edu- cating the citizen. Since the number of high school biology teachers is several times larger than the number of Ph.D. researchers, this is a massive and indefensible deflection. Various remedial actions can be suggested, depending on local circum- stances. One general proposal that universities create curricula in human biology-should be seriously considered. Such a program could well in- clude instruction in the specialties of human physiology, physical anthro- pology, human engineering, human genetics, ecology (both general and human), and population studies. Whatever the specialties of its members, the faculty should be recruited on the basis of interest in the scientific aspects of the relation of man to man and man to his environment. The education of teachers of biology in high schools and junior colleges would be a central concern of a program of this kind. Many secondary school teachers are simply unprepared for new cur- ricular materials. In some areas of the United States, only three semester units of college biology is considered adequate preparation to teach on the secondary level. Over 50 percent of the nation's high school teachers in the life sciences have had less than an undergraduate college minor in biology. Clearly, retraining and updating of teachers, as well as methods of recruiting better trained ones, are a large part of the secondary education problem; such methods are discussed in a later section. New curricula developed by the professionals in a particular discipline often carry the taint of paternalism; occasionally, they have been resented by local officials or teachers. An additional pressure confronts biology: The programs of the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study have been attacked because their treatment of evolution offended some fundamentalist religious groups, or because their rather restrained treatment of sexual reproduction was held to be lascivious. Such irrational pressures prejudice the acceptance of new curricula and can rob thousands of students of edu- cational advantages that ought to be theirs. One part of the process of curriculum improvement is the development of an intellectual climate appropriate for its acceptance. 363