my students aren’t lazy or stupid!{3}

This article from the New York times has been mentioned or sent to me about a dozen times since it was published last week:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/06/education/edlife/why-science-majors-change-their-mind-its-just-so-darn-hard.html

I agree with most of the article, which seems to validate many of our new initiatives in the College of Science at Virginia Tech: SCALE-UP and the Integrated Science Curriculum to be sure. However, I hate the title, and in fact, the message sent in the article runs counter to the title. Students (certainly not MY students) are not leaving science because it is so darn hard. Science is hard. Damn hard, indeed. But my students can handle the work. My students can do anything they want to do. However, many of these students are leaving science because their science classes are boring, not made relevant, and stifle the very qualities that brought them to declare a science major in the first place: curiosity, creativity and a desire to make the world a better place.

The world needs more scientists. We need scientists who bring fresh ideas and diverse perspectives to the world’s greatest problems including hunger, pollution, poverty and disease. The kinds of people we need as scientists will not be motivated by listening to me (or you) talk at them in 50 minutes segments. They will not be stimulated by memorizing endless facts or filling in little bubbles on an op-scan. They will be bored, disengaged, and given their talents, they will leave.

Good for the humanities for attracting these students, not because of inflated grades as the article suggests, but perhaps because students have opportunities to exercise their talents in these majors. The world needs more artists, writers and philosophers as well. But we do need more scientists, and I believe it is time for science educators to wake up and stop asking what is wrong with students these days but what might be made right in science higher education.