Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Poor Education

Recently I was helping some Introductory Physics students with a labratory investigation on centripedal motion. It further reminded me of the poor state of math and science education in the USA.

By the time a student reaches college he or she should know not only what a vector is, but also what the scalar product is. I am willing to sacrifice the cross product only because it deals with three dimensions and therefore is a little more advanced. The students were having trouble seperating velocity from speed from acceleration from force from displacement. Unfortunately this all sounds complicated to "Non-physics people." The truth though is that anyone can and should know what all these terms mean. It's not that hard.

I blame two groups for this derth of knowledge: Education Boards and bad teachers. Education Boards because they put the study of fiction ahead of fact, ie why do we take so many literature courses and so few math and science? And bad teachers because they have made subjects such as Physics become so hard. The biggest difficulty to be overcome in changing the quality of teachers is the fact that so many of the bad teachers are smart teachers. The difference is huge. Just because a teacher knows a lot about a subject doesn't mean he or she can teach it well. Oh well at least there are Schaum's Outlines to help students when the teachers can't.

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