Scientists in the Classroom
TEN YEARS AGO, people concerned about education in the United States were particularly worried by the quality and tone of math and science instruction. Math was notoriously the dullest and most unpopular subject in the high schools, and the college-bound student was felt to have done his duty if he undertook a rudimentary introduction to algebra and a set of Euclidean book proofs. In physics, most of the time was devoted to the definition of terms, the acquisition of “laws,” and the solution of set problems in static mechanics (where students were typically advised to “use their rulers” to draw parallelograms of forces and then measure the lines to arrive at answers). Chemistry and biology were essentially exercises in classification. Introductory college courses in science usually assumed no prior knowledge-and, indeed, the assumption was hopeful, for typical high-school courses often did the student more harm than good.
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