On Forgetting that Politics is Weird in Other Parts of the World Too

So this popped up in my news feed on Facebook.  My first reaction was just “What.”  My second reaction is still on-going.  It’s not like Mr. Gumelar is saying Indonesians should ban science from schools; he’s just saying it doesn’t really fit into an elementary school curriculum.  I’m not sure I entirely understand what he thinks should be taught in elementary school (aren’t children going to learn culture and religion from their parents?), but it’s not the weirdest argument to make.  I think the reason I’m confused is because I’m missing context.  The article claims Gumelar is advocating a return to the model of education during Dutch rule over Indonesia which taught only “basic education”, which is never defined.  I am a bit amused that he is worried over the current education system being too Western-valued, but evidently does want the system imposed during colonialism.  (I know nothing of Dutch treatment of Indonesia or the historiography of it, so maybe it’s not as bad as my go-to idea of imperialism would suggest, but still, this seems surprising).  But I agree with the education observer quoted at the end of the article:  it still seems important to expose children to basic science concepts.

2 thoughts on “On Forgetting that Politics is Weird in Other Parts of the World Too

  1. I’m honestly not sure how I feel about this. As I recall, we had barely any science education in my elementary school and I recall being frustrated that I didn’t understand what we were doing. My preferred solution to that particular conundrum is to force the incorporation of science into math and social studies into language arts. After all, reading is reading and graphing is graphing. And, to be totally honest, that’s all they’re doing at that age.

    • Yeah, I definitely agree with not knowing what elementary (or even middle school) science education is supposed to achieve in its current form. I remember learning a bit about states of matter in second grade, and some Earth science in 4th and 5th grade, and we also talked a bit about evolution. But then we also relearned all of it in middle school, because so many years passed before we touched these concepts again. But I’ll admit the elementary school stuff sparked an interest (my parents would routinely have to chastise me during homework because I would end up reading other chapters of my textbook instead of focusing on the assigned problems). And I’m not sure you can entirely reduce science to math for elementary schoolers. At that age, I honestly think you should stress the whole observational/experimental aspect of science. I remember making fossils when we learned about dinosaurs and doing some experiment that was meant to model natural selection.

      Honestly, middle school struck me as the worst, but maybe that’s a quirk of Kentucky’s middle school science standards or my middle school being… disorganized. 6th grade was decent, I think it was just a biology focused class. I don’t remember that many specifics, but we talked about cells at the beginning of the year and ecology at some point. 7th was a nightmare, but I realize that was a combination of an incompetent teacher and the teacher also being gone most of the year for medical reasons. But even then, our course made no sense. From what I remember, we went over Earth science (I vaguely remember talking about weather systems at one point, in addition to plate tectonics, but maybe I’m making that up) in the fall, had a really random short unit on chemistry in January and February (like really random, I remember doing an experiment on electroplating without even talking about solutions… or electricity), and then in April and May we had a unit on evolution? I have no idea what any of that was supposed to achieve. And 8th grade science was literally just a health class. We talked about drugs and sex ed a bit. And it wasn’t anything we didn’t cover in the mandatory high school health class.

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