2009 January 29 Thursday
Chinese And American Students Compared In Science Reasoning
Students in China know more scientific facts without gaining a greater ability to do scientific reasoning.
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A study of college freshmen in the United States and in China found that Chinese students know more science facts than their American counterparts -- but both groups are nearly identical when it comes to their ability to do scientific reasoning.
Neither group is especially skilled at reasoning, however, and the study suggests that educators must go beyond teaching science facts if they hope to boost studentsí reasoning ability.
Yes, educators must go beyond teaching facts. They must embrace genetic engineering. Only genetic engineering can bring about a large increase in reasoning ability. But these researchers do not address innate differences in intellectual ability.
Researchers tested nearly 6,000 students majoring in science and engineering at seven universities -- four in the United States and three in China. Chinese students greatly outperformed American students on factual knowledge of physics -- averaging 90 percent on one test, versus the American studentsí 50 percent, for example.
But in a test of science reasoning, both groups averaged around 75 percent -- not a very high score, especially for students hoping to major in science or engineering.
These results would be more useful if the Chinese and American students were compared with IQ tests. At least in the US there's a huge difference in average student intellectual ability between universities. So these researchers might have been comparing students who differ too much in innate ability to allow useful comparisons.
I have good news,
Although embryo selection is not true genetic engineering I thought you might like to know that a fertility clinic in California is now offering embryo screening for hair and eye color:
Aussie couples sign up for designer baby technology
Australian couples are flocking to a US fertility clinic that allows them to chose not only the sex of their child, but "cosmetic" features such as hair and eye colour.
California-based Dr Jeffrey Steinberg says he has spoken to 14 Australian couples this month, as the latest controversial advances in the field of Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) come online.
"It's an advance of the technology and whenever there's an advance you can see the good side of it and the bad side of it," says Dr Steinberg, of The Fertility Institutes.
"The good side of it is there are children born with albinism, they are unable to make eye pigment, they are vulnerable to ultra-violet light and a good number of them end up blind.
"We started out trying to help these albino children and in the process we're learning how to predict eye colour."
The controversial side, Dr Steinberg agrees, is that parents can now be told the likely hair and eye colour of a future child as they make a decision on which of their fertilised embryos will go to pregnancy.
Dr Steinberg has three clinics across the United States and one in Mexico, which now handle about 800 couples a year.
He says the majority are driven by concerns related to genetic illness, not gender, and this includes the 50 to 60 Australian couples he sees annually.
"I think we've got 14 new patients in January alone from Australia," he says.
"For example, I've just hung up with a patient from Australia who has Familial Hypercholesterolemia, which can be life threatening because they get early heart attacks.
"The father has it and they have two boys and one of the boys has it.
"What they want, number one, is a girl but they also want to make sure that girl does not carry that Hypercholesterolemia gene."
Oh and also this poll on the public's feelings about embryo screening:
Most parents not quite ready to have Ďdesigner babiesíóbut demand exists
Some demand is still demand
Indeed, one way of reading these results is to conclude that most people today are not in favor or ready to screen their offspring for enhanced traits. But thatís not the entire story, nor is it a justification for failing to develop these technologies or denying prospective parents access to them. What these survey results indicate is that there is some demand for these sorts of interventions, just in small doses.
Letís look at the results of this report a bit more closely. The majority of respondents (52.2%) indicated that there were no conditions for which genetic testing should never be offered. What this tells me is that more than half of respondents are receptive to using genetic technologies for assisted reproduction in some form. Thatís significant and telling.
In addition, a minority of respondents indicated that they would like to use genetic testing for enhancements such as athletic ability (10%) or superior intelligence (12.6%). While these figures may seem small, they seem less so when considering the entire population. In a country like the United States, where there are about 4 million babies born each year, and assuming that these respondents would use these technologies to screen for higher intelligence, that would represent about 400,000 births per year. Thatís more babies born each year than through IVF.
We have to be careful when assessing the results of these kinds of surveys. When it comes to ensuring equal and fair access to medical technologies, itís not like voting for the president. Having control over oneís reproductive processes is a very important thingóeven if 90% of the population has no intention of using it for themselves. Itís important to remain respectful and responsive to any kind of demand for reproductive technologies.
Many people I know from east Asian countries complain to me that the schools over there are much more focused on memorization rather than understanding. Perhaps this is the result of that?