I used to think that math and physics education in US secondary schools was worse than in any other industrialized country. Expectations and standards seem to have fallen so low that some of our best students are showing up at college without basic mathematical concepts (like the distributive property of multiplication over addition). Smart students can survive a weak education, but colleges are having to teach truly basic concepts and ways of thinking to students who should have seen some rigor in their secondary education.
It turns out that science teachers in the US are not alone in our concerns. Wellington Grey has written a very powerful open letter to the UK Department of Education titled “A physics teacher begs for his subject back.” It is an absolutely fantastic letter detailing the problems with the syllabus and exam for the physics General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) [sort of equivalent to the GED in the US]. Although I haven’t seen the exam he’s talking about, I’ve skimmed over the Chemistry section of the syllabus specification that is the subject of many of his complaints. He is spot on. There’s precious little science in that specification, very little of the precision and exact use of language that science requires. Instead, there are a lot of politicized social concerns (which we may often agree with), but which, quite frankly, aren’t science.
Read his letter and make sure it gets a wide audience.