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Science Education Lays Another Egg

When the Third International Mathematics and Science Study found last winter that American 12th graders scored below the international average in physics and advanced math, there was a predictable outcry from politicians and pundits. But the finding came as little surprise to those who consistently track education in the United States. For years, blue-ribbon panels have been decrying the low quality of science education in primary and secondary schools and in colleges. Less well known--and pot

D Steinberg

When the Third International Mathematics and Science Study found last winter that American 12th graders scored below the international average in physics and advanced math, there was a predictable outcry from politicians and pundits. But the finding came as little surprise to those who consistently track education in the United States. For years, blue-ribbon panels have been decrying the low quality of science education in primary and secondary schools and in colleges.

Less well known--and potentially more troublesome--is the low quality of science education on the graduate level, which I recently observed as a doctoral candidate at a research-oriented American medical school. This surprised me because I had been led to believe that superb graduate training was responsible for U.S. predominance in the sciences.

What problems did I observe?

The funding crunch was seriously compromising student-faculty interaction. Professors, far from the absent-minded types of lore, were just absent, glued to...

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