Below is the uncorrected machine-read text of this chapter, intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text of each book. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.
PART I Opening Address and Responses
1 Opening Address EVELYN E. HANDLER At its first meeting, in April 1988, the National Research Council (NRC) Committee on High-School Biology Education put forth a seem- ingly straight-forward question: How do we modernize curriculum to keep up with the explosion of knowledge in the field of biology? Not surpr~s- ingly, behind that simple question lies great complexity. The distinguished academic biologists on our committee and the scientist-advisers to our sponsor, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, as well as the teachers and administrators who serve on our committee, recognize what a tangled subset of issues the question unleashes. We cannot solve the problems of content without addressing the entire context or what I choose to call the ecology of education. Some of the subset issues that need to be addressed include teacher preparation, instructional objectives and strategies, texts and other instruc- tional materials, institutional context, social context, and developmental factors. And we need to consider the interconnectedness of biology with the other sciences physics and chemistry, but also earth science and the social sciences. If we consider biology a component of scientific literacy, which In turn Is an ingredient of cultural literacy, how do we make our young people literate? Evelyn E. Handler is the president of Brandeis University. She holds a Ph.D. in biology from New York University and is a former dean of the Division of Sciences and Mathematics, Hunter College, Columbia University. She is also a former president of the University of New Hamp- shire. 3
4 HIGH-SCHOOL BIOLOGY We know we are failing to do so. I could recite a litany of reports and studies that document the dimensions of our failure, but you know them as well as I do. So let me quote from the succinct summary of Armstrong and co-workers (Education Commission of the States, 1988~: Assessments have shown that the achievement of American students in science has, in general, declined since 1972 and remains poor in comparison to student achievement in other developed countries. Research conducted in the 1970s and 1980s has demonstrated that science instruction has had low priorly. It has been, at best, textbook-dr~ven and focused on content. Too often, teachers of science are inadequately trained, and there are shortages of teachers in fields such as physics and chemistry. Enrollment in high school science coumes has fallen. Moreover, science textbooks have been heavily criticized as covering too many topics far too superficially. There is, as yet, no consensus on why science should be taught, what should be taught, who should study science and how science education can be changed. Our youngsters are deficient in their understanding of biology, both as a coherent discipline and as a body of knowledge. Most of them, throughout their lives, will have little ability to relate what they may learn about biology to the world in which they live. But this is not a failure of our children. It is a failure of public policy to acknowledge the living realities of biology . . . the dynamic processes of nature that course through us and around us as creatures of the planet Earth. If we are going to incorporate biology into the mainstream of cultural literacy, we must think about how biology and technology interact to affect our lives and even our survival as a species. This presents some fundamental problems. How do we deal with the implications of an exploding body of scientific knowledge, such as genetic engineering and the chemistry of the brain? How can we communicate the implications of rapid developments to large numbers of youngsters? Since the time available for instruction cannot expand to accommodate the growth of knowledge, adjustments must be made. What to drop and what to keep? Should we try to be all-inclusive and contend with textbooks of 1,000 pages weighing 20 pounds, and leave it to teachers and administrators to set priorities? And if so, will the teaching of biologr then be rational and relevant? Is it now rational and relevant? There is the problem of coping with our changing planet- global warming, drought, famine, pollution of the earth and seas. We know the epidemiology and complications of the spread of the AIDS virus. How do we incorporate these into our learning objectives, our evaluation procedures, our teacher training, and our texts? More important, should these matters be made a part of the curriculum content, or should we retain the traditional disciplinary perspective of biology? These are questions of content that are bound up with context. I believe that in order to determine content, we must first articulate the
OPENING ADDRESS 5 objectives of a high-school biology education. Only when we know our objectives can we develop a strategy for implementing a curriculum. We shall begin our panel deliberations, then, by addressing the topic of objectives and how they are to be reflected in our evaluation procedures. Let me start by posing some larger questions, in the hope of stimulating and focusing our thinking. So let us begin! What do we want to impart to all students about factual information, perspectives on the living world, reasoning skills, and science as a process? How effectively can we measure the attainment of these objectives? Do standardized tests dictate curriculum content? Are there alternative and more sensitive measurements of achievement? ~ what extent do texts and other instructional materials drive the curriculum? How does the teacher's own education shape his or her teaching style and objectives? A question that has always interested us as teachers: what is the effect of the student's prior education on what he or she learns in the biology course? How much biology is taught in other courses, such as health education or earth science, and how much is learned or mislearned from television? How much biology should be a part of general science? If biology is presented as a discipline, where and how will the student learn the physics and chemistry that underlie biological phenomena? 1b what extent should biology focus on social impacts and technological applications? In a world experiencing snowballing environmental crises, what priority should be given to the concept of the biosphere as a life- support system for human survival? Should the teaching of biology be insulated from religious, political, or social trends and values? Of what value, if any, are out-of-classroom instruction and experiences? Museums, zoos, botanical gardens, television documentaries, and other formats present innovative opportunities for instruction. Do we use these resources effectively? When we plan and evaluate the classroom experience, should we factor in children's exposure to informal education? Or, since science illiteracy is rampant, should we conclude that informal education is ineffective and therefore irrelevant, and ignore it? What does cognitive psychology have to tell us about defining our objectives, and about strategies to achieve our objectives? By ignoring the limitations of cognitive development on learning capacity, do we doom ourselves to frustration, if not defeat? Shayer and Adey (1981) in England concluded from their extensive tests and studies that "there is a massive mismatch in secondary schools
6 HIGH-SCHOOL BIOLOGY between the expectations institutionalized in courses, textbooks and exam- inations and the ability of children to assimilate the experiences they are given." This issue will be addressed in one or more of our panels. How rhea it this nrnhlPm in Or c.l~r~m~ and how can we go under. wIlLIwA&~_~ ~ .,. ~v^_~^ a, ~_, _,_ __ around, or through learning obstacles? And last, should the first biology course serve as a recruiting ground for future scientists? Are we adequately serving the needs of students who show a natural affinity for science? Are we ensuring that a new stream of recruits move into teaching and research careers? What can special science schools tell us about educating the talented student? While our inquiry is wide-ranging, it cannot address all the contextual problems in any detail. We have not scheduled sessions to deal with the special problems of minority-group students from underprivileged back- grounds or the differences in the educational needs of college-bound and non-college-bound students. We also are not explicitly addressing the allo- cation of time between biology and the other sciences or among subtopics within biology, such as ecology; metabolism; cell, tissue, and organ sys- tems; and plants, animals, or systematics. However, these problems are of concern to the committee, and we hope to hear more about them in the broader context in which biology is taught. I would like to draw a brief picture of the historical background against which we are undertaking our task. The biology curriculum, as we know it, first emerged at the end of the last century. 1b this day, most texts and curricula reflect the survey-of-the-discipline pattern established by T. H. Huxley in 1890 in what is generally viewed as the first general biology text (Huxley and Marten, 1892~. From the earliest years, concerned groups and individuals have analyzed and criticized biology education. They have struggled to define its objectives and identify appropriate instructional strategies and materials. In a thoughtful article, "Biology Education in the United States During the Twentieth Century," Mayer (1986) reviewed the many major studies. Drawing on Paul DeHart Hurd's (1961) study, Biological Education in American Public Schools, 1890-1960, Mayer tells us that most of what we strive for in biology, education has been sought for a very long time. A 1909 report from the High School Teachers Association of New York supported an emphasis on applied biology and training in living and recommended such topics as conservation, health and nutrition, ecology, and critical thinking about biology as applied to daily life. In 1914, a committee of the Central Association of Science and Math- ematics Teachers set out as the purposes of science education "a knowledge of the world of nature in relation to everyday life, and an emphasis on career preparation and choice, on problem solving, and on a consideration of the degree of credibility of scientific knowledge." And in 1915, a com- mittee on natural sciences of the National Education Association stated
OPENING ADDRESS 7 such objectives as development of the powers of reasoning and observation and acquaintance with the environment, with the structure and function of the human body, and with biological principles arising from these studies. The National Academy of Sciences and the National Research Council are no strangers to the century-long effort to improve high-school biology education. By far the most ambitious and influential effort at improving high-school biology education was, and is, the Biological Sciences Curricu- lum Study (BSCS). Its history, objectives, personae and products are well known to us. I,here are enough BSCS veterans and current activists in the audience and on our program to ensure that the BSCS's contributions will not be neglected in our sessions. In fact, before our committee members write their report and make recommendations for curriculum content, they might do well to review the themes that pervaded all BSCS textbooks (yel- low, green, blue, and those unwritten) and to determine whether any of these need to be amended, replaced, or augmented: Change of living things through time: evolution. Diversity of type and unity of pattern among living things. The genetic continuity of life. Growth and development in the individual's life. The complementarily of structure and function. Regulation and homeostasis: the preservation of life in the face of change. The complementarily of organisms and environment. The biological basis of behavior. The nature of scientific inquiry. The intellectual history of biological concepts. And one more, added by current BSCS Director Joseph McInerney (1987~: Relationship between science and society. Before we address these themes, we must ask why the impact of BSCS diminishes and student performance continues to decline in the face of excellent instructional material prepared and field-tested by teachers and scientists who were guided by widely endorsed objectives. Mayer (1986) points out some of the problems: Despite the resounding triumph of the BSCS effort adoption by over half the nation's school districts, improved student performance, textbook sales in the millions, adaptations by 14 for- eign countries the sad truth is that there is resistance and resentment by the publishing community, by much of the professional academic education community, by many teachers who were unprepared to meet the demands of these new curricula, and by other institutional entities to this brave new
! 8 HIGH-SCHOOL BIOLOGY approach. Guided by Mayer's analysis of the impediments to implemen- tation of BSCS biology, we will spend a substantial portion of time on strategies for removing institutional barriers. Implementation, however, becomes a problem only when we have something to implement. So let us think creatively about our task of redefining or restating high-school biology objectives. Knowledge about the living world and how it works is growing at an increasing rate while humankind's scientific literacy is falling behind. At the same time, our biotic kingdom is deteriorating. The last summer was calamitous. All along our northeast coast, medical waste and coliform bacteria contaminated the beaches. Algal blooms alter marine life. Toxic gases choke our cities. Drought and heat destroyed millions of acres of forests and crops. Was this a statistical blip or part of a pattern of global warming resulting from ozone depletion? We ask ourselves, is nature striking back? Have we exceeded our planet's ability to absorb our abuse? Is the booming global population, with its exponential consumption of energy and production of waste, threatening life as we know it? If life as we know it is threatened, we must examine every aspect of our human behavior for its impact on nature. Nature must be protected, not only for its own sake, but so that in turn it can continue to support human life. Should the biology curriculum not be seen in that context? Should we not be teaching the biology of survival on the basis of ecology, including human ecology? In The Thanatos Syndrome, novelist WaLker Pergy (1987) has his hero observe that "this is not the age of enlightenment but the age of not knowing what to do." Not knowing what to do Is no excuse for concluding that we can do nothing. We cannot sit by helplessly while biology education continues to fall short of the demands we can and must put on it to address our planet's integrity. We must not give In to despair, but must keep trying to find out what to do. Harold Horowitz, member of the NRC's Board on Biology, which is overseeing our study, is fond of saying, "Optimism is a moral imperative." So let us now, with optimism, get on with the task of figuring out what to do. REFERENCES Education Commission of the States. 1988. The Impact of State Policies on Improving Science Curriculum. Denver, Colo. Hurd, P. D. 1961. Biological Education in American Public Schools, 1890-1960. Washington, D.C.: American Association of Biological Sciences. Huxley, ~ H., and H. N. Marten. 1892. (Rev.) Practical Biology. London: Macmillan.
OPENING ADDRESS 9 Mayer, W. 1986. Biology education in the United States during the twentieth century. Quart. Rev. Biol. 61:481-507. McInerney, J. D. 1987. Curriculum Development at the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study. Educ. Leader. 44~4~:24-28. December 1986/Janua~y 1987. Percy, ~ 1987. The Thanatos Syndrome. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux. Shayer, M., and P. Adey. 1981. Towards a Science of Science Teaching. Curriculum development and curriculum demand. London: Heinemann Educational Books.
Changing Conceptions of the Learner: Implications for Biology Teaching AUDREY B. CHAMPAGNE A quarter-century has elapsed since the scientific community last turned its attention to school science. The overriding concern of aca- demic scientists is that once again the content of school science Is out of date. Indeed, major developments have occurred in the sciences that are not yet reflected in science textbooks. However, simply updating the content will not adequately raise the quality of school science or signifi- cantly improve America's scientific literacy. Attaining these goals requires attention to the nature of Instruction, as well as the content of the school science curriculum. As we turn our thoughts to the future of high-school biology, we must not lose sight of the fact that in the last 25 years other significant changes have occurred that should determine in large measure how the new science Is taught and whether it Is learned. Among these changes are several that should guide our thinking about the nature of science instruction. Of the many factors that should influence instruction, none Is so Audrey B. Champagne, senior program director in the office of Science and Technology Educa- tion at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (ALAS), directs the National Forum for School Science and the Project on Liberal Education and the Sciences. Dr. Cham- pagne was a senior scientist and project director at the Learning Research and Development Center and research professor of education at the University of Pittsburgh before joining AAAS in July 1984. She holds a B.S. and M.S. in chemistry from the State University of New York, Albany, an Ed.M. in science education from Harvard University, and a Ph.D. in education from the University of Pittsburgh. 10
CHANGING CONCEPTIONS OF THE LEARNER 11 important as the learner. Young people's school-related behaviors are determined by social and psychological factors, which determine what they will learn. Society's values are one of the factors that influence young people's attitudes toward education and learning science. In a nation that values cars, clothes, and cocaine more than learning, it is not surprising that many of our high-school students spend more time at their part-time jobs than on their homework Beyond the influence of social values on students' attitudes toward education and learning in general, social values exert profound influence on science learning. The overt manifestations of society's values are public attitudes toward science that are a study in contradictions. At a time when states are mandating more science credits for high-school graduation, society is delivering a contradictory message to American youth regarding the value of studying science. While Americans value the many ways in which science has improved their lives, they are becoming increasingly concerned by environmental degradation and troubled by the difficult moral and ethical choices science places on them. These concerns contribute to negative public attitudes toward science. These negative attitudes are reinforced by the ways in which scientists are portrayed in the media. Many young people have never had personal contact with a scientist. They get their image from the media, which portray scientists as nerds in white laboratory coats with thick glasses who relentlessly pursue science, neglecting family and personal needs. This unappealing image turns young people from science. Society's image of the scientist presents an even more serious problem for young women, Hispanics, and blacks. Society's perception that science and technology professions are the purview of the white male leads these young people to conclude that science is either socially unacceptable or intellectually unattainable to them. This perception pervades schools and science classrooms, where circumstances in this regard have not changed significantly since I was in junior high school and the science club was for boys only. Idday, the message is delivered in more subtle ways- for example, girls don't get called on or answer questions as much as boys in science-but the message is effective. These comments only touch the surface of the impact of social factors on students' opportunity to learn science and on their choices to study it. There is evidence that for young people from some subpopulations, black and Hispanic in particular, there is a mismatch between the modes of thought of their culture and those of science. In addition, the modes of teaching and learning that these youth experience in the home direr from the modes that they experience in their schools (Cohen, 1986~. Such factors as these are social in origin, but have implications for science learning. Science teachers expect that all entering students have the same
12 HIGH-SCHOOL BIOLOGY thinking and learning skills. Such work as that of Cohen illustrates that this assumption is incorrect and places these young people at risk in science. There is also evidence that thinking modes of white females and economically disadvantaged white males have characteristics in common with those of boys and girls in the black and Hispanic subcultures. The impact of these social factors is particularly important, since the ethnic composition of society is changing rapidly. By the time new curricula are in the schools, the majority of students in classrooms will be children from populations whose members traditionally have not succeeded in science. Achieving a nation populated with citizens who understand and value science requires that these young people learn science. Other psychological factors also influence science learning, but are not limited to specific subcultures. One of these factors relates to a basic human drive to understand the natural environment. Over the last decade, an impressive body of empirical evidence has developed that demonstrates the consequences of this drive. When children enter kindergarten, they have developed their own private explanations for the events in the natural world. In many cases, these explanations are quite different from those taught in science classes. There is compelling evidence that these ideas are not easily changed by traditional methods of teaching science. Studies of college students, conducted in the United States and overseas, show that ideas developed from experiences with the natural world persist even in students who study science at the postsecondary level and earn good grades. For example, studies conducted at the University of Pittsburgh and at the Johns Hopkins University demonstrate that exposure to Newtonian mechanics does not result in physics students' giving up their Aristotelian perspectives on the motion of objects. The ideas that heavier objects fall faster than lighter ones and that an object traveling in a circular path will continue in a circular path even after the force moving it is removed are retained even by successful students (Champagne et al., 1980; McCloskey et al., 1980~. Studies conducted in the United Kingdom and Australia illustrate that, just as intuitive Aristotelian thought is resistant to traditional physics instruction, so too is Lamarckian thought resistant to traditional biology instruction. First-year medical students in the United Kingdom and Aus- tralia "extrapolate from changes seen within the life time of an individual to account for changes seen in populations selected over many generations" (Brumby, 1984~. Data for these studies were collected during one-on-one interviews. The struggle that students have in reconciling what they believe to be true with what they have been told in science class is evident from the verbal protocols. One task used in the physics studies involves showing the student
CHANGING CONCEPTIONS OF THE LEARNER 13 two cubes of the same dimensions-one aluminum, the other plastic. The student is told that the cubes will be dropped about a meter and is asked to make a prediction about how the times for the cubes to reach the floor will compare. About 75% of the students predict that the aluminum cube will fall "a lot faster." After watching the cubes fall, most of the students who predicted that the aluminum cube would fall faster observed that it, indeed, fell faster but only a little bit faster (Champagne et al., 1980~. One task used in the natural-selection studies poses questions about a photograph of a fair-skinned child of Scottish origins (Brumby, 1984~. Question: If this little [fair-skinned] girl grew up in Africa, what would you predict would happen to the color of her skin? Student: She'd get sunburnt, then tanned. Question: If she then married someone of her own race and they lived in Africa and had children born in Africa, what would you predict their children's skin would look like at birth? Student: (Pause.) The kids could be slightly darker at birth. The extent of the intellectual struggle is only hinted at in the language of the responses. The aluminum block falls only "a little bit faster." "The kids could be slightly darker at birth." The strength of the personal con- victions is particularly well illustrated in the physics example. The students have hefted the blocks. They have observed them fall. And in spite of the fact that under the conditions of the experiment there is no observable difference in the falling time, the students persist in the observation that the aluminum cube is a little bit faster. We should not blame our students for not readily giving up their intuitive notions. While their conceptions of falling bodies and natural se- lection are not the well-structured formal theories of Aristotle or Lamarck, the history of science illustrates how compelling these ideas are and the difficulty in bringing about change in the scientific community's perceptions about them. This characteristic led Niels Bohr to observe that the scientific community's ideas change only when old scientists die and are replaced by younger scientists with new ideas. Personal theories are not the only factor that makes science learning so difficult. A project conducted by Sheila Tibias (1986) at the University of Chicago demonstrated that seasoned scholars in disciplines other than physics had problems understanding physics lectures presented by highly skilled physics professors. Among the difficulties they reported was their inability to infer the intent of the demonstrations that accompanied the lectures. They were unsure which observations were important to the logic of the argument that the lecturer was developing. The scientific knowledge base of these highly intelligent individuals is minimal, and that makes the interpretation of the physics lecture difficult. Clearly, the lecturers
14 HIGH-SCHOOL BIOLOGY were overestimating the extent of their colleagues' scientific knowledge and underestimating its importance to their colleagues' ability to understand the lecture. Social and psychological factors have profound influence on how stu- dents interpret demonstrations, lectures, and science text and the extent to which students learn from these experiences. How, then, can biology be taught in a way that will bring about the desired conceptual change, as well as attending to the other purposes of teaching biology in the high school and college? A necessary condition is that all science teachers at all levels, including college faculty, recognize that students bring personal theories about the natural world to the science classroom. Faculty at more advanced levels cannot continue to blame students' poor understanding solely on the quality of instruction received at the feet of earlier teachers. We have all heard our colleagues at the college level express the wish that the high schools just teach the kids mathematics and leave their minds as like virgin fields prepared to receive their gems of wisdom. By the same token, high-school teachers lament the strange ideas that students develop in junior-high science and, like their university colleagues, wish for students whose minds are empty of all biological theory. Given that these wishes cannot be fulfilled, how should science teachers proceed? Science teachers must attend to ideas about the natural world that students bring to science class. A consequence of ignoring them is that personal theories remain unexamined and uncoordinated with the canonical theories that teachers present. Traditional instruction is based on the assumption that students' minds are empty vessels to be filled with the knowledge products of the discipline. Canonical ideas are transmitted to the presumed empty vessels by the spoken and written word, with no opportunity for critical examination by the students. Rather, students' minds are more like vessels partially filled with oil. Under the conditions of traditional instruction, water added to the vessel does not mix with the oil. A permanent mixture of the oil and water requires agitation of the vessel in the presence of an emulsifying agent. Agitation is achieved in the classroom via the scholarly interaction of students. The emulsifying agent is supplied by the teacher, who sees that the interactions occur according the tenets of the scientific community. This strategy is not new. In essence, it is the technique employed in graduate training in the sciences or undergraduate education at prestigious undergraduate institutions. This technique brings together small groups of students under the guidance of a mentor to examine a problem or an idea. Individuals in the group engage in discussion. Initially, each presents his or her own perspectives, which presumably do not match with those of others in the group or, in the case of scientific theory, with canonical
CHANGING CONCEPTIONS OF THE LEARNER 15 interpretation of the theory. Disagreements are argued as participants challenge each other's lines of argument, assumptions, and evidence. The mentor models modes of argumentation, challenge, and application of rules of evidence characteristic of the scientific endeavor. In addition, the mentor coaches students as they practice these scientific reasoning skills. A teaching strategy of this kind has the potential both for developing a canonical knowledge base and for developing competence in the use of the intellectual skills of science. By illuminating the weaknesses of personal theories and providing opportunities for the reconciliation of personal theories with canonical ones, the strategy contributes to the development of the scientific knowledge base. An even more significant value of the method is that it provides students with opportunities to exercise and develop important intellectual skills. Proposals for teaching science in this way are criticized because they are so time-consuming. Teachers complain that employing such methods would prevent them from covering all the material. Evidence from educa- tional research studies conducted by Benjamin Bloom (Bloom, 1974) many years ago at the University of Chicago suggests that there is no basis for this concern. Because scientific knowledge is cumulative, developing deep conceptual understanding of topics early in a course or program can ac- celerate learning of topics that follow. An example from physics illustrates this point. Classical mechanics, usually the first topic in beginning physics courses, involves the concept of gravitational potential energr. Typically the second topic in the beginning course is electricity. Electricity is intro- duced with a water-flow analogy that is based on the correspondence of gravitational and electrical potential energy. However, since students don't develop good understanding of gravitational potential energy from studying classical mechanics, they do not understand the analogy. Consequently, the analogy is misapplied, and considerable time must be expended in the reteaching of energy principles. Another criticism of the proposed method is that students cannot always plan on learning with a mentor and a support group. This criticism is valid. However, the skills practiced in a social setting under the proper conditions can be internalized. Rather than overtly challenging another person, one can use the internalized skills to challenge an argument or information presented in text. In this sense, the intellectual skills become learning-to-learn-science skills. Improving science achievement of America's youth requires developing teaching strategies that will facilitate the evolution of personal theories into a canonical knowledge base while developing the intellectual skills that enable further science learning. The proposed teaching strategy addresses both purposes of science teaching while maintaining a correspondence
16 HIGH-SCHOOL BIOLOGY with the conduct of science and taking the nature of human learning into consideration. REFERENCES Bloom, B. S. 1974. Time and learning. Amer. Psychol. 29:682-688. Brumby, M. N. 1984. Misconceptions about the concept of natural selection by medical biology students. Sci. Educ. 68:493-503. Champagne, A. B., L. E. Klopfer, and J. Anderson. 1980. Factors influencing learning of classical mechanics. Amer. J. Phys. 48:1074-1079. Cohen, R. A. 1986. A match or not a match: A study of intermediate science teaching materials, pp. 35-60. In A. Champagne and L. Hornig, Eds. This Year in School Science 1986: The Science Curriculum. Washington, D.C.: American Association for the Advancement of Science. McCloskey, M., A. Caramazza, and B. Greet. 1980. Curvilinear motion in the absence of external forces: Naive beliefs about the motion of objects. Science 210:1139-1141. Tobias, S. 1986. Peer perspectives on the teaching of science. Change March/April:36-41. .
Literary, Numeracy, and Global Ecology JOHN HARTE Imagine that it Is the third decade of the next century and that your grandchild is starting high-school biology. The average global temperature that year Is higher than it has been since 65 million years ago-since the end of the age of the dinosaurs. The Rachel Carsons of the day are warning that because the climate Is continuing to warm, plants and animals, including agricultural crops, have to move poleward year after year at the rate of 6 miles per year if they are to remain In their accustomed climate. Because of deforestation in the developing nations, only scattered patches of tropical forest remain, and with the loss of those forests, nearly a quarter of the planet's species have become extinct. In the industrialized nations, over a quarter of the commercial forests have died because of ozone, acid rain, and other air pollutants. Because the stratospheric ozone layer has been depleted by about 20%, more ultraviolet radiation is showering the Earth, resulting In an increase In mutations and cancers; quantitative estimates of the magnitude and consequences of the increased mutation rate are unavailable. And the human population Is almost 10 billion, with a yearly John Harte holds a joint professorship in the Energy and Resources Group and the Department of Plant and Soil Biology at the University of California, Berkeley. He is also a senior faculty researcher at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory and a senior investigatorat the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory. He received his undergraduate degree in 1961 from Harvard University and a Ph.D. in theoretical physics in 1965 from the University of Wisconsin. He is the author of two textbooks on environmental science. 17
18 HIGH-SCHOOL BIOLOGY increase nearly equal to the number of people living in the United States in 1988. What would you want that child to be learning in the biology class? More to the point, what should students be learning today so that the grim, but entirely plausible, future that I have portrayed does not materialize? Most current high-school science curricula give, at best, a perfunctory look at already occurring and possible future changes in the biological composition of the planet. Students today are not provided with the knowledge of global-scale processes needed to understand these dramatic changes. They are taught the chemical composition of food, but not the anthropogenic chemical transformations occurring in air, water, and soil that imperil food production. They learn that the growth of microbes in a dish is eventually limited by resources, but remain ignorant of the factors that limit the size of a healthy human population on Earth. They learn the basic idea behind the Krebs cycle, but are not exposed to the fundamental principles that regulate the global biogeochemical cycles and the flows of energy through the biosphere. They learn how information is encoded in DNA, but do not comprehend that our food crops are derived from a small number of wild species and that the future sustainability of food production requires the preservation of genetic diversity on the planet. They emerge from high school thinking that genetic engineering is a panacea, that food comes from a supermarket, that human survival is decoupled from the survival of natural ecosystems, and that clean air and water are luxuries that have to be balanced against economic growth. I suspect that a common rationale given for such neglect in the high- school biology curriculum is that biology courses should be concerned with "pure" biology, with the basic laws, as expressed, for example, in the fun- damental architecture of cells, the genetic machinery, and the theory and mechanisms of evolution. All these topics are, of course, important and de- serve a prominent place in the biology curriculum. But a dichotomy between pure and applied biology-between puzzles and problems is unjustified, because at the core of those problems are scientific puzzles that are just as deep and intellectually seductive as are the principles of molecular biology. Indeed, unique biological concepts emerge at the ecosystem or global level and are elucidated by such "applied" fields as conservation biology and the study of the global interconnections among soil, water, air, climate, and life. For example, the discovery of relationships between the area of a habitat and the number of different species that the habitat can sustain resists explanation at the organismic level of analysis. The fact that such relationships have tremendous practical implications for species survival on a fragmented landscape does not diminish their intrinsically fascinating character. Increasing scientific interest in the dependence of human well- being on the maintenance of wild species and natural ecosystem processes
LITERACY MERCY ED GLOBE ECOLOGY 19 is resulting in exciting discoveries at the boundaries of traditional disci- plines, such as biology and economics or biology and geology, while study of the stability of the entire planetary life-support apparatus is providing new insight into coevolutionary processes and the dynamics of complex systems. Knowledge of these system-level phenomena (or "emergent charac- teristics," as biologists call them) is just as intrinsically fascinating as is knowledge of how the genetic code works . . . and it is as critical to our health as is knowledge of how vitamin C works. How should global ecology be taught? There will probably be a tendency to place it at the end of the curriculum, atop the basic molecular, cellular, and organismic building blocks laid down at the start of a course. Yet, perhaps it could be taught at the outset. After all, the subject of biology is life on Earth, so is not the study of global biospheric processes a natural place to begin? Of course, such a top-down approach tries in the face of the reductionist philosophy that now dominates biology teaching, and I would not want to claim that there is a compelling argument for either approach today. I would prefer to see each used in different schools, so that a comparison of their effectiveness could be made. It is entirely possible, however, that a top-down approach, stressing at the outset of the course both more natural history and more facts and concepts pertinent to human survival, would motivate students in a way that the traditional curriculum seems unable to do. And it may even mitigate the negative image of scientists that seems to repel students from an interest in the subject. Instead of scientists being viewed as people who invent dangerous things while working in smelly laboratories, perhaps they will be envisioned swimming among endangered whales to study their behavior and hiking up mountains to study acidifying lakes. I want to make one final point. In the early days of our republic, Thomas Jefferson and others recognized that literacy was essential to the survival of democracy. An illiterate public, they argued, would be preyed on by demagogues and tyrants. Their concerns were taken seriously, and the legacy is that we now attempt to achieve 100% literacy in the United States, although in the time of Jefferson that goal must have seemed quite difficult to reach. Now, 200 years later, there is yet another vulnerability in our demo- cratic system. Today we confront the threats of uncontrolled technologies capable of destroying the life-support system of the planet. Highly technical testimonies pertinent to the dangers are paraded past Congressional com- mittees and are summarized in the media. Numbers describing megatons, millirads, parts per billion, and kilowatts bombard the public. And experts can be found, or bought, to say almost anything at all on issues affecting our very survival.
20 HIGH-SCHOOL BIOLOGY As the promotion of literacy was essential to democracy 200 years ago, so the promotion of numerary is today. A numerate public would not be fazed by very large or small numbers. It would know how to check for consistency between quantitative estimates of risk appearing in the newspapers and what it knows by common sense. A numerate public need not trust the "experts." It need not be bamboozled by those who would numb with numbers and falsely scare or falsely reassure. How do we teach numerary? I have been doing it at the university level using a textbook (Consider a Spherical Cow, 1988) that I wrote for the purpose. While the text is too difficult for high-school students, the approach I have taken could be adapted to that level. The approach con- sists of teaching students how to estimate the magnitudes of things and the consequences of events in the world around them, with an emphasis on the use of simple back-of-the-envelope calculation techniques for de- scribing environmental phenomena. The core of the text is a collection of posed and solved word problems that lead the student through the creative process of converting word descriptions of real-world situations into manageable arithmetic. Hundreds of exercises for the reader on a variety of environmental problems are provided as well. While high-school mathematics courses are an appropriate place to teach these techniques, the science courses are where this approach is most critical. I say that with confidence based on my observation that students best retain from their science education the material that they have played creatively with in the courses. So my immodest suggestion is that the pedagogic techniques used in Consider a Spherical Cow be adapted to the high-school science curricula. Global ecology is a fascinating subject. Aught in an imaginative yet applicable way in high schools, it will inspire a new generation of citizens who would be equipped to deal as voters, and perhaps as scientists, with some of the most formidable planetary problems that threaten our survival. We and our children ignore this subject at our peril. REFERENCE Harte, J. 1988. Consider a Spherical Cow. Mill Valley, Calif.: University Science Books.
4 "All Is for the Best in the Best of Possible Worlds." ARCHIE E. LAPOINTE I selected the title of my paper from Voltaire's Candide, because our distinguished chair has eloquently given us two challenges to be optimistic and to be realistic in our deliberations. I heartily agree with both admonitions. My remarks will be less subtle than Voltaire's satire, but I hope more useful as you ponder a situation that can be viewed either as a disaster or as a unique opportunity. Searching for some cosmic plan in the disarray of today's biology education is probably as fruitless as was Candide's eighteenth-centu~y pursuit. Instead, I'm going to suggest that we approach the problem with some modern management techniques of data assembly, option identification. and decision-makin~ that may move the process along. , ~ I would like to draw on the New Testament, a training manual of the McDonald's Corporation, and Stephen Hawking's best-seller, A Brief History of Time (1988), to support my suggestions. At the end of all this, I suspect our chair, like the wise judge she is, will suggest that you disregard my testimony as irrelevant and inappropriate. However, if I'm lucky, I, like a clever prosecutor, will lmow that some of these comments will linger the back of your minds and will affect your conclusions. Archie E. Lapointe is executive director of the Center for the Assessment of Educational Prog- ress. He has been both a teacher and teacher trainer at Louisiana State University and Rutgers University. He was general manager, ~ (McGraw-Hill); vice president, Science Research Associates (IBM); and president, National Institute for Work and Learning. 21
22 HIGH-SCHOOL BIOLOGY First some facts: · There are, right now in 1988, 3,000,000 14-year-olds, most of whom are taking biology. · Next year, 1989, there will be 3,000,000 more, as there will be each year thereafter. · National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) data suggest that only about 40% of them are sufficiently prepared intellectually to learn biology. · The good news, perhaps, is that 80% say they "like" science. · Fifty percent feel that science is generally useful, will help them in their lives, or will contribute to solving the world's problems of pollution, energy, and food supply. · Three-fourths of them feel that science will find cures for disease. · Over half seldom or never look forward to science class. · Over one-third always or often find their science classes boring, and another 40% agree that "sometimes" it is. · Of all the 20,000 biology teachers out there, probably 10% are outstanding, 20% are about to retire, and 70% are adequate or better. These students and these teachers are the very best we have available this year and next. Neither you nor I can change that, so this must be "the best of possible worlds." May I indelicately stress that these and other realities should be ever present in our thinking. This distinguished group will spend a good bit of energy considering what might be accomplished if there were more time in the curriculum, better-trained teachers, more laboratory equipment, and computers in the schools. The math teachers and the social scientists are doing the same kinds of fantasizing. There won't be any of those improvements in the next 2 years, although unquestionably you have the responsibility to press for them for the future. Let me suggest another responsibility you should insist on reserving for yourselves and your biologist colleagues. It is you who must set the directions, the objectives, and the content of the biology curriculum. You should come to conclusions quickly, state them clearly, and proclaim them boldly. NAEP and other test results can tell you what our young people know and don't know, but you must decide whether the news is good or bad. For example, we know from NAEP results that fewer than 30% of our eleventh-graders in 1986 knew: . That fats are a source of energy. The meaning of "half-life." That mosquitoes could develop immunities to pesticides. · That a diet of trench fries and soda lacked nitrogen.
ALL IS FOR THE BEST. . . · That data show a higher incidence of disease among smokers. · That a warmer incubator stimulated seed germination. · That genetic engineering was being discussed. 23 On the positive side, 70% or more correctly responded to eleventh- grade questions about: · Swimming being an inherited behavior. · The purpose of the doctor's cotton-tipped stick for a sore throat. The accumulation of insect poisons in the food chain. The claim of an advertisement for a pain-relief product. The danger of carbon monoxide. · The characteristics of junk food. These are the facts, you must decide what they mean. Am I pessimistic? No! Over the last 20 years, NAEP findings in several curriculum areas- in reading, writing, and mathematics, as well as in science-demonstrate rather conclusively that student performance can and does improve. There has been dramatic growth: · In the basic (as opposed to higher-order) skills. · Among students attending disadvantaged schools. · Among black and Hispanic students in reading and mathematics. These are all school areas where nationally we have clearly set some understandable goals. We went "back to basics," we focused on "minimal competence" in reading and writing, and we funded efforts to address the problems of "at-risk" minority children. These clear and generally accepted goals have been achieved. I'm optimistic that with equally specific and consistently articulated goals in biology, we could see positive change in performance in the next 5 years. THE CONTENT Once you decide the content that should be taught, how do you make sure that the 3,000,000 students in 1992 will be exposed to it? How can you be certain that those 20,000 teachers will "cover" it? Let's examine the tried and true. · There are the syllabi. Some schools and school districts will pay attention and will consult them as they select textbooks and write lesson plans.
24 HIGH-SCHOOL BIOLOGY · There are the "materials of instruction," primarily textbooks. It is alleged and widely accepted that these determine the curriculum in a majority of schools in the country. As a former publisher of textbooks, I have many colleagues in the business who desperately wish this were the case. . And there are the tests. If these are the so-called high-stakes instruments for example, college entrance tests, advanced-placement tests, or high-school graduation requirements- their content has affected school curricula for decades. This is in spite of the fact that the intention persists that tests should measure what is being taught. In some ideal world or closed system, one can imagine syllabi that define the curriculum, structure the textbooks, and dictate test content. Most of us have visited educational systems that are convinced that their own schools are following such an "efficient" design. France and several eastern European countries are good examples of attempts to organize educational environments. Some of our states are more prescriptive than others in these matters with various degrees of success. Why doesn't this idea work here in our marvelous but messy society? Sixteen thousand independent school districts and 50 states jealous of their prerogatives are probably part of the reason. May I suggest, however, that what these political entities want as much as their independence is good education for their kids. There are ways to help them achieve the second objective without trampling the first, but imposing a federal syllabus or a national test is not one. I would urge you not to think of your task as simply developing a plan, setting goals, or defining a curriculum. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to improve the biology learning of 3,000,000 14-year-olds a year. It's not impossible! Remember the words of Dan Quayle's grandmother: "You can do anything you put your mind to!" Our chair's comments remind us of the dangers of narrowly defin- ing objectives as in the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study experience when developers and publishers worked at odds rather than together. She also reminded us of the importance of parental and societal interest in supporting the value of biology education. Our work at NAEP has convinced me that a broader perspective can be helpful in achieving even narrow specific goals. Five years ago, we redefined NAEP as an information system, rather than a research or testing project. We also recognized that educational policy-makers, as well as the 16,000 school superintendents, in the United States are viewers of the "Today" show and readers of USA Today. We then enlisted the help of Carl Sagan and Barbara Walters, whose self-interests are very different, but paralleled ours for brief but effective periods.
ALL IS FOR THE BEST . . ~ 25 SPECIFICS Point 1 The message must be clear and easily understood. As a disseminator of ideas and information, I marvel at the success of Stephen Hawking's best-selling summary of the mysteries of the cosmos. The rationale for his popularizing effort he lists in his conclusion: [However,] if we do discover a complete theory, it should in time be under- standable in broad principle by everyone, not just a few scientists. Then we shall all, philosophers, scientists, and just ordinary people, be able to take part in the discussion of the question of why it is that we and the universe exist. If we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason for then we would know the mind of God [Hawking, 1988, p. 175~. It seems to me that your audience is as broad as that and for equally lofty reasons. What American young people know or don't know about biology affects their lives in real or tragic ways. The opportunities to do harm to them- selves abound in their daily lives. The effectiveness of the counseling and education programs designed for them depends on students' understanding of the basic concepts of your discipline. Each one of your students, 4 or 5 years after leaving your classroom, will be voting on issues of pollution, the greenhouse effect, genetic engineering, and chemical and nuclear warfare and will be making nutritional decisions for the next generation. This is a simple premise-easily understood but it must be articulated, advanced, and promoted. We continually hear that we don't "value" science education as much as other cultures do and we don't. For you to be effective in improving biology education, you must assume part of the responsibility for promoting the importance of the learning of science generally. Point 2 As you develop your course outlines and content, I would urge you to involve publishers from day 1. They do have expertise in designing effec- tive school products, they do know their market, and they do have talented people. Most of them are serious and honest and seeking objectives very similar to your own. They also have hundreds of professional marketing representatives. Most are former teachers who are in the schools daily, promoting new ideas, convincing teachers to try new techniques, and orga- nizing training sessions. In the United States, they represent the regular conduit for getting the results of research into the schools. I would urge their early involvement.
26 HIGH-SCHOOL BIOLOGY P.S.: It's not easy. They will suggest and insist on compromise in terms of difficulty level, content load, and consistency of presentation. These publishing rules, born of success and failure, frustrate all creative authors, but some are worth paying attention to. Also, publishers are competitive, they must avoid collusion, and they have to protect their markets. The American Association of Publishers can and should help, and the benefits of possible success, it seems to me, are worth the effort. Point 3 How can those average teachers handle challenging new material? In the New Testament, St. Luke quotes the Lord as commending the unjust steward by saying that "the children of this world are In their generation wiser than the children of light." Maybe taking a page from the book of the successful children of this world would be enlightening. In the detailed training manual for owners of McDonald's franchises, founder Ray Kroc is cited over and over again assuring ordinary, everyday citizens of average intelligence that they can become successful owner- operators of Golden Arches outlets. "Success" is measured in financial terms and means an income of $200,000 or $300,000 per year per store. It is achieved in over 80% of the cases. The training of these ordinary mortals is clear and specific. The goals are limited in number and reinforced consistently. The steps to follow in achieving those targets are spelled out in detail, and deviation from successful practice is discouraged. Quality product, quality service, and consistency are stressed as essential elements of success. Year in and year out, thousands of franchise managers successfully master the fairly diverse and complex tasks of directing a retail outlet. They hire and train staff, motivate young people, maintain buildings, manage expensive inventories, enlarge their businesses, and engage in community promotional activities. These self-selected lay people are trained to perform all these tasks successfully in very short periods (a few weeks) at places of learning intriguingly called Hamburger Universities. They are not taught to be great chefs or to be terribly creative, nor encouraged to be innovative. They do provide fast service and consistent quality in a clean, pleasant environment. It's basic, but it's good and perhaps slightly better than functional. It's almost sacrilegious to advance this model as an option for con- sideration in the efficient retraining of teachers, who must provide, if not inspired teaching, a least competent, enthusiastic instruction. ! We know that the fast-food corporations have been consistent support- ers of education and would want to do more to help. We know that this
ALL IS FOR THE BEST · · ~ 27 kind of training can be provided quickly and efficiently. We know that it can be effective with most reasonably competent individuals. We know that it falls short of the ideal. Could it be a step on the road? Point 4 Last year, the National Geographic Society funded an assessment of geography knowledge and skills in order to call attention to the low level of such competence among our young people. The Society's hope is that the availability of data to the broad American public will fuel the debate about the study of geography and reinvigorate interest in the subject. I can easily imagine an NAEP report in 1992 that would detail the gaps in young Americans' knowledge about biology in ways that would help to form a consensus on the importance of specific aspects of the discipline. NAEP, because of the anonymity of its results (it doesn't identify students, schools, or districts), has a unique ability to focus on issues, rather than individuals, in ways that encourage objective, dispassionate debate. The use of NAEP or the College Board Achievement Tests to call attention to the need might indeed be an intelligent part of your strategy. Here is an illustration of how NAEP's recent science results are being used with educators, legislators, and business people. The data tend to concentrate lay and professional minds on just what criteria what standards-are appropriate in today's technological environment. 1b communicate the significance of test results to nontechnical minds, NAEP has created scales from 100 to 500 in several curriculum areas. Certain points (levels) on each scale have been identified, labeled, and defined. Each level can be described in terms of what people know and can do if they can function successfully at that level. Examples of tasks that illustrate the knowledge and skills represented by that level are also provided. The defined levels from the NAEP science scale and brief descriptions are listed below. Level 150 Knows everyday science facts. Level 200 Understands simple scientific principles. Level 250 Applies basic scientific information. Level 300 Analyzes scientific procedures and data. Level 350 Integrates specialized scientific information. Level 250, "Applies basic scientific information," can be defined as the ability to interpret data from simple tables and to make inferences about the outcomes of experimental procedures. People at this level of competence exhibit knowledge and understanding of the life sciences and demonstrate some knowledge of basic information in the physical sciences.
28 HIGH-SCHOOL BIOLOGY TABLE 1 Percentages of 9-, 1~, and 17-Year-Olds at or Above Three Proficiency Levels Proficiency Level Age 1977 1986 Level 150 (knows everyday science facts) 9 93.6% 96.3% Level 250 (applies basic scientific information) Level 350 (integrates specialized scientific information) 13 49.2 53.4 17 8.5 7.5 In other words: . From a simple chart they can determine that, with relation to a field mouse, a fox is a predator. · They can identify the purpose of an experiment that measures plant growth in different types of soils. · They know that diabetes cannot be transmitted by simple contact. Most people agree that these are not terribly challenging tasks. There remains, however, the question of what percentage of our 13-year-olds or 17-year-olds should be able to perform at this level? In the past, simple trend information seemed adequate-that is, we were getting better or falling behind. Increasingly, as recognition grows of the specific requirements for success in a technological society or a world economic competition, our audiences are demanding more precise descriptions of what percentages of young Americans can perform which skills. Ibble 1 is a more complete picture of some of the results discussed in NAEP's latest report card, issued on September 22, 1988 (Mullis and Jenkins, 1988~. Is it good enough that 53.4% of our 13-year-olds can apply basic scientific information as described above? That is better than the situation was 10 years ago, when only 49.2% were achieving at this level. Is it O.K that 1 of 2 of our 13-year-olds who are typically in the eighth grade, often experimenting with drugs and alcohol, sometimes pregnant, and usually thinking about careers can't understand simple biological or chemical concepts or interpret data tables? More specifically, does this mean that half our 13-year-olds are not prepared to have a positive or satisfying experience during ninth-grade biology? Is it O.K that the pool of students from which future scientists, engineers, doctors, and nurses will be selected is being turned off or poorly motivated at age 13?
ALL IS FOR THE BEST. . . 29 The public and the policy-makers understand issues framed in these terms. Although frustrated by the perennial question, they are open to suggestions and seeking leadership. I would encourage you to include a testing component in your strategy and formally invite you to take advantage of NAEP's experience and staff, if you decide that either can be of service to you. REFERENCES Hawking, S. Vat 1988. A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes. New York: Bantam Books. Mullis, I. ~ S., and Lo B. Jenkins. 1988. The Science Report Card: Elements of Risk and Recovery. Princeton, N.J.: Educational Testing Service.
The Scientific Revolution in Medicine: Implications for Teachers of High-Schoo! Biology JANET D. ROWLEY I would like to consider the questions that Dr. Handler has raised: What facts, skills, and perspectives do we wish our students to acquire In the biology classroom? How can we overcome the failure of the public to acknowledge the realities of biology and the processes of nature in the formation of public policy? ONE APPROACH TO TEACHING BIOLOGY I have given considerable thought to these problems on a somewhat different level. The University of Chicago has the Benton Foundation Fellowship program for broadcast journalists who come to the campus for a 6-month period of learning and reassessment of their professional role. It has been my task for the last several years to represent the biological sciences. I try to present, In two 2-hour sessions, the fascinating and changing world of molecular genetics as it applies to human disease. I select several items from newspapers reporting on scientific discoveries and give them to the students, as well as the original scientific articles. I try to use these articles to provide the fellows with some, admittedly superficial, Janet D. Rowley received her undergraduate and medical-school education at the University of Chicago. She has studied genetic changes, as measured by chromosomal aberrations in human cancer cells. She has shown that recurring chromosomal changes, especially translocations, are specifically associated with particular subtypes of leukemia and lymphoma. 30
THE SCIENTIFIC REVOLUTION IN MEDICINE 31 understanding of DNA technology and how it has revolutionized all aspects of our current understanding of many diseases. I take the view that they cannot afford not to understand these important concepts, either in their role as journalists and therefore as educators of the public, or as members of the public themselves. Every year, I use a different example, usually based on several articles that have been published within a few months preceding the course. Leo years ago, it was the mapping of cystic fibrosis to chromosome 7; last year, it was the linkage of genes for Alzheimer's disease with DNA probes on chromosome 21. This year, it will be the linkage of colon cancer with DNA markers on chromosome 5 and the growing evidence linking sequential genetic changes in cells with progression of the malignant phenotype. We are living in a Golden Age of Biology. Virtually every area in this scientific discipline is flourishing as never before. We have the tools to study so many problems, and we have the insights to ask the right questions. The answers to the initial, usually simple questions immediately raise a host of new questions, and so we proceed in an ever-expanding, more sophisticated quest for an understanding of basic biologic processes. As a physician turned investigator in leukemia who uses genetic analysis to seek an understanding of this fearsome disease, I am awed by the remarkable progress we have made in understanding human disease. None of us can escape the impact that our genes have on us. Some genetic defects, such as "color blindness," are relatively trivial; others including hemophilia, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, cystic fibrosis, and Tay-Sachs disease can be devastating. My approach to the teaching of biology is colored by this background. I believe that the teaching of biology should begin well before high school. It should be centered on human biology; we should take advantage of chil- dren's curiosity about themselves to capture their interest and to make them want to learn. I understand that this requires dedicated and well-trained teachers, and you will hear from one such teacher, Frances Vandervoort, here. It also requires clearly written, well-illustrated, up-to-date textbooks. 1b achieve this goal, such things as loose-leaf texts that can be changed yearly and increased use of video tapes would be important for teaching of basic principles and current applications. These are essential compo- nents of a successful educational program; but, unfortunately, they are not sufficient. We need to develop a nationwide recognition, at every level of government, that our strongest national defense is an adequately educated public. Our nation is in far more danger of losing its privileged position because we cannot compete successfully in the world marketplace than because we will be defeated on the battlefield. As we try to redirect our political priorities, we educators must have a solid, but exciting and creative program ready for implementation.
32 HIGH-SCHOOL BIOLOGY 1b return more specifically to the topic at hand, I believe that the biology curriculum should concentrate on fundamental principles. The examples should illustrate these principles, but the most Important goal should be to impart a basic understanding that can then be applied to a host of similar biological problems. For example, there is very strong evidence that, in some patients, an inherited, therefore genetic, susceptibility is an important predisposing factor in the development of both malignant and nonmalignant diseases. It is now possible in many families to distinguish between individuals who are at risk and those not at risk How did this come about? The story of this discovery provides a forum for describing principles, as well as specific examples. HUMAN DISEASES AS EXAMPLES IN BIOLOGY Let me illustrate the goal of achieving a basic understanding of biolog- ical principles by going back to my major premise that there are so many exciting discoveries in medicine today that you can use them to illustrate any principle you wish to teach. I will pick just a limited area, one that I know something about, namely, the molecular analysis of human genes. Let us take colon cancer, which is of most concern to older individuals, who are at the greatest risk and who, of course, left high school long ago. These older people are grandmothers and grandfathers or great-aunts and great-uncles; thus, most children know someone or know of someone who has this disease. DNA as Carrier of Genetic Information A discussion of colon cancer provides us with a reason to discuss DNA as the carrier of information about how and when cells are to perform certain functions and to explain the notion that this information is contained in discrete units called genes. Some genes are defective before birth, and children who have such genes are born with malformations or with cells and tissues that do not function in the normal way. The ill effects of other genes become apparent only later in life. For those of us who inherit a predisposition to certain malignant diseases, it is possible to find the location of the responsible genes using modern techniques. The basis for these statements is reviewed in McKusisk (1988~. Use of Enzymes for Study of DNA The next concept required for an understanding of genetic analysis is that DNA can be cut in quite specific places by enzymes that recognize the pattern of the elements making up DNA (Alberta et al., in press). The
THE SCIENTIFIC REVOLUTION IN MEDICINE 33 pattern or sequence of these elements in a particular gene (I am referring here to the nucleotides or DNA bases) may be the same in many different individuals. The DNA from these individuals, when cut into pieces by a particular enzyme and placed in a gelatin slab in an electric current, will give a fragment of identical size when probed with the appropriate gene. Other individuals may have differences in the sequence of DNA bases that are unimportant for gene function, and this may lead to gain or loss of the specific sites cut by the same enzyme. This results in changes in the size of the DNA fragment when it is subjected to an electric current in the gelatin. These changes are DNA polymorphisms, called restriction-fragment-length polymorphisms (RFIPs, or riflips), and they are the basis for much of modern genetic-linkage analysis, especially in humans. Genetic Linkage The next concept is that of the linkage of genes and the linkage of DNA probes with genes in cases in which we have not yet identified or cloned the critical gene itself. In fact, this is the situation for many diseases which have been linked with DNA sequences or genes. One can establish the association of specific polymorphisms with a disease in a particular family and then analyze the DNA from a particular individual, to determine the likelihood that the individual is at risk for the disease. Genetic Analysis of Colon Cancer I will use the recent studies on colon cancer to illustrate the principles I have just described and their application. As a cytogeneticist, I am especially pleased, as I describe this research, to point out that the initial clue to the chromosomal location of one of these genes came from the study of the chromosomes of a patient with a rare disease that predisposes to colon cancer. This patient had a deletion involving the long arm of chromosome 5, and he had familial polyposis. A report describing this patient was published by Herrera et al. (1986~. Ray White and his colleagues in Salt Lake City (Leppert et al., 1987) and Walter Bodmer and his associates in London (1987) recognized the potential usefulness of this information, because the location of the other cancer-related genes had already been identified through their association with specific chromosomal abnormalities. 1b determine whether familial polyposis was associated with the abnormality of chromosome 5, both groups used pieces of DNA that were known to be polymorphic and that were mapped to this region of chromosome 5. Then they asked, "Are any of these DNA markers linked to the gene for polyposis in families in which a number of individuals in several generations had colon cancer and from whom DNA was available for analysis?" The
34 HIGH-SCHOOL BIOLOGY answer was yes; at least one DNA marker was closely linked to familial polyposis. The next step was to look at DNA obtained from colon cancers in the general population. Ellen Solomon, an associate of Walter Bodmer, and co-workers (1987) showed by using the same marker probe that the tumor cells in up to 40% of colon cancers had a loss of genes on chromosome 5. These results have been confirmed by a recent study. This study was a collaborative effort of Bert Vogelstein at Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore, Ray White in Salt Lake City, and Johannes Bos in the Netherlands and their colleagues (Vogelstein et al., 1988~. This illustrates the increasing complexity of research, which requires the collaboration of scientists with a variety of skills, often on different continents. Their report describes a complex analysis of 172 colorectal tumor specimens, including those that were premalignant, as well as frank cancers. The different laboratories used DNA probes for genes on three chromosomes, 5, 17, and 18; they also analyzed tumors for mutations in one of the cancer gene or proto-oncogene families, namely, the RAS genes. They observed the loss of genes from one or several chromosomes in 25-50% of all the tumors (adenomas and carcinomas) studied. Forty percent of all tumors had a mutation in a RAS gene. Their most important observation was that there is a correlation between the degree of malignancy and the number of genetic (usually chromosomal) changes in the cells. Thus, at least one genetic change was detected in only about 25% of very small polyps, compared with 92% of carcinomas. These data provide evidence that the ONA changes that were monitored in this study are likely to be important ones, each of which contributes to a more malignant and more aggressive phenotype. We know from experimental studies that several changes are required in different genes for a normal cell to change to a fully malignant one. The data in this colon-cancer study show that at least four genes can contribute to the development of a cancer cell. It is quite likely that additional genes will be identified in the future. In this study, the investigators found evidence of a sequence of changes, but it was not an invariant sequence. Thus, when they were identified at all, RAS gene mutations and deletion of chromosome 5 occurred during an early, less-malignant stage, whereas a deletion of chromosome 18 followed later, and deletion of chromosome 17 later still. In some patients, deletions were detected only in the middle of the affected chromosome. Mapping the region of deletion provided information on the probable location of the important gene on each chromosome. These studies on colon cancer are more sophisticated than those reported for lung or breast cancer, because multiple DNA changes in pairs of tumor and normal tissues from the same patient were analyzed. This
THE SCIENTIFIC REVOLUTION IN MEDICINE 35 is just an example of studies that will be described over the next decade. Certainly, future investigations will be even more complex. As I have already indicated, similar types of analyses are in progress covering a wide range of inherited human diseases, both diseases that result from a mutation in a single gene (for example, cystic fibrosis or sickle-cell anemia) and diseases that result from the interaction of several genes (such as coronary arterial disease or stroke). If American citizens are to comprehend how they can apply this new information to themselves or to their families, they must have an adequate education in biology. THE HUMAN GENOME MAPPING PROJECT I have not touched on another compelling reason for emphasizing genetics in teaching biology. I am referring to mapping and sequencing the human genome, which will be a major commitment in biology for the next 2 decades (National Research Council, 1988~. For biology, this project is comparable to our space program or to our efforts in high-energy physics. Its cost over this period is estimated to be greater than $3 billion, $200,000,000 a year for 15 years. It would be very helpful if the public were sufficiently educated to understand the benefits of such a commitment. In a time of increasingly limited resources, hard choices must be made. Will members of the public support the level of funding required for successful mapping and sequencing of the human genome if they cannot appreciate its value to them and their families? The report of the National Reseach Council committee stressed that this project would "greatly enhance progress in human biology and medi- cine." Although the technology for accomplishing this immense task in an efficient and cost-effective manner is not yet available, the committee's recommendations are to develop a more complete physical map of the chromosomes; then to proceed with sequencing of genes that are function- ing, that are expressed in cells; and finally to sequence the pieces of DNA that are between these genes. You will recognize that keeping track of 3 billion nucleotides is a major data management problem that will require substantial improvements in computers and computer programs. This will become increasingly essential as scientists wish to compare different genes to learn more about the correlation between the DNA sequence of a gene and its functional components. Moreover, it has been proposed that paral- lel projects to sequence the genomes of other species mouse, Drosophila, etc. be undertaken at the same time. This will allow scientists to compare the DNA sequences, but perhaps more importantly the organization of genes for the same protein in different species, to achieve an increased understanding of the relationship between the structure of a gene and its function. This information will also provide additional insights into the
36 HIGH-SCHOOL BIOLOGY changes that occur with evolution. Again, a major increase in computer capabilities will be required to make these comparisons in an efficient and effective manner. Of course, there Is concern about the social, legal, and ethical impli- cations of such a project. It is recognized that this project "could provide a great deal of new knowledge about the genetic basis of human disease. However, the effects of that knowledge will be highly colored by the ways its practical Implications are interpreted" (National Research Council, 1988, p. 101~. CONCLUSION I have tried to give examples of the progress being made In medicine today and to show how the teaching of a few general principles can provide a framework for students to understand many of the new discoveries in genetics. It will not be easy to help students achieve the necessary level of such an understanding. However, I believe that they can appreciate the importance of this knowledge and that this appreciation, provided by enthusiastic teachers and first-rate instructional material, will lead to a better-educated and more-~nformed American public. REFERENCES Alberts, B., D. Bray, J. Lewis, M. Raff, K. Roberts, and J. D. Watson. In press. Molecular Biology of the Cell. 2nd ed. New York: Garland. Bodmer, W. F., C. J. Bailey, J. Bodmer, H. J. R. Bussey, A. Ellis, P. Gorman, F. C. Lucibello, V. ~ Murday, S. H. Rider, P. Scambler, D. Sheer, E. Solomon, and N. K. Spurr. 1987. Localization of the gene for familial adenomatous polyposis on chromosome 5. Nature 328:614-616. Herrera, L., S. Kakati, ~ Gibas, E. Piet~zak, and A. A. Sandberg. 1986. Brief clinical report: Gardner syndrome in a man with an interstitial deletion of 5q. Amer. J. Med. Genet. 25:473-476. Leppert, M., M. Dobbs, P. Scambler, P. O'Connell, Y. Nakamura, D. Stau~er, S. Woodward, R. Burt, I. Hughes, E. Gardner, M. Lathrop, J. Wasmuth, J.-M. Lalouel, and R. White. 1987. The gene for familial polyposis cold maps to the long arm of chromosome 5. Science 238:1411-1413. McKusick, V. ~ 1988. The Morbid Anatomy of the Human Genome: A Review of Gene Mapping in Clinical Medicine. Bethesda, Md.: Howard Hughes Medical Institute. National Research Council. 1988. Mapping and Sequencing the Human Genome. Washing- ton: D.C.: National Academy Press. Solomon E., R. Voss, V. Hall, W. F. Bodmer, J. R. Jass, A. J. Jeffreys, F. C. Lucibello, I. Patel, and S. H. Rider. 1987. Chromosome 5 allele loss in human colorectal carcinomas. Nature 328:616-619. Vogelstein, B., E. R. Fearon, S. R. Hamilton, S. E. Kern, A. C. Preisinger, M. Leppert, Y. Nakamura, R. White, ~ M. M. Smits, and J. ~ Bos. 1988. Genetic alterations during colorectal-tumor development. New Engl. J. Med. 319:525-532.
6 High-School Biology Training: A Prospective Employer's View HARVEY S. SADOW INTRODUCTION: THE PROBLEM I do not teach biology at the high-school or any other level, nor do I now have a certificate to teach anything, including biology. I have not engaged in biological research for roughly 20 years. I am certainly not a specialist in, nor even more than perhaps modestly informed about, cur- riculum In high-school biology. Finally, my days as an educator are so far In the dim and distant past that I really cannot claim more than "having been. . . ." Thus, having completely destroyed my credibility by acknowledging my lack of credentials, I will demonstrate my temerity by talking about high-school biology education today, but especially today In the face of tomorrow's needs, as an employer of a large body of research scientists, physicians, and technicians without advanced or collegiate education. You may justifiably ask why I am here, having obviously admitted my limitations; to that the answer must be that I have a concern about the teaching of the scientific disciplines, such as biology, in our high-school programs. I am compelled, however, In that concern by the recognition of Hanrey S. Sadow is chairman of the board of Boehringer Ingelheim Corporation and its for- mer chief executive officer and president. He is a member of the board of the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association and chairman of the board of the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers As- sociation Foundation. Dr. Sadow is also president of the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering. He received a B.S. from the Virginia Military Institute, where he senres on the board of visitors; an M.S. from the University of Kansas; and a Ph.D. from the University of Connecticut. 37
38 HIGH-SCHOOL BIOLOGY another trend that forces the issue. The United States, for many reasons, has passed rapidly in the last 2 decades from a pre-eminently manufacturing economy to one of service. If the United States is to regain its pre-eminent position in the production-technological areas, it must commit itself to enhanced scientific innovation, which, of course, means the stimulation of the evolution, and conversion to practice, of new ideas. As has been said about the manufacturing economies of many states, including my own Connecticut, in a changing, competitive world, it is necessary to innovate or die at least on the economic limb! Another fact is increasingly inescapable, and it is brought home daily in our experience in western Connecticut, where the company I have led is. There is a significant and growing shortage of technically qualified or even trainable labor, which seriously threatens the innovative high-technology R&D and manufacturing components of our company. Dr. Handler, in her opening remarks, cited the observations of Arm- strong and co-workers (the Education Commission of the States) concerning the relatively poor American student achievement in scientific education, compared with that of other developed countries, emphasizing that science instruction has had a low priority; the teachers of science are inadequately trained; there are teacher shortages in certain basic scientific fields, accom- panied by a decline in the enrollment of high-school students in science courses and, among other things, the lack even of a consensus as to why science should be taught, what should be taught, and to whom, and thus, how the process can be changed. Perhaps even more troubling than the reference to Armstrong et al. was the statement that these young people are deficient in their understanding of biology as a "coherent discipline." Reference has been made to both public and political failure to acknowl- edge, or perhaps even create public policy concerning, educational realities, as in the field of biology. Then again, American mores and attitudes have changed over the years since the end of World War II. Discipline, especially self-discipline, seems to have evaporated in the process of developing young people. Is it any wonder that the undisciplined would, of necessity, seek to avoid the strict disciplines of either the physical or the natural sciences, especially if there are easier ways to get high-school diplomas? The prob- lem, therefore, of attracting the interest of these young minds to the field of biology, and keeping it, is one of the reasons for this conference. SHOULD BIOLOGY BE TAUGIIT IN HIGH SCHOOL? The answer for me is unequivocally `'Yes!" Biology is no longer simply a descriptive field in the range of the natural sciences. It has, just in the last 10-20 years, changed to a vibrant, dynamic multidiscipline, which has invaded chemistry, physics, mathematics, and indeed even the technologies
HIGH-SCHOOL BIOLOGY TRAINING 39 of engineering, especially electronics. It seems to me that the important subordinate questions suggested by Dr. Handler, which must also be asked, include: "A Whom?" "What?" And perhaps even precedent to these questions, "Why?" I will try, from the prospective employer's point of view, to answer. WHO SIlALL BE TAUGHT? AND WHY? Young minds if they are to benefit from the explosion of new infor- mation, which will certainly, in some way, touch everyone's life-must be prepared to adapt, early on, to the present dynamism of biology. That dy- namism, of necessity, directly influences biology education. That adaptive preparation must be based on the soundest possible foundation of basic knowledge and understanding of biology as the basic science of life itself. I believe that today, in most high schools, there is at least one required course in "general science." This affords an initial exposure, however su- perficial, to very basic information on the nature of living things. Obviously (at least to me), it would be preferable to offer a basic course in biology as a scientific discipline to all whose interest in the field may have been stimulated either by such a basic science course or, if none were available, by reading, by advice from career guidance counselors, or by completion of courses, particularly in basic chemistry or physics. Of course, prior basic knowledge in- physics and chemistry would be highly desirable to ensure a better understanding of the processes and mechanisms prevailing in living organisms. 1b those young people who may be college-bound, I would "sell" the virtue of the study of basic biology, as well as chemistry and physics, as an assurance of doing better, earlier, in the college-level study of these sciences. those students not headed for college who show any aptitude for the scientific disciplines, I would also "sell" the study of biology as fundamental job preparation, especially for technician jobs. Even if the student shows no aptitude for biology as a scientific discipline, study of the subject might still be encouraged, if only for the awareness and understanding it can afford of basic life processes seen or experienced day by day throughout one's life. Even though the interests and goals of high-school students are not all the same, it should be possible to bring home the fact that in the study of biology, there is something for everyone. WIlAT SI-IOULD BE TAUGHT? Now, the answers get a bit stickier. What will be taught depends on who will be taught. In a sense, we are dealing with divergent populations: the college-bound, including those who will seek only undergraduate degrees,
40 HIGH-SCHOOL BIOLOGY with or without a major in biology or any other scientific discipline, and those who will ultimately pursue biological science-related professional degrees and careers; and the non-college-bound, whose exposure, if any, to biology as an academic pursuit will be an isolated or terminal one and who may or may not find jobs in biological science-related fields possible, but who, if they do, will receive further on-thejob technical training in industry, clinical laboratories, or other workplaces. Should all those divergent student populations be taught the same way? The answer must obviously be `'yes." All, regardless of direction of later pursuits, would benefit from a few essential basics in biology education. To my way of thinking and experience, these essentials might include the following: . An understanding of the structure and function of living organisms; thus, fundamental life processes, regardless of form. · Application of that understanding of life processes to things seen in the world around us. · An understanding of the "scientific method" and its application. · Learning by doing simple biology laboratory procedures, not only to enhance hands-on experience, but also to develop basic manipulative skills. These basics, to which I am sure others might be added, should be taught to all high-school students without regard for the post-high-school education or work intentions. For the future college students, they will provide foundations for the next stage of the learning process, as intended. Good and sound curricula taught by motivated and adequately trained teachers should open young minds to the opportunities in the biological sciences, and especially to the value of at least basic biology education and to the appreciation of how things around us are affected by disturbances in the balances of life processes (e.g., environmental pollution, disease, and atmospheric change, to name just a few). High-school biology education can encourage the uncertain student of certain potential to begin to discriminate and thus choose previously unknown or unappreciated further foci in later education and ultimate career pursuit. For the fortunate young person who always knew what he or she wanted to do, in the areas founded on or related to biological sciences, high-school biology educational exposure may prove to be the first real confirmation of the wisdom-or even lack thereof of that presumption. Of course, for the student motivated to pursue some career-related interest in biology, additional material, probably closer to applications of the science, might, given the institutional resources, be offered but in advanced courses. Thus, one could foresee course work in the principles and applications of genetics, as in zoology, botany, biotechnology (DNA
HIGH-SCHOOL BIOLOGY TRAINING 41 manipulation), and environment as a biological entity. The list is much longer and might even include, with caution, societal concerns with biology. However, the issue here might be how much is enough or too much. I say that, because of the evident mismatch between expectations and capacities, both individual and institutional, with which everyone in high- school education must live. Returning to the view of the issue that I hold as a prospective employer, the college-bound are of less immediate concern in relation to high-school biology training. Except for adequacy of preparation to receive more education in biology, the young person leaving college will, it is hoped, have already gone beyond basics and thus be ready for a position, even if of limited scope or responsibility, in research, development, or related biological technology at the technician or more advanced level. What about the non-college-bound students? Regardless of the rea- sons for that decision, whether they are economic or social, let us assume some capacity to learn, absorb, and even apply basic high-school biology training. We have found that with good basic biology education, these youngsters can quickly grasp principles and practice in a typical biochem- istry, toxicology, physiology, or even pharmacology research laboratory or biological quality-control or clinical-assay laboratory. The quick absorption and understanding of a technician's work, thanks to high-school biology training, helps to make these young people productive economic contrib- utors to their jobs when receiving on-thejob training. That means earlier advancement and better job opportunities, albeit at technician levels. For some, however, on-thejob training has reinforced interest in biological sci- ence as a career; and, family circumstances permitting, it has encouraged at least a few to seek higher education as an assurance of the achievement of greater biology-related career goals. Observation of weaknesses in high-school biology training for these students usually illuminates two prime areas: · Inadequate manipulative training and thus limited laboratory pro- cedural sldlls. Little or no real knowledge of scientific methods or their applica tion. CONCLUSION Having made these views known, I should say that I recognize that probably everything that I have said here has been said before, many times. As in the educational process itself, however, repetition can lead to recognition, to acceptance, and to ultimate action. Biology, once the "easy" science in high school, and even in our colleges, is now both the foundation and the capstone for some of the greatest advances in our understanding
42 HIGH-SCHOOL BIOLOGY of life processes in health and disease and thus of our capacity to intervene successfully and restore balance. Ib my mind, therefore, it is our obligation to lay solid foundations of basic knowledge, and thus understanding of life processes, in the high-school setting, so that our young citizens may benefit, as fully as their individual capacities permit, from our progress in this field.