Angela Calabrese Barton and Margery D. Osborne
My name is Cynthia and I am nine years old. I am in the fourth grade. I have lived with my family in Austin, Texas, for five years. Before moving to Austin I lived in Mexico. Most of my family still lives in Mexico but some of my family lives here in Texas with me. Right now my family lives in a homeless shelter. We have lived here for one year. Although I have lots of friends to play with here, I don’t like living here when it gets dark outside. It is not safe. I also do not like it when boys think they are better than me, or when they think I cannot do all of the same things as them! I only like school sometimes. I like school when we get to party and say whatever we want. I also like school because I can see my friends. I do not like school when my teacher is mean to me, which is most of the time. I don’t like science and I definitely hate art! My teacher always is picking on me.
My name is Jessica and I am eight years old. Cynthia is my best friend. I also go to school in Austin, Texas. My parents are originally from Mexico, but from a different part of Mexico than Cynthia’s family. I live in the same homeless shelter as Cynthia. Our families moved into the shelter at about the same time. I really like spending time over at my friends’ places, but I don’t it like when people fight especially when people fight in my face! I also don’t like it when boys try to show me up. I can run as fast as any of the boys around here! I also don’t like going outside at night because it is not safe around here! I never like school, mostly because it’s boring. It’s boring because we have teachers and work, and we never play. I always have to be here, be there, do this, do that, and I am always getting in trouble. It’s not even my fault, and I get in trouble. If schools did not have teachers, then it might be fun.
We want to tell about learning science in school. Actually, when Angie asked us to write a story with her, we did not want to do it at first because it was supposed to be about science in our school. The truth is, we really do not like science. Our favorite subjects (if we had to pick one) are math and reading.
Well, we have come up with a story, and we are going to call it "el secreto de las ninas" because the reason we do not like science is that we are not used to science! Sometimes when we complain about science in school, people think we don’t like it because we are girls and that is not true. They tell us “we can be anything we want to be!” We know that, sort of. We are just as good as boys, we just don’t want to explain our reasons. It is our secret.
We find the girls’ secret interesting, but what do they mean? What does it mean to be used to something? Does it mean that their schoolteacher never teaches science at all and so they are not used to having science class at all? Does it mean that when their teacher does teach science the girls are not used to the topics or the content or the pedagogical methods the teacher uses to teach science? Does it mean that they are not used to the language or the skills the teacher requires them to use? Or, does it mean something entirely different from the ideas we suggested? We asked the girls.
Okay. Let us tell you a story about what happened in school to show you what we mean. Our teacher told us we were going to start a unit on “movie making.” We both thought this would be really cool because we love to go see the movies! One of the first activities we were going to do was make a shoebox camera. We would make this camera out of a shoe-box and it would take real pictures. And then we would be able to keep the camera and take whatever pictures we wanted! At the beginning we were really excited about this project because neither of us have ever owned a camera before. We remember only one time when we were able to use a disposable camera because Cynthia’s mother bought her one from the store for her birthday.
The day before we were to start the camera project our teacher asked each student to bring in an empty shoe box. Well, where are we going to get empty shoe boxes? I told my teacher I didn’t have an empty shoe box so then she said to the whole class, “If you don’t have a shoe box, you can ask your mother or an older brother or sister to take you to a discount shoe store and ask for a shoe box. They will give you one for free.” Then she said, “For those of you who cannot get your own shoe box, you can bring in fifty cents and buy one from me.” She then told us that we “are getting older now and we have to learn to become more responsible for our own education.” Well, we are still like, where are we going to get a shoe box? My mother cannot take me to the shoe store! She doesn’t even have a car, and she cannot speak English that well, and she has to watch my baby brother. And, then we are also like, where are we going to get the fifty cents? So, the next day we went to school without our shoe boxes and without fifty cents.
At the beginning of the day the teacher collected the shoe boxes. A couple of other students in the class did not have shoe boxes or money either. Our teacher gave our class a lecture about being responsible. So, we told her in private right before recess that our mothers could not take us to the store and we did not have any money and that is why we did not have a shoe box. She asked us why we didn’t tell her earlier. She also told us it was okay, and that she understood. She told us we could help clean the erasers during recess to “earn” the shoe box and that it would be “our secret.” Well, we both decided to go to recess because we were mad at her and we didn’t want to share a secret with her. When it came time for science our teacher said nothing to us, but gave us a shoe box anyway so we could make our camera. But we were the last ones to get a shoe box, and they were ugly. By that time we did not want to make a camera anymore, and we just sat there and poked at our boxes. We begin with this story narrated by Cynthia and Jessica because we believe their story raises questions about how science, power, and privilege intermingle in the context of learning and doing science. And their story does so on many levels. On an immediate level, we wonder:
What do the girls really mean when they say that they are not used to science?
Whose experiences are valued in this setting and in what ways?
What does it mean to engage all learners in science?
How should a teacher handle a situation like the one described by Cynthia and Jessica?
On a more generalized level, we wonder:
What does it mean to teach science in a way that values the lived experiences, ways of knowing the world and social identities held by all students, especially women and minorities?
How do students’ concepts of science constrain roles and expectations, shaping power and privilege in science class by defining roles and identities?
How can we move beyond these assumed roles and perceptions to help all children become empowered and liberated through developing science understandings?
These questions are central to contemporary science education efforts. After all, recent reform efforts in science education suggest that all students should attain some foundational knowledge of the substance and processes of science. Encapsulated by the phrase science for all, these are described in the report “Project 2061” (AAAS 1993) and subsequent documents (Goals 2000 1994; NRC 1996). Such an ideal, however, fails to recognize or address the implications in defining such a canon or enabling its acquisition by students under either a version of society in which canonical knowledge is integral to its functioning or one in which knowledge is the foundation upon which change is enacted. In other words they do not ask the primary curriculum questions, Who’s knowledge? or Knowledge for what purpose? Visions of science for all and derivative articulations of science education are inherently conflicted because they don’t ask hard questions about the sources or functioning of such knowledge and they sit on both sides of ideas concerning the function of knowledge in society without acknowledging them.
Thus, in this first chapter we do three things. First, we examine the ideal science for all as it has been put forth by contemporary reform documents and reform-minded research and practice. We use this examine to highlight the major challenges faced by those committed to understanding and enacting empowering and equitable education for all children. Second, we look towards marginalized discourses in science education to better understand the challenges we lay out. To do so, we first lay out, in a comprehensive fashion, what we mean by marginalized discourses and what these discourses have to say to science education. We then apply these understandings to the critiques levied on reform-based science education. Third, and finally, we develop an argument for political-responsive science teaching as an image of what we mean when we say marginalized discourses and science education. We hope this image clears a path for making sense of the chapters which follow.
<1>Science for All?
According to Eisenhart, Finkel, and Marion (1996), the US reform initiatives view scientific literacy for all Americans as the educational solution of four problems thought to restrict or even prevent an adequate preparation in science for the next century: (a) there is a low level of scientific knowledge among members of the population, (b) few citizens are prepared to use scientific knowledge to make decisions that affect their lives, (c) the percentages of women and minorities in many science fields remain disproportionately low, and (d) science is said to be poorly taught in schools. Thus, both the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the National Research Council (NRC) in the US urge the nation to make scientific literacy for all the overarching goal of science education reform: “The goal of the National Science Education Standards is to create a vision for the scientifically literate person and standards for science education that, when established, would allow the vision to become a reality” (NRC 1994, 1). “When demographic realities, national needs, and democratic values are taken into account, it becomes clear that the nation can no longer ignore the science education of any students” (AAAS 1990, 214).
As might be expected many recent reform initiatives globally have support scientific literacy for all: “All students, regardless of gender, cultural or ethnic background, physical or learning disabilities, aspiration, or interest and motivation in science, should have the opportunity in science, should have the opportunity to attain higher levels of scientific literacy than they currently do. This is a principle of equity…and has implications for program design and the education system…to ensure that the standards do not exacerbate the differences…that currently exist” (NRC 1996, 6-7). “When demographic realities, national needs, and democratic values are taken into account, it becomes clear that the nation can no longer ignore the science education of any students. Race, language, sex, or economic circumstances must no longer be permitted to be factors in determining who does and who does not receive a good education in science, mathematics and technology” (AAAS 1990, 214).
The science for all reform effort has been hailed by contemporary science education researchers as critical to the education of women and minorities (Anderson 1991; Rosebery 1994). The reform stresses the importance of making the rules, structures, content, and discursive practices of science explicit and accessible to all students with the direct goal of creating a scientifically literate citizenry. In this framework, to be scientifically literate means that one is able to “grasp the interrelationships between science, mathematics and technology, to make sense of how the natural and designed worlds work, to think critically and independently, to recognize and weigh alternative explanations of events and design trade-offs, and to deal sensibly with problems that involve evidence, numeric patterns, logical arguments, and uncertainties” (AAAS 1993, xi). In one sense this reform effort mirrors the egalitarian tradition in American democracy by claiming that all citizens have the right as well as the responsibility to be aware of scientific concepts, and this reform should enable a progressive vision of democracy, a vision in which all voices count. It differs from traditional versions of science teaching, versions based more on finding and educating future scientists.
However, we argue that although such a vision of science for all might be important, it operates on three assumptions which should be addressed if a science for all is to be truly constructed.
First, “Project 2061” (AAAS 1993) draws strength from a belief that schools are meritocratic in nature. Schools have played a historical and social role in reproducing race/ethnicity, class, and gender inequalities in part through disciplinary studies and pedagogy (Anyon 1984; Harding 1991; Reyes and Valencia 1993). Documents like “Project 2061” perpetuate the illusion that if all children learn science, all children will be equal.
Second, the reform maintains a deficit model of minority knowledge: minorities are lacking in important knowledge. By favoring only white, male, middle-class cultural values, it implies that minorities and women are inferior (Apple 1992).
Third, it assumes that students will choose to adopt these values when their own are shown inconsistent and (implicitly) inferior. When students do not, it is assumed that they are at fault not the instruction or the content of instruction (Foley 1991; Apple 1979).
These three assumptions neglect to acknowledge that science and its practices reflect power differentials in our society and that science education is nestled in the politics of assimilation and meritocracy (Barton and Osborne 1995). The politics of the construct of difference is a legitimization of dominant society under such assumptions. Acknowledging these assumptions allows a potential for revisioning both science and school practices. Without acknowledging these assumptions the reforms require minority students to silence their cultural and linguistic heritage and to embrace a way of knowing which has effectively defined minorities and women as socially and intellectually inferior (Davidson 1994). The US science education reform initiative, “Project 2061,” states that "teachers should . . . make it clear to female and minority students that they are expected to study the same subjects at the same level as everyone else and to perform as well" (AAAS 1989, 151). This message implies that minority students and females need to work and act like their white male counterparts not that either science or instruction will be modified to accommodate them. Although it can be argued that this is a call for teachers to engage all students, not just the white middle-class males, in the academic rigors of science, it can also be read as a call for teachers to encourage, if not require, acculturation. In the very effort to create inclusive science education communities, policy, practice, and curriculum become connected in the politics of assimilation with schools and teachers as agents (Calabrese and Barton 1995).
It seems to both of us that we need to ask an extremely important question: Who are we thinking about when we dream of a science for all? What is a science for all like? Wouldn’t a science for all look different from the education we are now trying to enact? We are suspicious that many people see a science for all as involving an all that becomes increasing homogeneous. "All" is not a word that carries heterogeneity. It suggests, instead, likeness and similarity. The children who are “different” slowly becoming more like all of us (whoever we are). We would like to pose an argument that answers to such questions do not involve thinking of ways to enable marginalized students—or any students—to engage in present educational forms. Rather, an education for marginalized children involves rethinking foundational assumptions about the nature of the disciplines, the purposes of education, and our roles as teachers. It does not mean remaking those children into our own images. It involves remaking schooling and science in their often multiple images.
In our society the question of what to do with difference in our classrooms has been a perennial one. As teachers we know that every child is different, behaviorally and in background, interests, and ability. Sometimes we celebrate that difference but other times that difference is an impediment—it gets in the way of our teaching (Ball 1993; Lensmire 1994; Osborne 1997). A central question in teaching, extending from our worrying generically about how to get through another day to our pondering how are we going to teach particular science concepts, is, What do we do about difference? Such a question should be similarly important when envisioning the construction of a science for all.
<1>Critical Science Education
Reform initiatives in science education in the 1980s and 1990s have squarely positioned science as a social process and cultural practice with particular ways of knowing and doing science (AAAS 1993; NRC 1996). In the last decade there have been numerous research articles which draw from theoretical traditions (critical, feminist, multicultural, and poststructural theories), as well as from these reform initiatives, to challenge the positivistic foundation of science and school science as a basis for understanding issues of access, equality, and excellence in science and science education. Although each theoretical tradition uses a different analytic lens (i.e., critical theory: class; feminist theory: gender), all of these traditions raise fundamental questions of power, knowledge, and production in science and schools. The driving goal of these efforts has been to construct images of a more inclusive science education, whether exclusivity is defined in terms of race, class, gender, or other marginalizing labels or identities.
Drawing, in a comprehensive fashion, from these “critical” traditions in science education, we have attempted to cull together the common threads. Namely, critical science educators have pushed the debate surrounding inclusive science education forward in terms of how we understand the nature of science and knowing in science, the relationship between science, schooling, and society, and the implications these belief structures have for how we view school science. The questions emerging from this debate are, for example, What implications does a critical perspective have for teaching an inclusive science across issues of diversity? What lessons can we draw from such a perspective as we seek to strengthen the impact of performance assessment on equity in science education? In what follows we begin to answer these questions by examining these three domains from the perspectives of critical science education. We then use the insights gained from these perspectives to specifically address equity and diversity in assessment and describe our own attempts to imagine a performance assessment that is both a means for understanding the enactment of critical science education as well as a method for rethinking the nature of performance assessment in science.
<2>The Nature of Science and Knowing Science
Critical science education draws from the feminist and multicultural belief that science is a subjective but rigorous and reflexive approach to making sense of (and building stories about) the world. Critical science education views scientific knowledge as constructed through social acts where individuals interact in distinctive ways with society and culture to create something for some purpose (Gill and Levidow 1989). In other words, the production of scientific knowledge is linked to the social uses of and needs for scientific knowledge (Harding 1998; Young 1989). Critical science education, therefore, reasons that the knowing and doing of science are historically, socially, and politically situated processes. What scientists know and how they have come to know it are artifacts of the context in which scientists work.
For example, in evolutionary studies, a great deal of attention has been placed on interactional behavior in its relation to the development of human anatomy (Harding 1986; Hubbard 1990; Longino 1989, 1990). It has been studied in great detail as a potential argument for biologically determined sex roles (Harding 1986). The studies, according to Harding "show a high tendency to project onto ape nature and social relations both racist and sexist projects of the observer's own society” (1986, 96). They have been used to justify and perpetuate masculine dominance and restriction of women's opportunities (Harding 1986, 83). Thus, Harding asserts, "androcentric assumptions, then, appear in the collection, interpretation, and use of the data" (1986, 96). She argues that even though this is a blatant example of value-filled science, there are many more subtle ones that probably never get picked up on because of the deeply embedded value system in our daily lives.
In order to eliminate androcentric science, Harding (1986, 1991) contends that the discovery of gender, its individual, structural, and symbolic consequences that account for woman's oppression, provides a lens through which scientists can and must view the world. A woman's experience is as equally valid a resource as a man's: Scientific inquiry must also begin with questions that originate in women's experiences. Furthermore, women's perspectives on their own experiences provide important empirical and theoretical resources for research. “They generate research problems and the hypothesis and problems that guide research. They also serve as a resource for the designing of research projects, the collection and interpretation of data, and the construction of evidence" (Harding 1989, 28). Until gender is recognized, science will remain gender exclusive.
From another perspective, Steven Lubar (1987) has described how a range of cultural values and technical ideas can be embedded in a single machine. Using the case of John Howe, who designed an automated pin-making machine in the 1830s, Lubar revealed how common mechanical movements, the social structure of the pin society, the skills of the machines’ builders, and prevailing design practices gave Howe’s machine a distinct style.
Haraway’s (1997) studies of genetics and cyber technologies also demonstrate how science is an ongoing interaction among “core narratives” shaped by political, economic, and cultural contexts that reflexively guide observations, theory building, and applications. For example, Haraway describes her (fictional) historical, moral, physical, and intellectual relationship with the first genetically engineered, patented organism (Onco-mouse) as well as with other equally provocative (yet often under-politicized) domains of society such as scientist-activists, schoolteachers, and vampires. In describing these relationships she concludes that all knowledge is situated, partial, and context dependent and that the only way to move towards a more holistic and difference-making knowledge base is to generate multiple understandings from different contexts. These differing contexts must include those from within and without the scientific community, including such individuals and groups as medical patients, the homeless, teachers, artists, and construction workers, to name a few. The intersections of these understandings (and contexts) will help to provide new and different ways for making sense about and acting in the world.
As the Haraway example suggests, scientific agendas are informed by a community greater than just scientists, and such a vision neglects the day-to-day practice, struggles, and meaning-making of scientists and the situationally contingent understandings and agreements that scientists construct. For example, as a direct result of AIDS community activists learning the science and scientific discourse around HIV/AIDS and then communicating their own needs to those bodies in the language of science, government agencies such as the National Institute of Health have revised their guidelines for clinical trials, double blind trials, and control groups. Additionally, doctors and researchers have revised their research plans not only to take into account the needs expressed by those with AIDS, but also to refine their methodologies to deal more compassionately and humanely with AIDS sufferers. Thus, scientific research is influenced by the overall research context, the specific research situation, and the situated ways in which scientists act, think, and work converge with the descriptions of ordinary people (Lave 1988; Roth and McGinn 1999).
One outgrowth of this perspective regarding the nature of science and knowing science is that scientific knowledge is viewed as tentative and imbued with the values of the individual and the culture in which it was generated. This does not make scientific knowledge any less useful according to a critical science perspective. Rather it simply helps to state more explicitly its limitations. Another outgrowth of this perspective is that one can never know or do science separate from his or her own history (individual and societal). Although we can try to understand our own history and how it might influence how we come to know the world, these two can never be fully separated. Such a perspective about knowing and doing in science is in contrast to the historically accepted vision of science as an objective enterprise.
<2>Intersections between Science and Society
In addition to understanding and questioning the nature of science and scientific knowledge, a critical science education perspective suggests that it is important to make visible how science is situated within larger social values and global ecosystems. Scientists' aim, since the seventeenth century, has been the control and the domination of nature (Keller 1985). This authoritative and controlling stance has helped catapult science into the category of “invincible.” Keller (1985) equates this power picture with paranoia and goes on to suggest that the need to have “the only interpretation” is equivalent to the need to measure one's own strength against another's submission, or a dream of the dominion of science over nature. Feminist and multicultural scholars, such as Keller, suggest that science should not be an exercise of domination, but rather one of equity (Gill and Levidow 1989).
In addition to taking part in the societal power pyramid, traditional science has its own internal power pyramid based on competition, capital, and control. Longino (1989) suggests that science labs are typically structured hierarchically and that scientists relate to one another through competition. These two features of traditional science—the hierarchical organization of scientific knowledge and scientists within society and within the discipline, and competition—are not necessarily a feature of science, but rather features of Western society to which Western society has grown accustomed (Harding 1998).
Finally, science and science education are situated within their representations of the natural world and their set ways for regulating meaning. This situatedness is central to understanding how dynamics of power and privilege structure the daily life of society. Scientific concepts emerge from dealing with societal problems/real life and the needs of the local community, needs which are seen as fundamental to the creation and production of science. Viewed from another angle, this can also be read as science as a social practice with social responsibilities (Epstein 1997). That is, critical science underscores the stance that science and scientists do not have control over nature, rather they have an ethical responsibility for the knowledge it produces about the world. For example, Cynthia Cohen (1996) describes how the development of reproductive technologies in the United States, and in particular the process for egg donation, is inseparable from the needs of the mother, the donor, and the doctor, as well as the ethical and moral implications in a technologically advanced and socially conservative society.
A detailed look at writings around scientific invention helps to make this case about science and society. Traditional biographies of inventors have drawn primarily on a modernist rendering of invention, where “to invent” is defined as “to discover that we know not, and not to recover or resummon that which we already know” (Bacon 1963, 268-269). A modernist discourse of invention makes certain claims about ownership. Inventions are often described through patents and trademarks. When an individual applies for a patent, or to claim intellectual rights or ownership for an idea discovered, he or she must textually document that their invention satisfies the following three criteria: Is it new; i.e., has anyone else already discovered or created this or something extremely similar? Is it useful? Is it unobvious? (Casey 1997). Patented inventions are then required to be named or labeled, thereby signifying that there is some fixed meaning to the invention and that the inventor has some sort of control over it (Keller 1985). In fact, trademarks developed so that individual inventors did not have to reveal the “secret knowledge” behind their invention. The recipe for Coca Cola is an example of one of the most famous trademarked “secret inventions.”
However, Gorman and Carlson (1990) and Bijker (1987) in science and technology studies, Foucault (1975) in postmodern literary critique, and Haraway (1997) and Krikup and Keller (1992) in feminist theory have all critiqued the traditional rendering of inventions. They argue that the modernist analysis of invention makes it hard to understand the inventive act because these technological and biographical accounts have relegated invention “to the realm of mysterious genius” where invention can only be described but never explained (Gorman and Carlson 1990, 132). Relegating invention to the realm of mysterious genius masterfully conceals invention as social act. Furthermore, describing invention solely within the realm of technology, rather than within the continuous and shifting terrain of science/technology, shrouds the connections between the unstable, socially contextualized, and recursive process of invention and invention as embodied agency.
Science/technology and inventive acts are inscribed by individuals interacting dialectically with socioculture in a distinctive way to generate something (Foucault 1975; Haraway 1997; LeFevre 1987). Even when the agent is a single individual, invention is still a social act because the self is socially influenced (Weber 1949). Human agents always act dialectically—in the contexts of their interconnections with others and with the socioculture (Buber 1970; Geertz 1973).
Invention as a social act raises questions about the nature of ownership. For example, in writing about literary invention, Foucault (1975) argues that the concept of author as one who authorizes or invents a text is of relatively recent origin; that there was a time when poems, narratives, and plays were composed and circulated without the question of authorship ever being raised (D’Angelo 1987). This raises the questions, What is an author? And, can text be invented? According to Foucault, although people author or invent the narrative or the poem, they do so through the sociocultural framework: “One comes to the conclusion that the author’s name does not refer to a real person but that it exceeds the limit of the texts, that it organizes them, that it reveals their mode of being, or at least characterizes them. Though it clearly points to the existence of certain texts, it also refers to their status within a society and within a culture. . . The function of an author is thus characteristic of the mode of existence, circulation, and operation of certain discourses within society” (cited in D’Angelo 1987, x). Foucault is suggesting that the question of ownership in invention ought to be considered unbounded and unstable because ideas are developed and enacted through a broad sociocultural network. Feminist scientist Keller supports this point; she argues that to understand science, one must focus on “the personal, emotional, and sexual dimensions of the construction and acceptance of claims” (1995, 9). Similarly, Longino (1990) argues for science as social knowledge because it embodies context-laden process.
<2>Science as a School Subject
Currently, the means being used by the AAAS and the NRC to promote scientific literacy for all Americans “[specify] what facts, concepts, and forms of inquiry should be learned and how they should be taught and evaluated” (Eisenhart, Finkel, and Marion 1996, 266). In fact, there is widespread agreement, among feminist, critical, and multicultural science educators, that students need to have access to the domain of Western science, even if it has little relevance to the lives of students most on the margins of school science (Atwater 1996). However, such access must occur in ways that are culturally relevant to students. For example, in traditional science classrooms, contradictions often exist between the unproblematic way in which science is presented and the ways in which students’ gendered, raced, and classed values are a part of their own construction of science (Atwater 1996; Barton 1998; Brickhouse 1994; Lee and Fradd 1998; Rodriquez 1998). These contradictions, because they are often unarticulated and unrecognized, teach students that if standard ways for engaging in science do not make sense, feel right, or connect to their experiences, then they are the ones who are wrong or intellectually deficient. Students are expected to make sense of the world in prescribed ways; they learn to impose boundaries, constraints, and definitions on themselves, others, and the world. In short, they learn that a lack of diversity in the ideas and ways of knowing is what is acceptable in science.
Critical school science researchers also argue that the culture of minority students often conflicts with the philosophy supporting US reform proposals or the culture of schools (Brickhouse 1994). According to Atwater (1996), the relationship between science and the children from diverse cultures and languages is problematic because school science typically reflects middle-class experiences and excludes the lives of students most on the margins of school science. This last point has been developed in rich detail by the work of Lee and Fradd (1998), who have demonstrated the importance for teachers to build instructional congruence between the languages and cultural experiences of second-language learners and those central to success in science. In short, maintaining what scientists do without considering whom one must be to do science and what school science often includes/excludes does not create spaces where multiple perspectives in knowing and showing in science can emerge.
Thus, it is not enough to teach students rules for participation in science if those rules do not connect to, and perhaps even conflict with, the students’ out-of-school lives (Ladson-Billings 1994; Rosebery, Warren and Conant 1992; Rosser 1990). Critical science education supports pedagogical strategies that build with the ways of knowing brought to school by students, ways such as caring, cooperation, and holistic approaches, even when those ways of knowing are not obviously part of science (Barton and Osborne 2000; Roychoudhury, Tippins and Nichols 1995). Also supported are strategies who seek to incorporate communication processes reflective of the lives and cultures of students which may be present in the classroom, processes such as oral narratives and storytelling (Atwater 1996).
Furthermore, Atwater (1996) argues that science educators need to use—and help their students to use—a critical lens to question how scientific knowledge is learned and produced, and the ways in which classroom practice links (or does not link) science education to self and social empowerment. Most critical science educators agree that science and its uses in society ought to be critiqued and challenged, although the level of critique is contested within feminist, critical, and multicultural science education circles. Some argue that it is the teaching methods and the applications of science that ought to be challenged—not necessarily the underlying scientific concepts and principles (Lee and Fradd 1998), whereas others argue that the underlying science needs to be challenged as well (Gill and Levidow 1989; Helms 1998). From this latter critical science perspective, teaching and learning positions students in an articulated relationship where both science and students can change; it is a two-way relationship. Students should be users and producers of science and should develop the understandings and habits of mind that they need to become compassionate and informed human beings (Eisenhart, Finkel and Marion 1996; Rodriguez 1998). By engaging students in activities that connect science to society and community in authentic, useful and needed ways, scientific literacy can be more relevant and less exclusive than it is under the current reform agenda (Eisenhart, Finkel and Marion 1996).
Finally, critical science education rejects the idea that science teachers are simply transmitters of existing configurations of scientific knowledge. Teaching science cannot be reduced to the acquisition or mastery of skills or techniques but must be defined within a discourse of human agency. The teaching of science occurs within the larger contexts of culture, community, power, and knowledge. Science teaching therefore must respond to the political and ethical consequences that science has in the world, and must be as equally infused with analysis and critique as it is with production, refusing to hide behind modernist claims of objectivity and universal knowledge. Teachers help to construct the dynamics of social power through the experiences they organize and provoke in classrooms.
<1> Critical Science: Responsive Science Teaching in a Political Context
As educators, we often pretend that power relationships do not exist in school settings. From US policies like desegregation to classroom-based activities like group work, we are asked to create the illusion that power relationships are absent or at least negotiable. The story presented at the beginning of the chapter about Cynthia and Jessica reminds us that all children are not equal partners in the process of schooling and that they do not stand at equal levels to construct knowledge in classroom settings.
In the context of science education, assuming equal levels could be devastating as we attempt to infuse our teaching practices with the notion that all knowledge is constructed socially. The question of knowledge construction is not just an epistemological position, it needs to involve serious reflection about identity and experience within the realm of science education as balanced against an individual child's purposes, both within science and the larger culture.
To uncritically accept the knowledge base of science is to perpetuate relationships of power and domination (Barton 1997; Barton and Osborne 1995). Current reform initiatives—even those aimed at enabling students to negotiate their way into the culture of science—if not concerned with helping students critically examine science, may contribute to students choosing to remain outsiders to science and to the culture of science by posing either/or choices about ways of knowing and, hence, identity. Despite the doors that a social constructivist position on subject matter opens (Atwater 1996; Eisenhart, Finkel, and Marion 1996), the otherness created by alternative cultural ways of knowing remains unexplored in traditional pedagogy (Barton 1997; Brickhouse 1994; Stanley and Brickhouse 1995). The borders of science that need to be traversed in school settings require that students who have been marginal to dominant cultures take a step towards involvement. This involves acknowledging the unequal power relations of "knowledge" and "authority" in science (Gore 1993; Foucault 1980) and requires that they willingly examine other culturally defined identities and ways of knowing, but it does not mean that they do so uncritically (Barton and Osborne 1995).
As the stories which will unfold in this book indicate, science education ought to be about more than passing on the disciplinary knowledge of science. Science with children is an incredibly complex social site marked by multiple interacting layers of power arrangements and social and institutional forces which shape and define the boundaries of what is possible. This suggests just how much science education is about issues of power and relationships on a personal as well as an institutional level. As Weiler claims, "teaching extends beyond subject matter knowledge; the centrality of teaching lies in a recognition of the values of students' own voices, subjective experiences of power and oppression, and the worth of their class and ethnic cultures" (Weiler 1988, 148). Envisioning science as a social construction locates the learning and doing of science within social relationships on a day-to-day level, not just historically. Allowing these relationships and the questions and concerns they provoke to guide the science creates opportunities for self- and social empowerment (McLaren 1989).
In short, the essence of a critical science as responsive teaching in a political context lies in a desire and ability to value a multiplicity of cultural experiences, values, and expectations, and then to use those experiences, values, and expectations to challenge status quo beliefs and practices. For example, by valuing the life experiences of all children, teachers and students, in the struggle to create a more inclusive and critical science, can begin to stand up to the institutions of science and education by creating spaces from which to make explicit and problematic cultural biases in the teaching and learning of science (Barton 1998). Children do not engage in science in ways devoid of culture. All bring their histories, values, beliefs, and emotional, social selves to science. As teachers we cannot, deny this or ignore it. In classrooms, our acts and theirs effectively rewrite science. Understanding science as constructed through discourse, as a set of knowledges, that can act as an expression of identity, provides us with the means to reconstruct science and science education so that girls and minorities can find a place or create a new place for themselves within it. Such goals, however, are in conflict with the constraints and demands of an entrenched, established discipline and become the terrain in which science becomes remade. The children’s engagement in our science takes on the form of destabilizing activities, challenging and breaking/remaking the grand narrative of science. This makes it into a science for all, or at least a closer approximation.
In The Post-modern Condition, Jean-François Lyotard suggests two contradictory societal roles for knowledge, roles which in turn support conflicting models of social structuring:
One can decide that the principle role of knowledge is as an indispensable element in the functioning of society, and can act in accordance with that decision, only if one has already decided that society is a great machine. Conversely, one can count on its critical function, and orient its development and distribution in that direction, only after it has been decided that society does not form an integrated whole, but remains haunted by a principle of opposition. (Lyotard 1984)
Such views presuppose a functional rather than passive role of knowledge in society—either actively contributing towards its homogeneity and continuity or playing a fundamental role in its fragmentation and reconstruction. These ideas of knowledge also suggest an active role for knowledge in the creation of power differentials in society, although the outcomes for such differences in each model are radically different.
Working with girls, minorities, and children in poverty is not easy in general, and trying to construct science with these children, science that connects with their lives and empowers them in a liberating manner, has compound difficulties. These children's lives and needs are complex. The manner in which the children in this book explore science allows spaces to fit science into this entanglement rather than keeping it unconnected and separated as so much traditional schooling and science would do. Race, class, and gender, however, are not only dimensions of our social structure dimensions that reflect forms of power and privilege, they are also ways to think about our social processes and the way we live our lives. We argue that relationships are not always smooth or of an actors’ choosing; they are constructed in contexts where actors have certain access to power and resources depending not only upon their relationships in the educational structure, but also upon their location and identity in the larger society. As we attempt to consider the multiple layers that emerge and are formed in educational settings, this focus becomes important for understanding the complex problems and issues that emerge in connection with pedagogy and curriculum in classrooms.
The destabilizing acts of the children in the stories to follow in this book remind us of our questions about science, pedagogy, and curriculum; they return us to our question of what to do about difference? For example, How is difference constructed and why does difference matter? When we ask those questions we would like to examine a more foundational one: Where do things that are mainstream, norms, come from? When we ask that question, we are looking at both our expectations about "normal" behavior and our beliefs about what is mainstream knowledge in a particular discipline. Why should we take it for granted that a child should learn particular concepts in science or that he or she should even want to? We need to ask those questions if we want to make claims about constructing a science for all.
In looking at the stories to come, pedagogically, in the construction of science curriculum and in our relationships with children, we want to recognize that these are linked and that all must be altered before the marginalized can engage in science. Indeed, our concepts of the role of disciplinary knowledge in society must alter to incorporate change, evolutionary and revolutionary. Underlying our discussion of approaches to dealing with diversity is a questioning of what those courses of action imply about attitudes towards difference. Do they imply that difference is something to be fixed, changed, or that difference should be worked within and maybe finally respected or even advocated? Don't they suggest that difference is fundamentally at the root of the democratic processes of our society?
The stories in this book cause us to think about what doing something about diversity means to us and to society. Doesn't respecting diversity (rather than trying to fix it for instance) imply that our assumptions about the norms of society will change? Doesn't this imply that our ideas about subject matter and assumptions about good behavior, homelife, interests and goals will evolve and enlarge?
We suggest in answer to such concerns a rethinking of science the discipline in trying to construct a "science for all." We echo the classic writing of Peggy McIntosh (1983) in saying that we can't describe what such a new science might be. As our stories suggest it must be emergent through the acts of its creation: “The postmodern would be that which, in the modern, puts forward the unpresentable in presentation itself; that which denies itself the solace of good forms, the consensus of a taste which would make it possible to share nostalgia for the unattainable; that which searches for new presentations, not in order to enjoy them but in order to impart a stronger sense of the unpresentable” (Lyotard 1984, 81).
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