A physics teacher begs for his subject back

I used to think that math and physics education in US secondary schools was worse than in any other industrialized country. Expectations and standards seem to have fallen so low that some of our best students are showing up at college without basic mathematical concepts (like the distributive property of multiplication over addition). Smart students can survive a weak education, but colleges are having to teach truly basic concepts and ways of thinking to students who should have seen some rigor in their secondary education.

It turns out that science teachers in the US are not alone in our concerns. Wellington Grey has written a very powerful open letter to the UK Department of Education titled “A physics teacher begs for his subject back.” It is an absolutely fantastic letter detailing the problems with the syllabus and exam for the physics General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) [sort of equivalent to the GED in the US]. Although I haven’t seen the exam he’s talking about, I’ve skimmed over the Chemistry section of the syllabus specification that is the subject of many of his complaints. He is spot on. There’s precious little science in that specification, very little of the precision and exact use of language that science requires. Instead, there are a lot of politicized social concerns (which we may often agree with), but which, quite frankly, aren’t science.

Read his letter and make sure it gets a wide audience.

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3 Responses to A physics teacher begs for his subject back

  1. Grey says:

    Thank you for linking to my site.


  2. Camelia says:

    This is atrocious. I’m a chemistry major and some of the things in that part of the syllabus had absolutely nothing to do with chemistry. Actually, most of it had nothing to do with chemistry. I’m just kind of flabbergasted at this, though if it’s any indication of education given American students, then it would explain some of the people I’ve had to tutor in the past couple of years.

  3. Danush says:

    Our students experience severe learning difficulties in physics. This issue was examined and dealt with, within the context of an introductory physics course high schools. Following a detailed task analysis, the cognitive entry requirements for this course were identified, and students tested for them. Secondly, specific difficulties students encountered during the study of the course, and prevailing misconceptions held by many of them, were identified. Based on all the above information, a remedial teaching method was developed. It consisted of supplying students with immediate and frequent feedback, to reinforce their understanding, correct misunderstandings, and fill in gaps in necessary background skills, while teachers could continuously monitor the progress of each individual student

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