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Showing posts from December, 2018

Do Not Use the Word "Trash": A Lesson On Water Pollution

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Last night, I happened to browse through my son's study guide in his seventh grade class on Investigations in Environmental Science. The topic was eutrophication and the guide was asking my son to describe in his own words water pollution. The guide specifically stated not to use the word "trash". "Trash" does seem a general word and perhaps, it is time for my son to use specific terms. Not using "trash" may also help my son appreciate the fact that water pollutants responsible for eutrophication are often invisible to the naked eye. Water pollutants in the form of floating objects are of course easy to spot, but invisible ones, like nutrients from fertilizers, may easily be the factor that turns a living lake into a dead one. Years ago, in the town where my mother was born, I helped the local administration initiate a wastewater management project. The project faced strong opposition and perhaps, part of the reason was most people in the town had nev…

What Research in Education Badly Needs

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This semester, with great help from my teaching colleagues, General Chemistry is now taught at Georgetown with an overarching narrative, a story that binds and embraces all the topics covered. Chemistry is all about atoms - this is how we explain matter and all of its properties. Thus, even with a myriad of research publications showing up every year from chemists, some of which may end up gathering dust in libraries or go unbrowsed on the internet, these papers can still serve as foundations for future work for these not only contain descriptive observations and stand-alone guesses, but have gone through the test of either fitting in an established theory, or refining or even changing an existing one based on evidence. Myths have a much smaller chance of survival in the field of chemistry now since both the past and future are considered, and fads are then easily identified for these are simply not sustainable. A chemist cannot really cling on an idea just because it sounds appealing…

Excellence Gap versus Excellence Shortage

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Lack of equity is a problem different from lack of excellence. The National Association of Gifted Children in its position statement on excellence gaps declares, "Closing excellence gaps is both a social-­equity issue and a workforce development issue that carries national competitiveness and security implications." There is nothing inherently wrong in this statement. However, it detracts us from the central issue of equity. The workforce development issue is in fact less clear since it is really difficult to gauge whether the United States is lacking in talent or not. Excellence shortage is a matter of opinion. Lack of equity, on the other hand, is based on evidence.

The graph below provided by an article published in Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning shows vividly the excellence gap.


These are the percentages of students by race and year that have received a GPA of 3.0 or better at the University of Virginia. While at least eighty percent of Asian and White Americans…