Wednesday, May 09, 2007

English Majors with no Shakespeare , Physics with no Relativity

Over in Phi Beta Cons there's a post on the disappearance of relativity from the physics curriculum. One can go through the Ph.D. level in physics without any study of Einstein's relativity. A physicist equates this with the study of English with no Shakespeare. A chemist from Oregon thinks it's a good idea to leave out relativity. I disagree with the chemist, the point of education is not only to equip the student with factual knowledge necessary for today's context but also to be able to acquire and expand upon new ideas and concepts. A first rate mind will also conceive of and/or seek these new paradigms. For this relativity is an excellent tool. When I took relativity, we got to see how Newtonian physics failed under circumstances of high speeds and how Einstein stepped in. This is an excellent exercise in how to learn how to be creative. Many professors in the sciences and engineering are bemoaning students that demand "just enough knowledge" to fill in some formula. University administrators eager to fill seats are very accommodating to this attitude through student evaluations of teaching. These students are being set up for a lifetime of mundane jobs that can be easily outsourced or automated.

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