I am a sceptic of relativity theory and am trying to become a believer. As far as I know (about this theory), time slows down when some one travels at the speed of light. What about blind people ? Will this effect happen for them as well ?.. I am curious because blind people have nothing to do with light.
By Kevin Pitts
August 30, 2012
Thanks to Arlene Modeste Knowles for pointing out this blog piece on one instructor's opinion of today's students in introductory physics courses.
What I find most stunning about the piece is the uniformity of students (based upon nationality) that he is reporting. Perhaps this is a function of being at Princeton or, alternatively, he is overgeneralizing.
At at state school where we educate 500 physics majors, 4000 engineers and 2000 premeds per year, I can tell you that I see very strong, very dedicated Asian students. But I also meet regularly with Asian students who are on academic probation. The same is true with eastern European students.
Regarding American students, they are definitely changing with time, as every generation notes. I personally don't see the quality going down, I see the sigma going up. (Put another way, I see a wider variation in the students we get now, some stronger, some weaker.) The number of students who want to major in physics is on the rise across the country. There are many reasons for this, but we are quickly becoming a field that trains more than the next generation of professors. I personally am thrilled to see this change, but I know that many faculty bemoan the fact that there are physics majors out there who don't want to go to graduate school. So we are now seeing a wider "variety" of students than we used to, with different skills, abilities and goals.
Regarding the need to "dumb-down" the introductory courses, I'm skeptical. Having taken a good look at our own "introductory courses" over the last several years, I have observed "mission creep". A new instructor adds his or her favorite material without removing anything from the previous offering. I disagree that introductory physics hasn't changed in 50 years. We're trying to cram more material into the "same old" introductory course than we ever did.
I'm not trying to write a full-fledged rebuttal to the blog piece. I think the author has some very good and important points. I agree that we are not keeping pace with the changing educational needs of the students. And I've written before about the biggest problem I see in our K-12 education system, which is the sense of entitlement students are given. As soon as an exam is given in one of my introductory physics courses, I invariably have students coming to ask me if they can "throw out" that grade or if they can take a makeup exam to raise their grade. Many (not all!) students come to college not understanding the concept of responsibility, and they believe that if anything goes poorly, they will always get a second or third chance.
So we definitely have some work to do, but I don't think the state of the American student is as dire as some others.
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