Enacting Social Change: A New Curricular Objective in Science Classrooms
Racism and heterosexism are problems in society today. Science educators can help stop perpetuation of the racism and homophobia that is currently prevalent by bringing their stories to our classrooms. Students need to know how and why prejudices emerged. They need to see the connection between science and society, how taking one arena of unsubstantiated scientific findings can lead to the formation of a concept as volatile and emotion-provoking as race, or how empirical science is often overlooked in explaining sexual diversity by those unable to lose grip on their conservative religious beliefs.
Scientists and science educators are often seen as the holders of and disseminators of pure knowledge. We have the opportunity to use our science knowledge as a negotiating tool for enacting social change. If we carefully teach about topics like race and sexual orientation in a qualitative, objective way, we can help students deal rationally with them. Part of intellectual independence is learning to navigate controversial topics and resolve the conflict and eliminate the ambiguity surrounding them.
I have brought these topics into my biology classroom. I am currently working on a participatory study with my high school biology students. In the Post-Modern spirit of Giroux, I have tried to provide critical and transformative spaces for my students by using teaching strategies such as critical analogies and reflective journaling. I have succeeded in helping my students see the connection between science and society, how empirical science can dispel the myths that are the basis for prejudiced beliefs.
Stacy Howard (United States)
Department of Science Education
University of Georgia, U.S.A.
I am a 3rd Year Doctoral student in Science Education at the University of Georgia, U.S.A. My research interests include incorporating social issues into the biology curriculum, attitudes and interests of females in science, and multicultural approaches in science teaching. I am also a full-time high school biology teacher at a large high school in suburban Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A. Currently I am designing staff developing training for in-service teachers that addresses the topic of sensitivity to topics regarding sexual orientation.
(30 min. Conference Paper, English)