Op-ed: Schools should make astronomy mandatory

Isabella Ferrell
Contributing Writer

Night sky viewed from the hills surrounding O’Leary Peak. A bright meteor streaks across the center of the scene. Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons

Astronomy has been a part of the human culture dating back to the ancient civilizations. It is the only branch of science that incorporates chemistry, biology, physics, math and language arts.

At Webster Groves High School students have the choice of taking astronomy as a science credit their junior or senior year. This one semester course includes everything from light and telescopes to cosmology and the search for extraterrestrial life.

Our universe holds every particle of existence. Everything we know is  inside of that. Twelve percent of high schools in the U.S. offer an astronomy course, yet only 3.5 percent of students actually take it. This turns about to be about 80,000 students who are properly educated about their universe.

Colin Jagoe, an Ontario astronomy teacher, talks in his 2009 podcast about a time when he posted the question “Why teach astronomy?” A middle school teacher replied to the blog post with “to foster that wonder and excitement that builds upcoming scientists and thinkers.”  

Astronomy is so abstract that it forces the person who  is learning about it to think as if there were never a box there. Because it includes so many different aspects  of science, it becomes a great and mystical way to present these different branches.

Astronomy answers the big questions we all have.

Most students who get an opening in their schedule are seniors, and by then they don’t have anymore time to explore more.

“Astronomy is why we want to study other parts of science,”  Greg Heard, astronomy teacher, said. In order to understand astronomy, the students have got to understand the “core” sciences, which means astronomy is just as relevant.

Astronomy should become a required course for all students to take. This can assure that new generation of leaders can take the environment and universe into consideration when making big decisions about both topics. Students should know what holds their world together, and what’s beyond them.

By making the course required, students get a chance to understand the universe around them by applying skills they learned previously in other math and science classes. A required year long course provides students an opportunity to explore astronomy without having to give up an elective course.

Neil DeGrasse Tyson, an American astronomer, once said, “The universe is under no obligation to make sense to you.”

Astronomy is often an overlooked course and without it, students are hindered from broadening their horizons and learning about the wonders of their universe.


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