Science and the general public

  • #151
mege
Maybe we could start by paying (public school ) teachers a decent salary? It seems too much to ask of someone to suffer thru 10+ years to get a PHD only to be paid a misery as a high school teacher, not to mention that there is little prestige associated with the position. But then why do we pay athletes, entertainers millions , but skimp on teachers' pay?
Because we're paying glorified babysitters and calling them teachers (exceptions exist obviously). They've gone to school to 'teach' but aren't always subject matter experts. (speaking about the US, nearly every other country has subject matter experts teaching secondary school) There is too much focus on soft-subjects in the Education Schools in the US. IMO this is one stark difference between the US and other countries and something that needs to change if we want to become competitive in the pre-college realm again for education.

Out of the many friends that I have whom are now primary school teachers - not a single one of them was 'good' at science/math when they were in school. They begrudged every little science or math class they had to take in college, and I'm sure that attitude isn't helping them or their young impressionable students at all. Also, I have a pair of friends whom went to school for math (getting a BS Math) and then became high school teachers in a certification program - they have both quit for significantly better paying jobs. Imagine if we could actually pay subject matter experts what they're worth?

Unfortunately with teacher pay currently, they're probably getting paid what they're worth - there is no outside competition for someone with a 'teaching degree' but there is other competition for someone with a degree in a subject (esspecially a science/math degree). So, how do you draw subject matter experts from other competitive jobs to teaching without overpaying the not-qualified-for-anything-else teachers? Some states do have a bounty for certain subjects (math generally), and even some states have a 'quick-track' for STEM secondary teaching certificates (2 states I know of have 2 semester M.Ed. programs - 1 semester of classwork and 1 semester of student teaching, prerequisite is an appropriate science degree). This isn't enough though, since the guarantee of better pay still isn't there. Why would someone spend an extra year in school (to get the M.Ed.) when they could get paid more from going into industry (And less debt)?

I don't think there's an issue of religious indoctrination occuring except for that it's filling a void caused by a lack of properly qualified teachers. Everyone can probably remember teachers from their childhood whom were good (and there are some very good teachers out there), but then there's also the teachers that even as students you knew they were there because they had no other skills.
 
  • #152
225
8
... Because we're paying glorified babysitters and calling them teachers (exceptions exist obviously) ...
More money = more attraction to better qualified people. Then they wouldn't be "glorified babysitters".... they would be experts in their respective field.

You rant on about how we need experts teaching, well then how will we attract them? Obviously increasing the salary of teachers is a great way to do that. We're not talking about increasing the salary just for the current teachers, but increasing the salary to attract better teachers.
 
  • #153
chiro
Science Advisor
4,790
132
More money = more attraction to better qualified people. Then they wouldn't be "glorified babysitters".... they would be experts in their respective field.

You rant on about how we need experts teaching, well then how will we attract them? Obviously increasing the salary of teachers is a great way to do that. We're not talking about increasing the salary just for the current teachers, but increasing the salary to attract better teachers.
But it's the truth for most teachers. I've spoken to many experienced senior teachers when I have been on practicum (I previously wanted to be a high school math teacher) and they all said the same thing, and I have observed the reasoning and evidence for this myself.

Contrary to what lots of people think, most students are not motivated and don't care about learning, furthering their education, and developing themselves in this aspect.

If you want the reality of teaching go to any typical public school and try it for two weeks. Teaching in many schools prior to tertiary level is really a job where not even the parents really respect you let alone the kids or the rest of society.

Even with the salary increases, the star candidates will probably go to other jobs where they don't have to put up with that crap, or just go into the regular tertiary academia environment. Why would anyone want to put up with students that don't want to be there and will at times make it as difficult as possible to get anything done?

A lot of the people in this forum are the type of people that want to learn and are the kind of high achievers with regard to academic and intellectual pursuits: this is far removed from the real representation of the typical student at a school, and I have a feeling that som people need to be reminded of this.
 
  • #154
chiro
Science Advisor
4,790
132
I couldn't read the whole post, but the start sounds like you are saying science education needs more charismatic teachers.

I have had about two teachers (grade 6 & post secondary) grade six teacher was teaching for non financial reasons, didn't need the money and I guess teaching was a good work life balance or whatever.

Other teacher, also teaching "boring" math / science was really funny & charismatic.

I found both teachers delivered the material in an engaging way. Both could have found far more financially rewarding careers specifically because of their analytical + charismatic personality. Teaching is for.... I'm not sure but not for someone with a rare & desired skill set who wants to become wealthy through their career.

With that said why is the responsibility on teachers to engage a student in science / math. I appreciate the "management" side of public education. But how spoon fed does it have to get? Take it or leave it, no?

Jimmy Snyder
addressed this whole issue in post #32 with a practical story.
You actually didn't read most of the post: I implore you to read the whole thing again (and consider to read whole posts before responding to them from anyone next time).

The engaging/charismatic property is one small thing.

The other things are what teachers have to put up. Teachers are mostly babysitting kids. They also have to put with all the new legal problems which in turn make it harder to do their job.

The other thing is the nature of education: the system is basically setup so that students get in an environment where the stuff is very easy, and that students think of their own worth relative to the marks they get (remember most of the childs lives from kindergarten to year 12 is school).

This means that you scare off the people who get a bad mark or exam who would otherwise go into science but don't. The reason is that they've been getting high marks all the time and suddenly when they finally do something challenging, they crumble under the pressure and the bad marks, so they leave for easier subjects or subjects that will give them a high mark/GPA/whatever.

These are the people you want to target: you don't want to waste your time on people who clearly don't care and would rather do something else. Those people have every right not to give a stuff and they should be focusing their energies on other things that they would excel and be productive in.

In order to get to the ones that choose other things but really want to do the math and science courses, you need to change the education system to one that encourages failure, mistakes, and growth in that fashion and one that emphasizes that failure is a natural part of life. Our education systems is the complete opposite of this (at least in the west, asia is different).

The whole system psychologically sets up a lot of students for complete mental breakdowns, especially if they are used to being the top achievers and especially if they cruise along in high school. It gives students the false impression that life is easy and has no challenging aspects, where things should always come easy and the answers are always in a textbook, and then people wonder why students end up having complete mental breakdowns and everything that comes with this so called 'education'.
 
  • #155
mege
More money = more attraction to better qualified people. Then they wouldn't be "glorified babysitters".... they would be experts in their respective field.

You rant on about how we need experts teaching, well then how will we attract them? Obviously increasing the salary of teachers is a great way to do that. We're not talking about increasing the salary just for the current teachers, but increasing the salary to attract better teachers.
edit - I should be clearer from the start: part of the problem is still with having better qualified teachers it that a teacher's qualification in the US is that they are a TEACHER (with some side classes in their subject). Instead, I would rather see it the other way around: they should be an SME (with some side training to help be a teacher). Raising the salary doesn't eliminate this very specific barrier that requires grade-school teachers at public schools to have a teaching degree of some sort. That alone is a large barrier to having true SMEs become teachers in numbers that we would need. Raising the salary still draws from the pool of people with 'teaching degrees', you might find a few stragglers that do have a science/english/history degree then go back for their teaching degree - but they're already outside of the realm of economic rationality. If teacher salaries went up, why would I spend 5-6 years in school (4 year degree + 1-2 year teaching cert) when I could just spend 4 (for a teaching degree)? The rational people that would react to the increase in salary would still just take the easy path, which is not actually solving the problem of generally underqualified/underchallenged teachers. My 'glorified babysitter' comment isn't directed at the teaching profession as a whole, but that is more my perception of what a 'teaching degree' entails. As an example: my wife (with a teaching degree, though she no longer teachers) very specifically reminds me that her subject (social studies) doesn't actually mean she took relevent subject-oriented classes. My Physics BS requires more humanities and history than her social studies endorsement (And I will graduate with more history/humanities classes than she took since Physics is a liberal arts degree). That is the type of deficiency that I am talking about with teaching degrees, which is something that needs to be addressed in a larger scale. (and each state and subject does have slightly different requirements, so different folks may have different experiences - however, her teaching cert is from a relatively 'good' education state and program)

There is a large inertia to having such change. The documentary 'Waiting for Superman' has been mentioned at least once already in this thread and I think that it hits the nail on the head. Once the incentives are in place for teachers to perform better, I think there will naturally be a shift towards more skilled teachers in their respective subjects. However, being a fairly non-competitive field currently (due to a variety of factors) that type of change is hard to get going. In order to maintain the betterment of our schools - there needs to be some other fundamental changes with how teachers are selected, certified, compensated, and retained.

If we start increasing salaries now - what happens with the underperforming teachers currently? There needs to be some long-term planning involved and I think step 1 is to add competition at various level with in schools. Teachers need to be able to compete for their salary, hiring/firing practices need to be performance based not tenure-based and schools need to be able to compete against each other. Hopefully this naturally draws up some encouragement for rationally motivated, skilled teachers to enter the field (and do well). Second, we need to start opening up requirements for teachers to teach with only an approved 4-year degree in their subject (and maybe a state certification that goes over school-type procedures and some basic classroom protocol, etc - similar to other state-ran professional certifications - get it out of universities!). The second step is worthless without the natural increase of salaries that would result from the first step (I think we can agree that there's two barriers to SMEs actually teaching: certification and salary, any successful solution would reduce both barriers). Longentivity of success that results from the first step is dependent on the second (else then the normal schools would just start teaching how to be competitive, defeating the purpose and we're back where we started).

The barriers to the ideas above are two fold: 1) entrenchment of teacher unions ("once students start paying dues, then I'll represent their interests") and 2) lack of a generally accepted way to evaluate teachers. I think the actual negative impact of 2 gets overblown because of 1, but I do think that it will take more innovation in evaluation to get a majority of teachers on board with performance bonuses. A consistent (fair) teacher evaluation system may already be out there, but it has probably been swept under the rug under a guise of wanting sameness/conformity for all union members. If a system is deemed unfair, skewed, and easy to game - noone will buy into it anyhow. Again, it's inertia and resistance to change (and insecurity by some).
 
Last edited by a moderator:
  • #156
I'm an undergraduate physics major going into my junior years of college and still clearly remember my high school science education enough to draw parallels between the two. I often felt that high school was more of a competition to get into college than an actual learning experience. As someone who was considered an "average student" (about a 90-93 gpa, no honors course) in my school I was never encouraged to take physics since it was always viewed as something that only the honors students or mathematically gifted students take. I ended up taking a bunch of electives my senior year and stopped taking math after algebra II. I ended up switching into my physics degree after taking a gen ed astronomy course and being fascinated by the ideas.

I find math and physics teachers in college to be much more useful and resourceful and wish that high school teachers could teach the same way. In high school you are usually put in a classroom, lectured, and told to go home and do your homework. If you can't do your algebra homework for example, you are often viewed as lazy or mathematically incompetent. When I took Algebra I in high school, for example, I couldn't grasp most of the concepts and ended up with a C+ in the class. I took Calc I in college, and got an A minus, because it was explained at a more conceptual level and I was able to go to office hours and talk to my professor, email him at any time, or go to our math help room if I had trouble.

Most people don't even decide to switch to physics though, and just decide that they aren't math people. I feel our math/science education system in high school only allows people of a certain learning style to get ahead, and they label these kids as smarter. I know that there are some exceptions. I have a lot of college professor I don't like and had some high school teachers that I did like but I feel the college system allows more people to actually learn. There were math teachers who had confidence in my mathematically ability in high school who encouraged me (I did well in geometry) but i had so many teachers tell me I was stupid or average, that I actually believed it for much of high school. For example, because I recieved a C+ in algebra I, I was put into applied chemistry, where my teacher told us "This is the class that isn't going to college."

I know there are some students that are just plain lazy, but there are many students who would do better at math and science if they were given a chance. I talk to a lot of people inside and outside of college who are interested in science or physics but think they aren't smart enough to handle it.

I know that it is difficult being a teacher and controlling the class. My mother, who has a degree in history education but never become a teacher, tells me that the principal walks around and makes sure that you have the class under control. They don't care what you're teaching as long as it's not too noisy in there. This situation is difficult and I don't completely blame teachers if they can't reach all of their students. However, I feel a more active learning environment during the after hours of school , where students can talk to, email, and work out problems with their teacher, would benefit a lot of people. Instead of just learning how to ******** the system and get good grades when they are having trouble, they would actually learn the material.
 
  • #157
OmCheeto
Gold Member
2,124
2,544
Whoa, what bar do you go to where people talk about science?
Funny you should ask. I've just been "approached" by a younger woman claiming to have a degree in Astrophysics. (She saw I had a Mac, and aksed* what I was doing. I of course showed her title of the page: PhysicsForums) Claimed she got her degree in Germany. Claimed she was as drunk as a skunk because she'd just broken up with her girlfriend last night. Then she went on and on about her ex-boyfriend, Steve Lobdell.

I tried to convey the message of this thread, and tried to extricate some knowledge out of her, but she was obviously distraught, and quite drunk, and nonsense and...

My bartender just told me, "You just needed to ask her a nice simple question about Astroph...hardy weinberg inequality....debrouglie got a phd because einstein read his paper, and said, do it.

* :)
 

Related Threads on Science and the general public

Replies
20
Views
1K
Replies
66
Views
8K
Replies
20
Views
3K
Replies
14
Views
1K
Replies
5
Views
2K
Replies
1
Views
795
  • Last Post
Replies
7
Views
1K
Replies
20
Views
3K
Top