Decline in Physical Science Education

In recent decades, American schoolchildren have been falling further and further behind other countries in terms of math and science.  In an article published in Advances in Geosciences in 2005, R. A. Pertzborn details various possible reasons for this trend, as well as proposes some possible solutions.  In his study, Pertzborn notes the impending workforce crisis stemming from the fact that there is “increased demand for scientific and technically literate workers, while fewer of the nation’s students are pursuing degrees in these academic areas” (Pertzborn, pg 1).  The rest of the article briefly summarizes some of the past solutions (and their unintended consequences) that have been put into place in an attempt to close the math and science achievement gap between the United States and other nations. 

One issue that Pertzborn examines is the fact that each year there is a steady decline of foreign students coming to study math and science at universities in the United States.   Possible reasons for this include the increasingly strict immigration laws that have been implemented post 9/11 as well as the fact that many countries are catching up to America and becoming able to provide their youth with the same opportunities that they would have access to in the United States (Pertzborn, pg 2)  This is a problem, because many foreign students who attend college in America end up staying in America to work instead of returning to their homelands, and now that students are becoming more and more likely to stay in their native countries for school the workforces of other countries will become stringer while America may begin to fall behind.

Another topic discussed by the author is the problem of teachers not being able to successfully foster an interest in math and science within their students.  Pertzborn explains that some reasons for this are teachers not being adequately equipped to teach certain subjects (especially physical sciences) and also the common misperception among students that “science is hard.”  Pertzborn also brings up the gender gap in math and sciences, citing a deficiency in female role models as a possible reason for this. 

By examining the possible causes of the decline of students graduating with degrees in math and science, Pertzborn is able to use his study to call the attention to the possible avenues of change that need to be affected in the United States if we wish to rectify this problem.  Overall this seems to be a good source to use for the examination of the lag in math and science education recently observed in the United States.  A limitation of this article is that its main focus is on the observed insufficiency of physical science education, but this trend is one that carries over into other fields of science and mathematics, so this limitation is not a debilitating one and this article can still be used to further the overall point of the final paper.


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