The Recommendations Reflect a Broad Definition of Science Literacy

Science literacy--which encompasses mathematics and technology as well as the natural and social sciences--has many facets. These include being familiar with the natural world and respecting its unity; being aware of some of the important ways in which mathematics, technology, and the sciences depend upon one another; understanding some of the key concepts and principles of science; having a capacity for scientific ways of thinking; knowing that science, mathematics, and technology are human enterprises, and knowing what that implies about their strengths and limitations; and being able to use scientific knowledge and ways of thinking for personal and social purposes.

Some of these facets of science literacy are addressed only in specific places in the report, whereas others are woven into the text of the chapters. It is essential, therefore, that the recommendations be viewed in their entirety as a multifaceted discussion of science literacy.

The Recommendations in This Report Apply to All Students

The set of recommendations constitutes a common core of learning in science, mathematics, and technology for all young people, regardless of their social circumstances and career aspirations. In particular, the recommendations pertain to those who in the past have largely been bypassed in science and mathematics education: ethnic and language minorities and girls. The recommendations do not include every interesting topic that was suggested and do not derive from diluting the traditional college preparatory curriculum. Nevertheless, the recommendations are deliberately ambitious, for it would be worse to underestimate what students can learn than to expect too much. The national council is convinced that--given clear goals, the right resources, and good teaching throughout 13 years of school--essentially all students (operationally meaning 90 percent or more) will be able to reach all of the recommended learning goals (meaning at least 90 percent) by the time they graduate from high school.

At the same time, however, no student should be limited to the common core of learning spelled out in this report. In response to special interests and skills, some students will want to gain a more sophisticated understanding of the topics than what is suggested here, and some will want to pursue topics not included here at all. A well-designed curriculum will be able to serve those special needs without sacrificing a commitment to a common core of learning in science, mathematics, and technology.
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