I sent the Professor Meg Urry interview
to a colleague who is quite high-up in graduate teacher training. Here is his reply .
We do have a lot of evidence about student motivation and about their view about the Nature of Science (Physics). What is disappointing about Meg's comments is that they are solely anecdotal and only related to her view, yet if she read a little more widely, she would discover a broader perspective.
The ROSE project, based in Oslo, is the probably the latest and largest project on student motivation towards sciences in secondary schools, covering many countries in the modern and traditional world. Its web site is open to all. Motivation towards sciences tails off long before high school (A level) and is already very low among 13 year old pupils in the modern (western) world. Partly it is caused by this myth of objectivity propagated by teachers (and exacerbated by the dominance of mathematical physics, in contrast to both conceptual physics and applied physics). The teachers going into school teaching come from the traditional sciences background of university and the narrow approach to teaching of undergraduates. Those students who seek a different kind of physics (conceptual and applied) drop out when they see what is on offer. The university professors teach as they do because they want to have students who see sciences as they do, objective and sterile. So, in their turn, do the graduate teachers going into secondary schools teach in the same way, leading to the turn off of the masses. The new English science curriculum at GCSE has tried to address this by including more on the Nature of Sciences, and applied sciences, but there has been a tremendous reaction, in the first place by admissions tutors from universities who want to continue their previous view about what sciences are, and by teachers who have come up through the traditional system. It really is a very hard struggle, with lots of reasons for not changing by those in gate keeping positions, i.e. admissions tutors, professors and schoolteachers. I am working on the latter but the learned societies maintain the status quo, and are the bastion of reaction. It is up to university colleagues to change themselves but I will not hold my breath too long. Incidentally, it is interesting to see how few females are on the scientific blog as a proportion. Perhaps they have already given up the battle.
PDF link to the ROSE report