Science Teachers Needed… Now
I suppose this is what eight years of a tyrancy in reality denial will get you. Today the US has a critical teacher shortage, with a huge projected demand for geology, physics, chemistry and other science K-12 teachers in just the next few years. Part of the problem is what it has always been; K-12 science teachers are underpaid, over-beaurocratized, aren’t required by law to actually know much about what they’re teaching, and are muzzled by luddite school boards at the first sign of hillbilly parents complaining about how their little Ezekiel or Jedediah or Jehosephat (or whatever fundamentalists call their kids nowadays… maybe George, or just W) is being taught evolution.
A 2007 University System of Georgia report, “Math+Science=Success,” outlined the desperate need for teachers in the “STEM” disciplines of science, technology, engineering and math. By 2010, the report warned, Georgia will need to produce 2,060 middle school science and high school teachers of life sciences, chemistry, earth science and physics.
“We can prepare someone to be a very good physics teacher,” says university system official Mark Pevey. “The problem is getting someone interested in teaching period and then getting someone interested in teaching physics. All too often, students are told by those they respect that they can do better than teaching. It’s a real problem for the profession.”
It’s also a real problem for a state attempting to develop a 21st-century work force with a strong science base. In the graduating class of 2008, Georgia’s public colleges and universities produced 4,240 teachers. Three were physics teachers and eight could teach chemistry.
Well, perhaps it would be helpful in recruiting teachers if Georgia – if rural America in general – could stop allowing religious lunatics to write their educational standards. And it’s not just Georgia. Similar stories have appeared in the last few months from all over the US, including Kansas (big surprise there, right?), New York City, Maine, and those are just the ones I found on a single aggregator site.
Why should anyone bother to be a science teacher today in the US? If you try to teach that the Earth is 4.6 billion years old, you’re told to just avoid that section of the book, because you might offend some delusional troglodytes in the PTA. If you try to teach kids about genetics or fossils or very old rocks, you’re told to avoid dangerous words like “fossils” or “genetics” or “very old rocks”. If you insist on teaching reality instead of faerie tales from the desert, you’re either fired, muzzled, or become the raison d’etre for a local school board putsch by the fundagelicals. If you try to educate kids about how their own bodies are developing, about how human sexuality works, you’re slammed down hard and fast by the self-loathing hypocrites of the Religious Reich, who dream of the day when they can have pleasure surgically removed from the human experience. Why would anyone want to be a science teacher?
One reason might be that without science teachers, we fail as a nation. It’s really that simple. Science is the study of reality, and knowing more about reality helps you build clever devices that solve problems and cure diseases. Science lets you understand where you came from and how the universe works. Science tells you that if you work hard and are curious, you might be able to find out something that no one has ever known before, and you don’t have to first ask permission from a halfwit social parasite with a little white bibb on his collar.
Science is the one and only path we talking apes have out of the caves and into the heavens. And until we invent sci-fi teaching machines we have to rely on trained human beings to educate younger untrained human beings about how things work. Not how some permanently angry sky-pixie magicked the world into existence. Not how that same sky-pixie loves you and probably won’t drag you off to his personal torture chamber if you keep telling him you love him, too. Instead, how about we teach kids what is real, how chemistry, physics, geology and biology actually work, and that they can work hard and stand on their own feet and not spend their lives bending the knee to kings, tyrants, mullahs, focusers-on-other-peoples-families, and invisible cosmic dictators. How about we try that?