There is no American road to physics and mathematics!

The statement above is an adaptation of a famous quote by Euclid. The story goes that one day Ptolemy I Soter asked Euclid if there was an easier way to learn geometry than reading the Elements, to which Euclid replied, “There is no royal road to geometry.”

The decision makers of the American education, misguided by the phrase “American ingenuity,” have been habitually and mistakenly seeking the easy way of teaching physics and mathematics since the beginning of the last century. The educational progressive movement of the early twentieth century, with its strategy of “student-centered” learning, in which the interest of the pupil determines what is to be taught, coupled with the rebellion of the youth in the 1960s, resulted in the waning of rigor in the teaching of mathematics and physics in the following decades.

The misplaced association of science in general, and physics in particular, with the war in Vietnam created an environment of suspicion, even hatred, toward science, technology, engineering, and mathematics all of which were considered part of the so-called “industrial-military complex.” In response to this negative attitude, some educators of physics decided to make the subject more “appealing” to students. To attract these “customers,” mathematics, which had been considered the language of physics ever since Galileo, was eliminated or reduced to its bare minimum. Physics became “conceptual” and numerous books were written in which mathematical formulas were replaced by colorful cartoons.

Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, abbreviated as STEM has become a household phrase and the slogan of many institutions of higher learning. But, because of the fascination of the majority of teachers with technology, the acronym should be changed to sTem. This would then justify the action of a teacher in Iowa who turned a physics class into the showing of the movie Forrest Gump, because of the abundance of computer graphics Technology used in it!

5 thoughts on “Physics/Math”

  1. I wholeheartedly agree with you on this. I teach chemistry and see the same thing happening in that subject. We need secondary teachers who are “experts” in the subject which means they have at least a Bachelor’s degree in the subject instead of a teaching degree with a credential to teach science. The credentials are useless because they take a 1 semester “general science” course to get it. Therefore, they really don’t know the subject material. Who do we have to kill or bribe to get this system into place? 🙂

  2. John, I feel for your closing question! I wish I had an answer, but I know that if we do nothing about it, it gets even worse. Exchanging ideas and thoughts is a good start.

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