School of Education faculty member John Rudolph recently appeared on Wisconsin Public Radio’s “The Morning Show” to discuss his new book that explores how science is taught in America — and why he believes that approach needs to change.
In his book, “Why We Teach Science (and Why We Should),” Rudolph argues decades of misconceptions have fueled the idea that science education spurs economic growth and builds crucial everyday reasoning and problem-solving skills. After debunking these myths, he contends the American science curriculum needs to shift away from its current focus on content memorization toward a new aim of building students’ understanding of what science is, how it works, and why it’s smart to trust scientific experts.
Rudolph is a Vilas Distinguished Achievement professor in the School of Education’s Department of Curriculum and Instruction.
In the 45-minute WPR interview, which included conversations with callers, Rudolph explained that science education should be reframed to focus on what he called “a richer understanding of how science has shaped the world.”
“That’s something the public really needs to understand,” he said.
Rudolph argued that a curriculum focused on fact memorization often doesn’t engage or interest students in science — or serve them later in life.
“These facts that we teach really don’t matter that much for people’s daily lives,” Rudolph said. “It made me rethink: What is the purpose of teaching science?”
Rudolph also appeared on WMTV in Madison this spring to discuss the book, as well as in a New Books Network podcast episode over the summer. He also gave the opening presidential keynote address at the annual meeting of the National Association for Research in Science Teaching in July and a keynote address to the Science Education for New Civic Engagements and Responsibilities summer institute in August.