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Tuesday January 25, 2011 3:16 pm

Why American students fail in science

Posted by Andru Edwards Categories: Editorial, Google, Microsoft, Science


american student science scores

There is going to be a lot of debate over the fact that American students are again falling behind in their education. According to National Assessment of Educational Progress, American children are nothing less than pathetic when it comes to understanding science.

This whole mess will be blamed on all sorts of things, probably all valid. But who, besides me, is going to blame the computer? Has anyone noticed that ever since the computer was brought into the classroom, student test scores have been falling? Does anyone find this coincidence weird? After all, the computer is, in itself, a teaching machine, of sorts.

Over the years, I've seen a lot of quasi-teaching software and educational software companies come and go, but can you name one large or middle-sized software company that specializes in educational software for children in grade school now? Just try to name one.

The biggest software company in the world, Microsoft, used to have some educational software sold under its discontinued Home brand, but I have no idea what became of it. The company, along with the Gates Foundation, promotes the idea of computers in the classroom, but it seems more of a ploy to make kids comfortable using Windows than anything else.

For science education, the greatest thing a computer can do is to show scientific principals in a way no blackboard or discussion could ever do, with graphical representation and full motion animation. You'd think that with all the computers that have been installed in school that American kids would be wizards by now. But no.

So, what do we get instead? We get children obsessed with social networking thanks to the plague on humanity called Facebook and before that MySpace and before that LiveJournal. I recall an executive of MySpace (during its heyday) bragging in front of an audience how is was great to walk into a classroom and see all the computers turned to MySpace showing the kids were using it as a home page. Isn't that peachy?

Google is another problem in schools. While I think it's ultimately important to know how to use Google efficiently, it's apparent that students are only using it to steal material and crib information for essays and papers. I've never had an objection to students using Google for research, but they seem to be bypassing the thought process to such a degree that it's not improved any aspect of learning. There are now numerous companies that sell a checking service to see if any given paper is stolen from the Internet. This is countered by services for students where you can buy papers which have been pre-checked by the other services.

How is this helping?

Computers are not cheap, and, apparently, all they are really good for in school is for word processing. If that's true, I say go back to hand-writing and teach penmanship. Have you seen the scrawl of some of these kids? A monkey with a crayon can write better.

Yes, there is more than one factor regarding the lagging academic performance of today's children. Celebrity worship, reality TV, World of Warcraft, etc. Whatever the case, I'd like to see some studies of similar students in similar families and similar neighborhoods studied a bit more. One test group should have a lot of computers in the classroom, and the other group should have fewer machines and spend its money on better teachers. Which group would perform better?

I know the answer already.

This article, written by John Dvorak, originally appeared on PCMag.com and is republished on Gear Live with the permission of Ziff Davis, Inc..

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