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Importance Of Biological Science Essays High School

Implications of the Recommendations

The recommendations of the Holmes Group come at a time when the teaching profession is becoming less and less attractive. For years, women and minority-group members staffed the nation's classrooms when opportunities for higher-paying, more attractive positions were unavailable to them. Since many of the barriers to other occupations have been removed, minority-group members and women are opting for careers other than teaching.

The minority-group teaching force in the United States is dwindling— ironically, at a time when the number of minority-group students in the schools is increasing significantly. By the year 1990, members of minority groups could constitute 30% of the American school population. According to Shirley Malcom, of the Office of Opportunity in Science of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, blacks "are projected to account for only 5 percent of the teaching force by 1990" (Jacobson, 1986). Hispanics and members of other minority groups are expected to account for approximately 3% of the teaching force (Haberman, 1988). It is estimated that the nation will need more than 200,000 new teachers by the year 2000. Many of these teachers will be needed in the areas of science and mathematics, where the shortage is predicted to be very acute.

The Holmes Group report recommends extending the period of study for persons entering teacher-education programs. The impact of this recommendation on minority-group teacher recruitment would be devastating, for lengthening the period of schooling would add substantially to the cost of a college education and could result in severe financial setbacks for most minority-group students and their families. Clearly, the implementation of a 5- or 6-year curriculum model would be a deterrent to many minority-group students who might be contemplating teaching, and their reluctance to commit themselves to a career that offers little financial reward is understandable. In short, the prolonged study period would severely hamper the recruitment of minority-group members into the teaching profession. On the other hand, the extended programs could be made attractive to minority groups if assistance in the form of stipends, grants, fellowships, scholarships, and loan-forgiveness programs were made available.

With teacher shortages at a crucial level and expected to rise continuously, it could be argued that the diminishing pool of qualified teachers could be offset if steps were taken to identify a larger body of prospective teachers and provide the necessary academic and financial support for their education and training. To the contrary, it is felt that reforms outlined by the Holmes Group and other commissions will create a very narrow pool of prospective teachers who can afford to elevate themselves (through additional education and training) to the top of the profession.

The Holmes Group's recommendation regarding the establishment of a three-tier system within the teaching profession is also expected to have a negative impact on minority-group teacher recruitment. Minority groups view with skepticism the career ladder with its built-in "hurdles" for advancement. In particular, the vagueness of the phrasing in the report is a matter of concern to many. For example, Beverly Gordon, in referring to the Holmes Group recommendation "to recognize differences in teachers' knowledge, skills, and commitment in their education, certification, and work," points out that minority groups must, in fact, be sure that the so-called differences do not "translate into deficiencies" (Gordon, 1988). Another critic of the career-development proposal calls attention to the fact that "race is a critical variable in any career development scheme" (Oliver, 1988) and notes that the increased emphasis on examination, the extended study period required, and the higher standards for certification all tend to discourage minority-group members from entering the teaching profession.

The Holmes Group also proposes the creation of standards of entry into the teaching profession. While higher standards are desirable and necessary, there is apprehension among minority groups with respect to the standards that are to be created and how they will be applied. Over the last few years, the nation has witnessed the effects of competence testing on minority groups. The result has been the elimination of large numbers of members of those groups from teaching and from entering the teaching profession. An alarming example of the impact of extensive testing is that which has occurred in Florida and 18 other states where testing is apparently the primary reason for the reduction in the minority-group teaching force since the early 1980s (Smith, 1988).

It is estimated that if the Holmes Group proposal to create standards of entry into the teaching profession is adopted and implemented on a national level, 50-85% of minority-group members will be eliminated from teaching. These eliminations will occur through testing, assessment of on-the-job performance, and other forms of evaluations, if the evaluation instruments are developed and validated using the same procedures that have been used previously and if minority groups are not involved in the test development and validation processes (Smith, 1988). Clearly, this trend must be reversed, as ways are sought to attract and retain minority-group teachers.

Minority-Group Teacher Recruitment: The Need and Some Proposed Solutions

The most important reason why minority-group teachers must be recruited is that they are needed in the classrooms as role models for minority-group students. As cited previously, minority-group enrollment in the schools is rapidly increasing, while the supply of minority-group teachers is steadily declining. This situation has resulted in fewer role models for minority-group students, who now account for more than 50% of the enrollment in most of the largest school districts in the country and who are expected to account for more than 38% of the school population in the United States by the year 2000. The presence of minority-group role models is important, because they provide a psychological support system in the schools for minority-group youth and because they are important in the development of those students' self-esteem.

Minority-group teachers are needed in the schools for yet another reason: they contribute to the diversity of the teaching profession. Diversity is a factor that is valued in America's "melting pot," because it allows people of various backgrounds and cultures to interact and learn to appreciate and respect each other and their differences.

To offset the potential effects of the Holmes Group recommendations on the recruitment of minority-group teachers, I propose several solutions:

  • Provide incentives to attract minority-group students into the teaching profession. Monetary incentives—such as scholarships, stipends, assistantships, grants, fellowships, and loan-forgiveness programs—would be most desirable.

  • Identify a pool of prospective, talented, minority-group teaching candidates and involve them in an academic intervention program that will enable them to enhance their academic skills and improve their test-taking skills.

  • Involve more minority-group institutions in the planning for the reforms in teacher education.

  • Involve minority groups in the construction and validation of teacher-evaluation instruments.

  • Raise the salaries of teachers.

The need for minority-group science teachers is as important as the need for minority-group teachers in general, for minority-group science teachers serve as scientist role models for minority-group students. Therefore, efforts must be made to recruit minority-group members into science teaching.

The recruitment of minority-group members into science teaching must begin with attracting youth to the sciences and then attract them into science teaching. This should be initiated as early as middle school and junior high school, when minority-group youngsters should be encouraged and challenged to enroll in science and mathematics courses beyond those which are required for everyone. An early start will enable the students to develop interest in the sciences and at the same time obtain the prerequisites necessary for success in higher-level science courses.

I strongly suggest that the Holmes Group report and its potential effects on minority-group teachers in general and minority-group science teachers in particular be critically examined.

It is common to hear undergraduates and recent college graduates preparing for a career in science complain: “I think I wasted a lot of time in college being forced to take humanities classes that had nothing to do with my area of study.” This is one of many manifestations of the ongoing centuries-long battle over the relationship between the sciences and the humanities.

From a historical point of view, until the mid-19th century, the humanities (i.e., grammar, rhetoric, history, literature, languages, and moral philosophy) held the upper hand. At Oxford and Cambridge Universities, the gold standard models for American education, the areas of study consisted mainly of classics, mathematics, or divinity.

However, in 1847 Yale College broke with this tradition and formed the School of Applied Chemistry. This became the Yale Scientific School and in 1861 it was renamed the Sheffield Scientific School. Sheffield’s 3-year undergraduate program focused on chemistry, engineering, and independent research. It offered the best scientific training in America. The “Sheffs” studied and lived apart from other undergraduates taking the classic curriculum and roomed together in the “college yard.” The two groups did not mingle. The old truism that a classical education assured success was being challenged. Science had begun its separation and was ascending vis-a-vis the liberal arts in American universities.

The need for science majors to take courses in the humanities has been contentious ever since. The required core curriculum at most colleges and universities has atrophied over the years, while at the same time governmental funds for support of any new research in the humanities has dried up. Authorities both within and outside of science have expressed concern that scientists do not learn enough about the humanities — to the detriment of society.

In this environment, it’s difficult for the undergraduate to determine the desirability of taking courses in the humanities — or which and how many to take. In fact, some applicants to college regard a strong core curriculum requirement as a negative factor, opting instead for programs with a minimum number of required core courses and maximum flexibility.

All this considered, I would offer the following 10 reasons why students pursuing science careers should augment their education with a strong foundation in the humanities.

1. The humanities prepare you to fulfill your civic and cultural responsibilities.

reason that John Harvard left his library to the college in Cambridge,
Massachusetts, that Jane and Leland Stanford founded Stanford University, and
that states established land-grant colleges was to educate cultured and
useful citizens. The humanities provide an insightful understanding into
moral, ethical, political, and ideological forces. A successful society
depends upon altruism, charity, civility, compassion, and generosity,
and the humanities evaluate and emphasize the importance of these
characteristics. The liberal arts introduce aesthetic values to the
student. While it may not be obvious how these characteristics are essential to
finding a research position in academia or industry, they are key to a
full and meaningful life.

2. Studying the humanities allows you to become familiar with and use the creative ideas from great minds outside of science.

literature, and history offer a window into the understanding of human
nature and society. They introduce us to thoughts and ideas from outside
our specialist areas and can have relevance to finding new directions
and enhance creative thinking.

For example, a classic case that
demonstrates the influence of humanities on science can be seen in
Charles Darwin’s development of the theory of evolution by natural
selection. In his On the Origin of Species, his autobiography,
and other writings, Darwin revealed that the principal insight that led
to his theory of evolution was his knowledge of Malthus’ population
theory. This states that populations increase geometrically while
food supplies grow arithmetically. Robert Young, who carefully traced
this link in his 1969 publication, Malthus and the Evolutionists: the Common Context of Biological and Social Theory,
points out that assumptions in the humanities about human nature and
society contribute fundamentally to approaches taken in the scientific
study of nature.

3. The
state-of-the-art scientific knowledge and techniques you learn in
college have a limited shelf life; mastering the humanities provides
tools for extending it.

Just as cars have an approximate 10-year road life and high-tech gadgets last 2 or 3 years before they
become obsolete, the preparation for a scientific career one receives in
graduate school leaves the individual competitive for a finite period
only. The study of humanities, both in its pursuit and the perspective
it provides, rewards the student with the skills needed for
self-critical reflection, adaptability, and self-teaching. These are the
functions needed to be an independent learner, thereby extending one’s
scientific knowledge and teaching abilities throughout his or her
professional career.

4. Humanities study strengthens your ability to communicate and work with others.

chafe at the stereotype held by some that they belong to a class of
socially awkward “geeks” that are unable to communicate their ideas
clearly. The old “classical” liberal arts education was pursued in large
measure because the materials studied and the methods of study enhanced
one’s ability to work well with others and communicate properly via the
spoken and written word. These rewards still apply and remain useful
in securing good jobs, gaining advancement and promotions, and obtaining

5. You will gain knowledge of foreign languages and foreign cultures.

globalization, this is increasingly seen as a requirement for a
successful career in commerce and industry. It is also helpful in
science and medicine. When I was in college number of years ago, it was a
widely held belief that a proficiency in German —
scientific German, in particular — was of great importance to scientists and
physicians. While this has been helpful to me throughout the years, my
lack of proficiency in Spanish has been a handicap in my clinical
practice, requiring the use of a translator with Hispanic patients
unable to speak English.

Although we assume English to be the universal
language of science and medicine, this isn’t the case in every country. Moreover, all non-English speaking countries retain their national
pride. Years ago, a colleague of mine was invited to give a “name”
lecture in Japan. He spent a great deal of time and effort translating
his lecture into Japanese and rehearsing it so it would be intelligible
to his Japanese audience. His efforts paid off handsomely in terms of
subsequent collaborations, visiting professorships, and fellowship
applications from Japan.

6. The walls that exist among disciplines has been lowered and students can move across disciplines more freely.

concept of a core curriculum has changed and students have increasing
flexibility, largely as a result of information technology. Victor
Coelho, associate provost at Boston University, gives a good

Recently I worked with the Office of Information Technology on this course selection database
that crawls through all the course descriptions at BU. You can put in
keywords to find all the courses with descriptions having those words,
and you would be amazed at how many people are discussing the same
thing. For instance, in typing in theoretical physics, you would have no
idea that there’s an art history course discussing theoretical physics.
Or put in Africa, and you’d be amazed at how many courses at this
university deal with Africa from so many perspectives. It showed me how
fluid a university could be. You could actually see all of the
possibilities of a university teaching in a holistic manner, allowing
students to stay tethered to a major, but have that tie be very, very

7. Students can benefit from advice on which courses to take.

the benefit of experience or advice, students choosing courses in an
abstract manner can make poor decisions. In many instances, students do
not know the value of a particular course until after they’ve taken it.
It is difficult to determine how useful a course in Russian literature —
or advanced calculus — will be in one’s career without information from
other people further advanced on the same career track. To provide
that information is the job of one’s advisor or mentor, who can
knowledgeably speak to the importance and usefulness of particular

8. Humanities study helps you understand the impact that science,
technology, and medicine has had on society and understand the future
scientific needs of society.

The study of literature,
history, and philosophy shed light on the influence science has had on
the quality of people’s lives and on the shaping of society, both
positively and negatively. These studies also inform us of society’s
needs and are important considerations for the concerned scientist to
appreciate and learn from, including the consideration in where he or
she chooses to work and what projects they undertake.

9. Interdisciplinary learning adds value to one’s degree.

a significant measure, the diploma we receive at graduation defines and
symbolizes who we are and what we are qualified to do. But its true
value is derived from what we have put into our head and our heart. A
broad knowledge that includes the essentials of the humanities is an
important complement to our scientific training.

10. Humanities study teaches you that the supposedly sharp dichotomies that separate science from humanities do not really exist.

It is a general belief among scientists that science deals with facts and the humanities deals with values.
But as Robert Young astutely notes:  “Science, technology and medicine — far from being value-neutral — are the embodiment of values in theories, things and therapies, in facts and artifacts, in procedures
and programs . . . I am suggesting that science is part of culture . . .
[and] that research traditions cannot be reasonably claimed to be set
above the prevailing world view of the epoch.”

And that, in summary, I believe is the most compelling reason why the knowledge of values gained through the study of the humanities is important to you as a scientist.

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