This page is the Accessible Alternative Version (AAV) of the letter from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Association Golden West Chapter on pages 97 and 98 of the Science Focus Report (DOC).
February 28, 2014
Mr. Tom Adams
Director, Curriculum Frameworks and Instructional Research Division
Department of Education
1430 N Street
Sacramento, CA 95814
RE: California High School Science Curriculum: Neuroscience
Dear Mr. Adams:
On behalf of The ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) Association Golden West Chapter, we are writing to urge you to include a course on neuroscience in California’s high school science curriculum.
The Golden West Chapter is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the fight against ALS through research, patient and community services, advocacy and public education. The Golden West Chapter serves 31 counties in California, including the Bay Area and Los Angeles. The mission of the Golden West Chapter is to advocate for increased funding for ALS research, support for people with ALS, their families and caregivers and advocacy for public policies that respond to the needs of people with ALS, as well as vital state and federal resources that are needed to assist patients and their families affected by this cruel disease.
As you develop the Common Core science framework, we encourage you to include in the science curriculum courses that inspire more students to go into the field of neuroscience. With the President's Brain Initiative being put center stage and the emphasis the National Football League is placing on head injuries and related neurological maladies, the subject is timely and topical - and broader than any specific disease. Funding assistance may be available through a variety of sources, e.g., S TEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics] Grants.
Given the exciting scientific developments that are happening now in the field, this area of science likely will attract more interest and a larger following in the future. Also, neuroscience is driving research and practice in so many areas, including child development and early education. Early student exposure to the subject will translate into more neuroscience researchers in the future. Students who intend to pursue neuroscience will benefit greatly from a proper grounding in the subject.
Future research in this area will ameliorate the horrific effects of a variety of neurological diseases and develop effective treatments and, ultimately, cures for them. One such disease, ALS – often referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease – is a confounding, degenerative disease of the motor nerves that causes progressive weakness of all voluntary muscles. People with ALS become unable to move, swallow, speak and breathe without assistance. In all circumstances, this is a fatal disease that kills patients on average within 2-5 years of diagnosis. Most people who develop ALS are between the ages of 40 and 70, with an average age in the mid-50s at the time of diagnosis, without regard to race, residence or background. Presently, there is no known cause or cure for ALS.
It is estimated that there are up to 30,000 Americans who have the disease at any given time. Based on U.S. population studies, a little more than 5,600 people in the United States are diagnosed with ALS each year. About 90 percent of patients with adult-onset ALS have no family history of ALS and present as an isolated case in their family. The remaining 10 percent of patients with ALS have what is called familial ALS, where another person in the family has ALS. Military veterans are disproportionately diagnosed with ALS compared to the general population. Veterans are twice as likely to contract ALS and are an important group within this patient community.
As we understand it, presently various aspects of neuroscience are integrated into courses on human anatomy and physiology, although a rigorous study of the brain does not get as much – or perhaps any – attention, possibly due to time constraints. We have attached copies of some pertinent science materials now being taught in California high schools. If it would be helpful, we would endeavor to provide the names and contact information of a couple of California high school science educators who are familiar with the subject.
Thank you for your consideration of this issue. Please feel free to contact us with any questions or concerns.
We look forward to hearing back from you.
President and CEO