The maintenance and transformation of school science

2017-12-04T00:39:45Z (GMT) by Roderick Alan Fawns
Science, like other established school subjects, is a social institution. Its realisation in particular contexts is varied, but it is valued and it is understood in the sense of being linked with current and future roles and activities. Changes in school science are, from this view, either attempts from the inside to modify the social institution as popularly comprehended, or are attempts by outside parties, for whom the subject has significance, to have it moved closer to their conception of the discipline. It is the Writer's view that the debate on the social function of education which has been conducted with considerable vigour in Australia in the past twenty years would have been more fruitful if the problems of curriculum reform were seen in the perspective of their development. It is important that the architects of educational policy should be enabled to understand, more fully, the debates that underlie the problems they face, and the quality of the resources currently at hand. Educational theories can be seen as belonging tono age, independent of the motives of those who formulate them and answerable to logical analysis. In this thesis, such considerations were of relevance but they were not the primary concern in a study of the practical and cultural reasoning of Australian curriculum developers.But neither has the study treated the curricular schemes as historical solutions put forward at a particular time to ameliorate problems of a particular period. This study has not sought primarily to assess the logical cogency of the schemes and their rationale, nor primarily to obtain historical understanding of the educational purposes of a particular society. Rather, an attempt has been made to explore the arguments and commitments of university scientists and science teachers charged with the responsibility to maintain school science and also to accomplish the ideological and functional adaption of courses to changing economic and social conditions. The professional dilemma of the scientist committed to public education is a central issue, as is the dilemma of the university's role in the renewal of courses taught in Secondary schools. The schemes for reform, such as "General Science," "The Web of Life" and the "A.S.E.P. Unit" have been developed from English and, later, American models tomaintain and expand public interest in scientific knowledge. General Science, like later schemes, was more than a simple reaction against outmoded pedantry and dogmatism. We advance some way towards understanding General Science if we study this reaction; we advance still further by studying the arguments of its own theorists. An adequate explanation of the rise of Biology as a school subject in Victoria must embrace, not only the politics of the sciences and the wider politics of liberal education, but must alsoilluminate the restructuring of Australian culture under the impact of the growth of technical knowledge. In Australia, for the most part, too little serious attention seems to have been given to the writing of curriculum reformers. A wider reading of their work can tell us something of effective educational networks, as well as of the persistent hopes and vision they supported. At any rate, this thesis is written in the conviction that the study of the ideological and material resources available to curriculum reforms can tell us something about what it will take to maintain and transform Australia's cultural development.