Saturday, July 13, 2013

Physics At Princeton

The problem is societal, and schools will not be able to fix what society has broken.  We need a societal shift, one that values education and doesn't give out trophies for mere participation, or the problem continues:
I also worry that Princeton, and presumably other like universities, are not addressing the current generational shift. About five years ago, a working committee on which I served decided to jettison three weeks of course material in order to concentrate on the remainder. Otherwise we teach physics at Princeton much as it was taught fifty years ago. To this day corridor arguments persist between old-timers who believe we are engaged in a race to the bottom and those who believe that we must adapt or die. I am of two minds. None of us embraces a dumbed-down course, but at the same time it seems to me that the typical faculty response, “Freshman physics hasn’t changed in fifty years, why should we?” is a recipe for slow suicide. Unfortunately the “advanced” methods of professional science educators—each of whom seems to feel he or she is in possession of the magic bullet—leave the majority of active physicists, including myself, cold. I do know that in the long run the students will win, but if winning means teaching the students currently being produced by our high schools, then either high schools must wake up to the demands and to the competition, or universities must be prepared for a drawn-out Pyrrhic victory.
The prognosis is gloomy.

1 comment:

allen (in Michigan) said...

Oh, education's valued in our society. It's just that there are differences of opinion between those inside and those outside the edu-sphere about what's important, what it ought to cost and who ought to be in charge.

To the extent to which the problem's societal is function of the extent to which the institution's been politicized. The K-12 system, overwhelming politicized due to the fact it's overwhelmingly a function of government is failing, and seen to be failing, for just that reason.

Higher education, much more recently invaded by political considerations with the advent of large volumes of government money is seen as having fallen down on its promise more recently.

If too much government interference creates the problem then the solution's obvious.