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Nanotechnology in high school?

The shortcuts and attractions that high schools in Israel offer today will not give birth to a generation of great scientists.

Schools try to entice their students to study science through attractive courses
Schools try to entice their students to study science through attractive courses

Opinion column
Brand Syringe | Galileo

The low achievements of Israeli students in international science tests such as PISA and TIMSS created, beyond the immediate feeling of discomfort, a general consensus regarding the necessity of reforming science education in Israel.

High school curricula are in a process of accelerated evolution, and many schools try to entice their students to study science through attractive courses such as nanotechnology, brain research or space exploration. At the same time, voices are being heard calling for a reduction in the number of subjects taught in schools, to reduce the burden of the matriculation exams and to focus on "really important" subjects.

The answer to the question "What should be taught in high school science classes?" Of course depends on the answer to a more general question: "What are the goals of secondary education?" Some see the school as a mechanism for identifying, guiding and training tomorrow's scientists and engineers, and some believe that its main goal is to shape the student's personality in an overall way.

From the representatives of the first group there is usually the demand for study programs rich in content and accelerated if possible, while the representatives of the second group will identify more with statements of the type "it is not important what you study, only the process is important". Fundamentally, these two approaches are not necessarily contradictory, although they have been presented here as polar opposites.

The way misses the mark
From the insight that Israel needs a reserve of excellent young scientists, one can seemingly draw the conclusion that modern and "relevant" subjects such as nanotechnology should be taught in high school. The meeting of talented young people with this type of field will perhaps arouse their curiosity, charm and inspire them and in due course influence their choice of academic studies.

Against this perception, it can be argued that in education in general and scientific education in particular, similar to scientific research itself, goals are not always achieved in a direct way. If in the fifties of the last century there had been a competition to invent an automatic reading system for price tags in a supermarket, it is doubtful if anyone would have invented the laser. The situation in science education is somewhat similar to that in scientific research.

If we need experts in nanotechnology, then the way to achieve the goal is not necessarily the existence of courses in this field in high school. After the phase of curiosity and enthusiasm for a new field of knowledge, a phase of disappointment awaits most science students, when they realize that the most exciting scientific discoveries are only the top of a mountain built entirely of hard work.

Science studies in an ideal world
Few of the students interested in black holes or space flights will be willing to study the physics and mathematics necessary to understand them. In this context, it is possible to argue that in-depth study is the business of the universities and not of the high schools, but in my opinion and experience, this perception harms the talented among high school science students and hinders their development.

A student looking for an entrance into a scientific field finds themselves in front of a rather intimidating structure of laws and rules, which are presented to them as fait accompli. In an ideal world, a teacher would allow his students to derive the most important of these laws directly from experience and reason the others appropriately.

The exposure of the logical-conceptual structure of a scientific field gives students an opportunity to overcome the feeling of alienation from the field and internalize it in a primary way through the intellect. Referring to the history of ideas and their birth from a certain cultural environment and pointing out points of contact between the natural sciences and the humanities can help in this process.

At a more advanced stage, the teacher will require the student to conduct a "tool experiment" of the acquired knowledge with the help of a series of problems and challenges, which are formulated in diverse contexts and are not always fully defined. At this stage, the process of intellectual internalization will be joined by a process of more emotional internalization based on a sense of control. Finally, a teacher will support his students on the way to acquiring a maximum degree of independence, when he provides personal and professional guidance from the side.

In the real world, many high school students memorize material for matriculation without real understanding and worse - without aspiration to understand. They learn to solve problems of a certain type and in a certain formulation, and lose their temper when they encounter a problem formulated in an unconventional way. It goes without saying that this intra-school existence (as a closed subculture, within the framework of which and for which the students study) is almost unrelated to the reality of scientific research.

Back to the 17th century
If so, what should be taught in high school science classes? If revealing the logical structure of a field of study is a condition for its optimal understanding by the student, then the modern fields of study will not be able to replace the classical sciences. It seems to me that it is very difficult to understand the functioning of the brain without a good knowledge of physiology and chemistry, and understanding the field of nanotechnology requires significant knowledge of chemistry and physics.

Those who want to be prepared for the scientific and technological challenges of tomorrow would do well to delve further into the physics of the 17th century and the chemistry of the 19th century. Enrichment courses that will rely on significant studies of the basic sciences will be able to give students an opportunity to expand their minds, to apply their knowledge in unconventional contexts and to learn through experience and research.

Under these conditions, almost any initiative will be welcomed and it is recommended that the high schools create educational frameworks of this type, under any name they wish. The cooperation between the universities and between the high schools will be of central importance in this matter. As mentioned, the effect of these courses is not expected to be direct.

It is quite possible that a student who studied space exploration in high school will not touch this field further in his studies. However, a talented student who enjoyed in-depth and enriching science studies in high school, ones that also left room for self-expression, may choose to study science when they get to university.

Brand Sering has been teaching physics, astrophysics, philosophy and ethics of science for twenty years at the Israel High School for Arts and Sciences in Jerusalem. For the past eleven years, he has been the head of the science major at this high school.

22 תגובות

  1. I suggest you go to the bookstore in Israel and ask for one of his books in Hebrew. I recommend "A call to change", "Touching the essence", "On God", "Observation chapters". After reading just one of these books, you will understand more.
    In addition, he has a website on the Internet called jkonline, where there are his videos and audio clips, as well as written material, all in English.
    He also has a school in England in Hampshire and in India.

    I also wanted to respond to David Matach Tikva who wrote above, regarding the ultra-orthodox woman.
    Know that she wanted to upset you and us seculars, as if they, with their faith, are better than us. She doesn't even know, maybe we are happier than her? She simply didn't know the answer and had to hide it, and her reaction was shame that she didn't know the answer, which I didn't either, she didn't know how to deal with a gifted and secular child like you, and it drove her crazy.
    This is about the human's ego, they hurt her ego and it drove her crazy.
    It also hates the person who boasts that he is happier than us, like, who do you think you are? And how do you know how to quantify happiness?

  2. I did not know him.
    Now I read a bit about him on Wikipedia and I got the impression that he is a nice person whose opinions I generally agree with.
    Usually - but not always.
    His "first speech", as mentioned in Wikipedia is (and I am quoting from the translation in the Hebrew Wikipedia):
    "One can arrive at the truth only by observing relationships, by understanding the content of one's own thought, by observation and not by intellectual examination and not by self-examination."
    It seems to me vague at best and wrong at worst.
    In my opinion, intellectual examination and self-examination are mental tools that should not be given up. More than that: what I understand from the phrase "understanding the content of one's own thought" is not possible without them.

  3. jh:
    I am an IDF pensioner who, after his military service, also managed to become a high-tech pensioner.
    I am 57 years old and in the last two years - quite active on this site.
    Part of the motivation for the activity on the site stems from my war in the "terrification of the earth" - a war that seems to me to be of interest to some of the commenters in this discussion as well.

  4. Thank you very much. I really don't know who you are and how old you are and if you write regularly on this site?

  5. jh:
    Regarding the question "Who am I" that arises from your words, there are two answers.
    One - somewhat jokingly - is that I am - as I identify - Michael Rothschild.
    The second - which may be more related to your intention in presenting this question is that I am not the person who prepared the article and I also have no connection with him so I cannot save the required payment.
    I simply recognized in your words the phenomenon I had heard about a long time ago - of "gifted underachievers" - and searched Google for texts referring to this term.

  6. I don't know who you are, Michael Rothschild, but I read what you asked for, there is only a small part of that work, you have to buy the rest. I will show it to my niece.

  7. John:
    The phenomenon you mentioned in your response is called "gifted underachievers" and is described, among other things, HERE

    When - because of the high intelligence - the studies are too easy, the child simply does not learn to study.
    In the beginning, everything is self-evident to him, and later on - when things are less self-evident - he lacks the basic learning skills (such as self-discipline, willingness to deal with problems even if they are not understandable at first glance, etc.) that every other student acquired already at the beginning of his studies.
    The education system expects problems in these areas at the beginning of studies, but when they are discovered only at later stages, it is not prepared to deal with them.
    That's why I said that the girl should be encouraged to learn things that are not taught in school and to deal with problems that are not in the school material.
    This activity will prevent her from deteriorating into "underachievement" and I assume it will also be enjoyable for her.

  8. Hello
    Thanks for your response. My name is Maya (jh is a name I chose too quickly) and I am a woman.
    This is about my 13-year-old niece in the XNUMXth grade in Ramat Yishai, where there is a middle school and no special education class like there was in Yokneam Ilit in Ort.
    This move, which forced her to change schools, is starting to make her depressed, and it was also written in the gifted parents' forum that this is what happens to these children over the years, and that many of the gifted children, over the years, are no longer gifted, they despair that they have no solutions.
    You are right about the religious. They are brought up differently. The parents only have faith, and it destroys them. I personally hate them with all their nonsense and intimidation.
    Every day I say thank you to the universe that I am secular and I was not born into a traditional family.
    I think in the end she will learn on her own through the internet. Because if to this day, 61 years after the establishment of the state, they have not found a solution for the gifted children - then with all the bureaucracy in our country, I don't think there will be a solution in the coming years.
    You must be studying in a special education class in Petah Tikva, which is what the state found for very outstanding and gifted children. In the beginning, almost 40 children start in such a class, when during the first year (10th grade) 15 drop out who do not qualify, in the XNUMXth grade another XNUMX drop out who are not up to it, and in the XNUMXth grade there remain the few who survived these more difficult studies. By the way, my niece said that studying at Mofat was not difficult at all.

  9. to jh,
    I'm not sure if you also live in Jerusalem apart from the fact that you work there, but I want to tell you anyway that here in Petah Tikva there are gifted classes - real classes with gifted people!
    More funds are directed to us than to regular classes and we get the best teachers of the division.
    We have more hours of study and enrichment every year than in a normal class and in addition to that the teachers challenge us more than the other classes.
    As an atheist student in the XNUMXth grade at the Rashish division in Petah Tikva, I can tell you that we are pretty good here.
    Although we are surrounded by thousands of barbarian venoms, we are offered almost everything we need.
    Me and a relatively large number (compared to regular classes) of students acquire knowledge from channels such as the History Channel, Channel Shmona, National Geographic and read many entries on Wikipedia.
    I can say with certainty that my knowledge of physics, astrophysics, history, geopolitics, general facts and perhaps also philosophy is greater than the knowledge of the average Israeli.
    Another thing I would like to write is about a very annoying incident that happened to me on vacation in the Sea of ​​Galilee with my limited family and friends of my parents and their sons:
    At some point during the vacation, one of the sons of my parents' friends asked me to teach him things...
    The conversation itself is not important (of course I don't remember it exactly either...), what is important is software.
    At some point in the conversation I told him that the universe is 13.7 billion years old and that there are many wrong things in the Bible and of course he did not believe me. He then told me that he was sure until that moment that there was only one solar system in the entire universe and it was our solar system in response to my telling him that there were billions of galaxies and that each of them consisted of billions of suns. After about an hour and a half he asked his mother if she knew that my brother and I were atheists and that there was more than one solar system in the universe. She responded by saying that in her opinion there is no point in life if you don't believe in God and in addition to that she said "Why, there is only one solar system"-
    Her husband after a few seconds told her that there are billions of solar systems and that scientists don't believe in God and things like that.
    The message of this incident is that in Israel there is a huge amount of ignorant people who believe in nonsense such as astrology and Ein Raa, those who say "tap, tap, tap", people who say every half a second "thank God", "bless you", praise his name" and stupid and useless things like that.
    If a believing Israeli flies to Sweden, he will explain the 85% of atheists from the entire population with stupid arguments like: "It's because they are Nazis", "They hate Israel" and all kinds of things like that.

    It is simply sad that Israel is still lagging behind in hundreds of years of scientific discoveries, it is also sad that in Israel there are few who speak almost standard or even standard Hebrew! It's sad that one of the students in my class (not one of the smart ones in this gifted class...) told me that sometimes it's strange for him to talk to me because I don't speak low language and the like! It's sad that my daughter-in-law told me when I read entries on Wikipedia that she thought was stupid. How did we get to this situation where in Israel people see learning as a waste of time with this under the framework of the Ministry of Education!

  10. It's really terrible and terrible. Gifted children yearn for enrichment every day and are in regular classes and learn the material that is studied in a class at a very low level than their own.

    Who can you write to so that they establish a school for the gifted or at least that every local authority and city in Israel will have one class in each grade that will include gifted people from all over the region, and teachers who know how to teach gifted people - because that is also important.

  11. You're right. I'm in the 56th grade and no one comes to XNUMX in math (I already know you've crossed sides in the equation) except me and my sister (there are XNUMX in the class (two grades)).

  12. I am now at the beginning of the XNUMXth grade and I have to choose a major in high school this year, and the fact that I am here and commenting shows that I like science and the subjects written in the article.
    So what should I choose as a major if not nanotechnology and things like that?

  13. jh
    I don't think there is any reason for you to suffer.
    All you have to do is take her to a bookstore every once in a while and buy her a book on a topic that interests her.
    You can also let her think on her own about all kinds of questions (like - why the folds in the paper are always straight lines or why is it that the moon always faces us on the same side or why spoon scales balance when there are equal weights in both spoons). Even if you don't find the answer - just thinking about the subject and understanding the fact that there is something here worth asking about - will benefit her and give her satisfaction.

  14. I was interested in studying for her.
    First of all, skipping a class. I read in the Parents of Gifted Forum in Orange that it was an error. It turns out that within 3 months since the class was skipped, the gifted child absorbed all the material, and for the rest of the year, it was very easy for him in his studies and he got bored again.
    The day of the week they are given is also not satisfactory. It turns out that they are taught, for example, "Japanese culture", "geology" without going deeper and straight on to the next topic. She loved this day very much, but it was stopped for her.
    I called Erika Landau's institute, who doesn't know if a course of 12 sessions will help her, but it includes a trip to Tel Aviv.
    Someone said open university. This is what I intend to offer her.
    They have a website, but I think she also has to pay for their courses.
    She specifically says she doesn't want certificates, she wants to know, she enjoys learning.
    I thought only a school that only belonged to gifted children of all ages would suit her.
    The State of Israel has not done this to date.
    I look at the special education, at the lovely children I know who receive special education schools, or small classes with individual time dedicated to each student according to his ability, and everything is financed by the state, the parents of these children do not have to pay a penny. On the other hand, a gifted child has to spend a lot of money. I heard that the school of arts and sciences costs NIS 28 a year.
    In my opinion, the girl who started eighth grade does suffer. Although she is socially awkward, she is very accepted wherever she goes and wherever she is. But in terms of studies, she needs enrichment every day, hour by hour, and she doesn't get it.
    A year ago she was in a master class, the level was fine for her, she was very successful, but she moved to another place, and there is no longer a master class in this middle school.
    In short, there are no solutions. I'll show her the Open University websites and we'll see how it goes.
    By the way, we are all a secular family. You can say that we quite detest the ultra-Orthodox and their nonsense. I have no doubt that a gifted Haredi child suffers very, very much. But not much can be done, the ultra-Orthodox family and society are destroying him, and only when he grows up, if he is exposed to secularism, can he decide to run away from them, to repeat the question.

  15. I want to say something about the environment's approach to the gifted.
    I do not justify the education system's treatment of the issue. on the contrary. From many years of experience - both as a student and a father, I can say that the education system is not doing what it is supposed to do in this matter - but this does not justify the atmosphere of the disabled that emerges from jh's words and especially from the last sentence of his words.
    A gifted child is not meant to suffer!
    Such a child - if his family members give him the proper support and guidance - is destined to enjoy his life more than others.
    The message that a supportive environment should convey to a gifted child (as to any other child and in fact to adults as well) is that no one but him is responsible for making him interesting.
    He has to create the interest for himself either by reading interesting books or by initiating interesting projects.
    Such an approach to life is more important than any study material he will learn in this or that school because it will allow him to deal with the real world - not only in his current situation as a student but throughout his life.

    And in relation to the education system in general (I would like to mention that the article was about it and not necessarily about gifted people), in my opinion this system misses a large part of its purpose.
    I already wrote about this a long time ago to the Ministry of Education but I do not notice any improvement.
    If the education budget were even more limited than it is today and it could only be used to finance the teaching of one and only one subject - the subject I would expect the school to instill in the students is the philosophy of science (it is not taught today at all!).
    In the current situation, a person can finish high school without knowing the meaning of the word "to know".
    I do not mean the meaning of the word in the dictionary but the experience of knowing (and understanding) and knowing the differences between them and faith.
    And please note - I am talking here about the state education system - the one that "educated" us people like Shahar and not about the ultra-orthodox education system, in which not understanding the difference between faith and knowledge and understanding is a stated goal and whose creators are people like Elisha.
    People who don't understand this difference are easy prey for both the pantheists and the "ideas" of the new age and unfortunately the education system is not doing its job in immunizing humanity against these types of brainwashing.
    The lack of emphasis on the philosophy of science is evident even in the teaching of science.
    I have already pointed out many times here that even the teaching of physics in schools sometimes has a religious color - one that not only does not answer questions that need to be answered, but rather glosses over their very existence.
    The example I like to give in this regard is the fact that in high school two "physics" are actually studied.
    In one physics we learn that a system is in equilibrium when the potential energy is minimal and in the other physics we learn that a system is in equilibrium when the balance of forces is zero.
    They never explain why these two approaches should give the same results and in fact make the student forget the fact that there is a question that needs to be answered.
    Posing a question is a necessary step in finding the answer, but the education system really suppresses this skill (which children who have not yet fallen victim to the education system master well). This, by the way, connects to what I said at the beginning of the words regarding the gifted: revealing the things that you do not understand and formulating the questions about them are part of the same personal responsibility of the person for his destiny.

  16. Thank you for the answers.
    It is truly terrible that the State of Israel does not invest in the gifted, compared to the special education children who are invested in special schools.
    It would be good if each of the cities of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, Be'er Sheva and the Galilee had one school for gifted children. It's a shame to let them study in a regular class, they suffer from it.
    I hope that in two years, in Yod's class, she will be able to attend the only school in the country that meets the needs of the gifted, a science and arts school in Jerusalem. Until then, she is doomed to suffer.

  17. To JH - just so you know that she is not alone in our country...
    I don't think that jumping a class will help, it has more disadvantages than advantages
    Have fun in the meantime and maybe in another year or two you will go to academic studies

    Lashked - I have long since given up trying to get the teachers in every scientific-realistic class to teach me something new
    And when the school actually tried to promote a science subject, the students resisted
    Teachers these days have no motivation to teach, so will they still do enrichment classes for the successful?

  18. JH
    If your house doesn't mind being small and saying goodbye to its friends - skip a grade or two.

    The most important thing is that she is happy.
    If she is really bored - you can try to challenge the teachers who will provide her with something to enrich herself.

    And in general regarding the article: I agree. Science should be taught from a young age and simply.

    Best regards,
    A gifted boy

  19. Listen, I have a daughter in the eighth grade. She is gifted. She studies in a normal school near the house. She really, really likes to learn, is curious, etc., etc.
    The level of the whole school is small for her, the level of studies in the class bores her very much.
    The school you teach at in Jerusalem is only open from the XNUMXth grade.
    We don't know what to do, she's going crazy from boredom in class. I wish she could start studying right now at the high school for arts and sciences in Jerusalem under boarding school conditions of course, but what until then? Does anyone have a solution?

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