In fact, I think many people doubted me when I first started pointing out that the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) that Kentucky adopted for all its public schools in 2013 (by governor’s fiat) essentially omits all discussion of electrical circuits.
But, when I did a word search in the PDF version of the NGSS, the only place the term “electric circuit” showed up was in a vague fourth grade explanation of a standard, and that was only as an optional instruction example under a very general standard about transmitting energy.
In any event, I was looking for something else yesterday and a page from the NGSS web site’s own “Commonly Searched Questions” area popped up.
“The NGSS do not include specific examples of circuits, such as parallel and series circuits, because the focus is on understanding the core concept of energy transfer. Examples of circuits can be included for instructional purposes when appropriate (underline emphasis added).”
The web page goes on to show that the concept might be considered loosely related to several areas of the elementary school grades’ standards, but it is clear that the people who threw together the NGSS didn’t think it was important to insure that every student would have any real understanding of even very basic electrical circuitry facts such as the fact that a closed circuit is needed to continuously transfer energy with electricity.
Aside from creating an important deficiency in science knowledge, ignorance of some very basic information about electrical circuits can create serious safety issues. Lack of such understanding can lead to personal injury in a number of situations such as those involving high voltage power lines (voltage is another concept absent in NGSS, by the way). It’s hard to warn someone about the danger of becoming a closed electrical circuit involving that power line when they don’t know anything about electricity.
Folks who don’t know anything about electric circuits won’t begin to understand why it is dangerous to cut off that third pin on an electrical plug for an appliance, either.
By the way, it’s a little late to Google up “electric circuit” after one just carbonized you.
So, to be very clear, whoever created the NGSS was way off target when they didn’t think kids needed to know anything about electrical circuits. This omission is astonishing considering that in modern society we are absolutely surrounded by electrical circuits that light, heat, air condition, tell us the time, control our machines, show us movies, sometimes pace our hearts, and can hurt us badly if we don’t understand anything about how they work.
Clearly, other educators at least at one time didn’t agree with the NGSS’ electrical information vacuum. I pointed out about a half a year ago in another blog that even the National Assessment of Educational Progress expects students to know something about electrical circuits.
In any event, we now know the NGSS folks admit they omitted electric circuits on purpose, not by accident. Imagine that.
By the way, the NGSS leaves out a lot more science besides electric circuits. Other resources and my own examination (such as discussed here) make it clear that essentially all of high school physics and high school chemistry are absent, too. So is any introduction to how math subjects like algebra and trigonometry start to become valuable in really understanding those science subjects.
Kentucky’s kids need something better. With a new education commissioner who used to teach high school AP chemistry now at the helm, I hope our education leaders finally get the message, and get hopping. If not, our legislators, who I suspect will understand that learning something about electricity is important for every child today – and who went on record before AGAINST the NGSS – should step in to make this right.