ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Why are science teachers prevented from teaching? - a letter from Leigh van Valen

Updated on November 1, 2009

To answer this question, Leigh Van Valen (the famous American evolutionary biologist who proposed the Law of Extinction, the Red Queen Hypothesis, and the Ecological Species Concept) once wrote a letter to the Chicago Tribune a few years back. Unfortunately, his letter was never published. He recently posted the contents of his letter over the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology mailing list and I felt like his message was so on point for answering this question, that it had to be shared. Leigh Van Valen has this to say on the matter of why science teachers are prevented from teaching-

One of the things that is important in the modern world is a suitable background in science and mathematics. Many of us need it in our work, in one way or another. We all need it to see the kinds of distortions produced by advertisers and other self-serving advocates. We all need it in order to make sense of the changing world around us. And we all need it to help keep what remains of our natural environment.

We aren’t doing very well. Every year or so a study comes out that finds American children doing worse than those of many other countries. Partly this is due to our less challenging curricula. which are encouraged by the dumbing-down effect of the otherwise valuable No Child Left Behind. Partly, though, it is from a shortage of good teachers.

Good teachers present their subject in an interesting way. But good teachers also know a lot more about what they teach than the textbook provides. Many teachers don’t. In addition, there is the problem of not having kept up with the progress of knowledge since one’s own education perhaps decades ago. This problem is obviously more severe for the sciences than for literature.

There are, nevertheless, real scientists who, for one reason or another, are willing to teach in high schools. They are usually rebuffed. This happens because the certification process is rigged so that having gone through the puffery of a school of education is regarded as more important than a deep knowledge of what one will teach.

Here’s an actual example, someone who has a Ph.D. in a real science from one of the best universities in the country. She has even written a textbook and published her own scientific research. She is now a regular substitute teacher in the Chicago Public Schools, where she sometimes takes over the classes of a departed science teacher for months on end.

For this she receives only a substitute’s pay, and she is removed when the system manages to find a “qualified” teacher, i.e. an officially certified one, despite local recognition of her superb performance. Her actual performance and knowledge mean nothing.

Such bureaucratic stupidity is official policy, a policy that hurts our children. And we wonder why our schools are falling short!

If you agree or disagree, feel free to start a conversation about this in the comments or write a counter-hub! I think Van Valen's comments are not far from the mark at all.




    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)