Reflecting on Sputnik:  Linking the Past, Present, and Future of Educational Reform
A symposium hosted by the Center for Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Education

 Symposium Main Page

 

 Current Paper Sections Introduction
What we have learned
Where are we headed?
Developing Leadership
Conclusion

 

Other Papers J. Myron Atkin
Rodger W. Bybee
(George DeBoer)
Peter Dow
Marye Anne Fox
John Goodlad
Jeremy Kilpatrick
Glenda T. Lappan
Thomas T. Liao
F. James Rutherford

 

Symposium Agenda

 

Center's Home Page

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Symposium Main Page

 

 Current Paper Sections Introduction
What we have learned
Where are we headed?
Developing Leadership
Conclusion

 

Other Papers J. Myron Atkin
Rodger W. Bybee
(George DeBoer)
Peter Dow
Marye Anne Fox
John Goodlad
Jeremy Kilpatrick
Glenda T. Lappan
Thomas T. Liao
F. James Rutherford

 

Center's Home Page

   

Back to the Top

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Symposium Main Page

 

 Current Paper Sections Introduction
What we have learned
Where are we headed?
Developing Leadership
Conclusion

 

Other Papers J. Myron Atkin
Rodger W. Bybee
(George DeBoer)
Peter Dow
Marye Anne Fox
John Goodlad
Jeremy Kilpatrick
Glenda T. Lappan
Thomas T. Liao
F. James Rutherford

 

Center's Home Page

 

Symposium Agenda

 

Back to the Top

 

Email questions or comments to csmeeinq@nas.edu

What we have learned and where we are headed: Lessons from the Sputnik Era (continued)
George E. DeBoer, Colgate University

Conclusion

The Sputnik era was a distinctive period in the history of science education in the United States. It is often considered a time of conservative reform because of its emphasis on rigor and discipline as opposed to the more progressive child-centered approaches that both preceded and followed it. It is reminiscent of the science education reforms of the 1890s that were led by Harvard President and chemist, Charles Eliot, and which culminated in the report of the Committee of Ten. It also bears similarity to the spirit of reform of the early 1980s, particularly the report of the National Commission on Excellence in Education, A Nation at Risk. Although we can easily point to lessons that were learned during the Sputnik era, it is difficult to say how long those lessons will be remembered. Attitudes in science education seem to oscillate over time between those that favor the mastery of content as it is understood and organized by the adult mind and those that favor adapting the content of the curriculum to the particular interests of individual students. Without a clearer and more fundamental sense of what we are trying to accomplish, there is little reason to think that movement between these two distinctive ideologies will not continue in the future.

Science, mathematics, and technology educators will not achieve the success they desire until they can clearly identify the educational goals and purposes that are suitable within a free democratic society and successfully communicate that vision to teachers, administrators, and parents. I have argued here that the personal development of autonomous individuals should be the goal of educators within a democratic society. All students should receive a broad general education that will help them to engage with the world in an intelligent way and to recognize their responsibilities to each other and to the maintenance of their physical world. Our goal should be the personal development of free, rational, and independent individuals in ways that allow them to live more fully and intelligently in the world they experience and to engage thoughtfully and critically with the most important issues facing us.

References

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