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Letter to Obama on Physics - Page 2

post #16 of 28
This is not a problem unique to Physics. This is a problem of ALL fields dependent on Mathematics.

It isn't until Advanced undergraduate courses where you break into the 1900's in Economics - and until Graduate school until you test the waters of post-1930's.

My biggest concern about primary education, is we seem to be going in the opposite direction with respect to Mathematics education. Basic Algebra is no longer a requirement coming out of High School. The number of students I've tutored that can't solve simple algebraic problems (Supply = Demand anyone?) is mind boggling.
post #17 of 28

Indeed, imschatz, this IS a problem in all math-based fields. Your point about algebra rings true with students that I have tutored as well.

 

Now, to the point of the video and the OP. As a physicist (per my diploma, not my career) I have to agree that teaching the more recent developments of physics HS would be impossible in a rigorous way. That said...

 

I completely agree with the premise of the video. That is, students in the US education system are not even exposed to lay interpretations of modern scientific concepts. Even some TV specials, and certainly some good TED talks, do more to advance the modern societal understanding of science and its role in the world. HS science curricula should absolutely address the applications, that is, the observable phenomena, of modern science so that society at large can better understand or interact with them. To extend the video's point further, I would also add that current research should be discussed. THIS is where careers are born in science, and it also gives the average citizen an understanding of what is possible, achievable, and dream-able in a lifetime.

 

A simple way for HS teachers to begin such an enlightenment process might use the same online resources the video mentioned, as well as the array of reasonably entertaining science specials that have graced the airwaves over the last several decades. All the teacher would have to do is facilitate a discussion based on the video and create assignments that ensure the understanding of the video's content.

post #18 of 28

the problem is not with the students not being able to understand modern physics.  The problem is that most HS teachers and administrators who set up the system suck at teaching modern physics or math or English or biology. I have to admit, they are teaching our kids how to play sports and about pop culture real good.  We have schools in this country actually debating if they should teach evolution, how could they possibly make physics interesting.

 

I can speak about the NYC school system and the shortage of good teachers in general is insane, let alone science and math teachers.  Sure, they are making the requirements harder for fresh to get in and that is good, but there are still a lot of older teachers in the system who couldn't make a day at an amusement park interesting.

 

a point on the video, if we wait for the government or the state to teach our kids the truth of life and existence, man are we in for it.  the government teaches science exactly the way the gov needs to teach science, half-ass.
 

post #19 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by JP Marcellino View Post

the problem is not with the students not being able to understand modern physics.  The problem is that most HS teachers and administrators who set up the system suck at teaching modern physics or math or English or biology. I have to admit, they are teaching our kids how to play sports and about pop culture real good.  We have schools in this country actually debating if they should teach evolution, how could they possibly make physics interesting.

Sorry, but modern physics is way too advanced for even the most gifted HS students. Short of hiring physicists who can telepathically impart their knowledge into whole classrooms, there is little any teacher can do to teach modern physics in any meaningful and useful way.

There's no point in teaching modern physics when the foundations of the field are so shaky as it is for most students. The simple fact that calculus isn't taught until university outside of AP classes pretty much precludes even Newtonian physics from ever being taught in a useful way.
post #20 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by why View Post


little any teacher can do to teach modern physics in any meaningful and useful way.

i agree modern physics or classic physics for that matter is hard for the average HS student and grown adults to understand. This level of thinking goes against our biological makeup.

 

my point and i think to some extent the video was trying to make is the "teaching" of physics is HS should not necessarily concern itself with the hard theories and laws of physics but find a way to spark a flame of these tough subjects and have the student go on to more advanced learning.  i think he used the example of a sci fi writer Carl Sagan. Physics, mathematics, etc. needs to be as "cool," interesting and useful as being a lawyer and doctor. 

 

now it depends on what you mean by "meaningful and useful way?" Does Sagan's books "teach" in a meaningful way to young adults and even most adults who are allergic to physics? i would say yes, because it serves as an entry point and way to glorify physics and science and this is what we need, especially for HS students.  Classic physics is a great entry point to HS students but i agree with the video that modern physics should be included just in interesting ways.

 

and it is the shaky foundations of the fields in science that should be the most interesting and taught to be the most appreciated in science because this is how science advances.  it can't just be about memorizing facts, there has to be free experimental thinking.

post #21 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by why View Post

The simple fact that calculus isn't taught until university outside of AP classes pretty much precludes even Newtonian physics from ever being taught in a useful way.

i think you're on to the solution already, no ?
post #22 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by the shah View Post

i think you're on to the solution already, no ?

Well, then you have to get the kids ready for calculus.
post #23 of 28
i don't see what's the problem with that ? finishing a first calculus course as a requirement for HS diploma isn't such a bad idea.
post #24 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by the shah View Post

i don't see what's the problem with that ? finishing a first calculus course as a requirement for HS diploma isn't such a bad idea.

It's not a bad idea - I've done that as have many other students.

But making it mandatory with these students and these teachers, in this culture, under the current legislative regulations, would be tough IMHO. Graduation rates would drop into the single digits in some areas, at least for a while.
post #25 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by the shah View Post

i think you're on to the solution already, no ?

Well, yes, that was implied.

I liked Salman Khan's idea of just teaching Newtonian physics alongside calculus. I'm sure it was done that way in the past until schools started dumbing down the curriculum and pushing calculus and calc-based physics off until university so that only certain students would need to learn them.

I also think home economics should be incorporated into the science curriculum. It's a good way to bring that back to schools that lost it and provides lots of opportunities for practical everyday applications in the lab work that can become actual useful skills.
post #26 of 28

Agreed on the Home Ec. idea. But, that's not particularly germane to the discussion as it has evolved, or to the video.

 

The other aside: Teaching physics alongside calculus is the right way to do it. There is a reason that Newton (and others, yes) invented calculus: PHYSICS. Or, more to the point, to understand the natural world. We have split up the whole idea upon which basically ALL math and science rests; applicability to the natural world. Nowadays, we could abstract that to the "real world" by including other extremely practical applications of math, such as economics, even down to personal finance.

 

Now, back to the point of the video. The president doesn't have much to do with HS science courses, but the maker of the video was brilliant in addressing it to him; we're talking about it, but I bet if it was "An Open Letter to Secondary Education Majors Who Pretend to Understand Math and Science" it would not generate as much buzz, or as much meaningful discussion. So, what change is the maker of the video trying to affect? The answer is much, much, much, much simpler than reworking the foundations of the US education system (different discussion) or even how math is taught in schools. Math sidetracked the discussion, and should be a moot point; HS students simply can't have the math knowledge required for truly advanced physics. Nor should they. HS students should be exposed to the concepts. That is all. They need only a basic causal understanding of physical phenomena to know their world better. And for those who are uncommonly curious, exposure prompts further exploration.

 

By way of analogy, I am willing to bet that everyone here understands the basic role DNA plays in the world, more specifically in you. That does not mean you understand the mechanism by which genetic information is encoded, much less how the code is translated into macro-level features. But you DO know about DNA, and it is (probably) important that you do. That's all the video was getting at, and I agree with it.

post #27 of 28
I think people are taking this guy too seriously. He's a physics nerd and he wishes more people shared his passion for the field. I'm going to make a video that's an open letter to Obama requesting wine knowledge gets taught in high school, including tastings. I bet my letter is more popular with the kids.
post #28 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Piobaire View Post

He's a physics nerd and he wishes more people shared his passion for the field. I'm going to make a video that's an open letter to Obama requesting wine knowledge gets taught in high school, including tastings. I bet my letter is more popular with the kids.

 

 

i bet my letter would be more popular with the high school kids if we taught them how to fart the star spangled banner

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