This is why we should do a good job teaching non-majors

Jim Perry jperry at UWC.EDU
Tue Nov 18 22:11:06 EST 1997

There answer, it seems to me, is to stop teaching science as a bunch of
facts to beginning science students and have all courses start as a way of
knowing and the process of knowing. Then maybe we would not need majors and
non-majors courses. Perhaps the problem is in the "majors " courses.

And maybe in an interdisciplinary fashion too.

>In a message dated 18/11/1997 4:01:59 PM, Kenneth M Klemow wrote:
>>The lesson here is that at least some of our students in our non-majors
>>courses will undoubtedly have a large impact on society after graduatation.
>>It is crucial that we provide them with an outstanding foundation in
>>biology (and other sciences) so that they don't mislead others with
>>erroneous views about the living world.
>Thumbs down on "non-majors" science courses. Where was my non-majors English?
>History? What about non-majors social science?
>To heck with the ones "who will undoubtedly have a large impact on society
>after graduation". Of all the things any modern citizen should know, science
>should be at the top of the list. This is important suff.
>What follows is a quote from one of S. J. Gould's essays in _Natural History_
>magazine. I put it together for my faculty and though you all might enjoy it.
>________________________________Quote follows
>A commonplace of our culture, and the complaint of teachers, holds that, of
>all subjects, science ranks as the most difficult to learn and therefore the
>scariest and least accessible of all disciplines. Science may be central to
>our practical lives, but its content remains mysterious to nearly all
>Americans, who must therefore take its benefits on faith ... or fear its
>alien powers and intrusions. [...] We suspect that public knowledge of
>science may be extraordinarily shallow, both because few people have any
>interest or familiarity with the subject ... and because those who profess
>concern have too superficial an understanding.
>[material deleted]
>Common belief is ass-backward. We think that science is intrinsically hard,
>scary, and arcane, and that teachers can only beat the necessary knowledge,
>by threat and exhortation, into a small minority blessed with inborn
>propensity. NO [emphasis mine]. Most of us are born with a love of science
>(which is, after all, only a method for learning the facts and principles of
>the natural world surrounding us ...). This love has to be beaten out of us if
> we are to fall by the wayside, perversely led to say that we hate or fear
>the subject.
>[material deleted]
>And so, finally, the task of nurture and rescue goes to those who represent
>what I have often called the most noble word in our language, teacher.
>[material deleted]
>Rage ... against the dying of the light of childhood's fascination.
>Stephen Jay Gould
>~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Quote ends
>Dave Williams
>Science Department Chair
>Valencia Community College, East Campus
>701 N. Econlockhatchee Trail
>Orlando, FL 32825
>407-299-5000 Ext. 2443
>profdhw at

James W. Perry
CEO/Campus Dean
Professor - Biological Sciences
University of Wisconsin-Fox Valley
1478 Midway Road
Menasha, Wisconsin  54952-8002
FAX 920.832-2674
jperry at

More information about the Plant-ed mailing list