WWW Site for John Lawrence Bencze, Associate
Professor (Emeritus), Science Education, OISE/University of Toronto
& Reform of
Science & Technology Education
Our SocioEconomic Milieu.
Neoliberal S&T Ed.
EcoJust S&T Ed.
|While there is much to celebrate about science and technology (S&T) education, I believe they often are used as 'tools' for enrichment of few individuals (e.g., financiers) and groups (e.g., corporations). As suggested at right, they often - supported by governments - provide capitalists with a few knowledge producers (e.g., engineers) and consumers (e.g., compliant workers & voracious purchasers), often compromising social and ecological wellbeing. S&T education must, therefore, promote social and environmental wellbeing.|
Problems faced by humanity undoubtedly have complex causes. But, among them, scholars have considered that people's value systems often play signficant roles in conflicts and associated harms to individuals, societies and environments. Often, differences in political views are described as contrasts between so-called "Left-Wing" and "Right-Wing" positions. Such a binary view may be simplistic, however, not noting areas of intersection across them.
Although there are many personal, social and environmental harms associated with fields of science and technology, these fields likely are less to blame for harms than powerful capitalist financiers & corporations - particularly in terms of their uses of neoliberal tactics (as at left), which - not unlike The Borg™ - appear to have, with much government support, enmeshed myriad entities into a global network ultimately prioritizing wealth concentration (and here and here), regardless of personal, social and environmental damages. Humanity's harmful effects on societies and environments (re: anthropocene) may be largely due to capitalism (re: capitalocene).
Although scientists and engineers have always required some source of funding to pursue knowledge and technology development, it is apparent that there have been increasing - particularly in the neoliberal period (with much corporate influence) - influences on the nature of their work; and, moreover, much such infuence has led to compromises to investigators' topic choices, methods of data collection and analyses and the extent and nature of dissemination and uses of findings and technologies. It is common, for instance, to prioritize science investigation topics that may lead to findings that would be useful for for-profit technological development. Related to this, testing for possible adverse effects of technologies often is limited for the sake of profit. Several researchers have documented and described such compromises, including by Drs.:
As discussed in books
and articles like those noted above,
capitalist influences on fields of
science and technology often have
led to many harms for individuals,
societies and environments - several
of which are described here.
is, for sure, a gross generalization to
suggest this, but neoliberal influences on
S&T education often appear to focus on
generating societies similar to that
depicted at right - in which a few
knowledge producers (e.g., scientists
& engineers) generate for-profit
products and services that societal
members indicate they would (or are
convinced to) consume (and soon discard).
Such systems generate great wealth for a
few people and groups (e.g., financiers
& corporations) while severely
compromising social justice (e.g.,
stratifying societies) and wellbeing of
living and nonliving environments. Some of
my early writing about this is provided here.
For at least a century, science educators and others have claimed that students should learn science knowledge and skills mainly through 'authentic' science inquiry activities. Although there are many variations on such 'inquiry-based learning' (IBL), most appear to guide (or 'scaffold') students from questions through empirical tests (e.g., experiments) to conclusions supported by scientists. As suggested at left and elaborated here, such guided IBL may be problematic - such as being discriminatory, favouring students from higher social classes. I suggest - summarized here - that learning of science knowledge/skills should largely be application-based.
For at least the last 2 decades, STEM education (e.g., here) schemes have become increasingly prominent. Although precise definitions are lacking, research suggests they prioritize education as depicted at right; that is, selection of potential scientists, largely through guided IBL leading to reductionist (e.g., ignoring capitalist influences) and idealized (e.g., certain & unbiased) knowledge, and engineers who will help capitalists generate for-profit products and services that will mainly enrich few individuals (e.g., financiers) and organizations (e.g., corporations) while impoverishing many or most other people and damaging living and nonliving environments. A recent paper about this is given here.
Science and/or STEM education has/have tended to ignore problematic influences of neoliberal capitalists on fields of science and technology (or 'STEM') as depicted above. Such avoidance seems especially problematic in light of rapid recent emergence of Right-wing Populism (e.g., here). It seems to me that such movements are forms of disaster capitalism - taking advantage of economic disasters (and other 'crises') to, in effect, further impose ultra-capitalist policies and practices, including (as at left) encouraging for-profit science (e.g., dis-couraging climate science) and engineering (e.g., promoting petroleum-based industrial activities).
School science systems (e.g., textbooks, curricula, teachers) have tended to emphasize instruction/evaluation of 'products' (e.g., laws & theories) and skills (e.g., measuring) - largely to recruit potential scientists and engineers, etc. Scholars suggest, however, we need to provide students with a broader conception of literacy (e.g., across Bloom's Taxonomy) - such as that shown at right. With such broad goals, students can learn about problematic capitalist influences and be prepared to act to develop and conduct socio-political actions to address them.
Although educators can construct lessons based on various principles, I have developed the 'STEPWISE' schema - shown below - that implements Hodson's three learning goals, prioritizing research-informed and negotiated socio-political actions by students to address harms they perceive in STSE relationships, often due to problematic capitalist influences on S&T. This schema also aligns well with my research-informed recommendations for science teaching and learning, here.
In recent years, I have written many papers to explain and justify reforms to science and technology education that I believe (based on my 'STEPWISE' scholarship programme) will contribute to social justice and environmental wellbeing (e.g., refer to the video at left and associated paper). Broadly, I believe S&T education need to focus on providing students with critiques of neoliberal power and prepare them to act to address their concerns. To access more of my writing in this regard, refer to my online CV.