Nearly all recent surveys of science and mathematics curricula in our secondary schools paint a picture of gloom and doom. A cross section of high school curricula and faculty taken across the United States reveals a lack of consistency in both the number and quality of courses.

The research-oriented colleges and universities that draw upon today's high school graduates to populate their freshman classes are, however, generally blasé about the situation. A great deal of the colleges' efforts are spent in competing for the best of the high school graduates, but they argue that they have no trouble filling their quota of top-grade freshmen. The quality of students, they say, is better than ever. So they conclude they have little incentive to reach back into the secondary schools to influence either curricula or teaching quality.

A recent National Research Council report noted that, in contrast to the late 1960s and...

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