Science and math

Dear Editor:

I do not believe that cutting sports programs will result in an automatic increase in science and math test scores. What is needed is to bootstrap science education into the 21st century.

The other day, my grandson brought out his statics and circuit analysis books, each weighed 20 pounds and cost $200. We worked a few of the silly problems, got bored and moved on to my favorite subject, Black Holes, the region where physics and theology merge into one.

The physics of statics is simple, the forces and moments (the length times the weight) each sum to zero and can be illustrated by a couple of kids on a teeter totter. Likewise a discussion of a kid’s swing, the merry go-round and bumper cars can give a student a rudimentary understanding of dynamics.

Students should be introduced to the physics relevant to the 21st century, quantum mechanics and field theory. Kids should know why a compass needle points north and a kid standing on the South Pole doesn’t fall off. Kids should know enough about electromagnetism to understand how motors, generators and televisions work. They should know why it takes four GPS satellites to locate a point on earth. (Four coordinates, three spatial, one time are required to define a point in space the core idea in Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.)

The goal of high school science education should be re-evaluated. The goal should not be to calculate the tension in a rope with ten attached weights, but to have sufficient scientific knowledge to make informed decisions in this complex technical world.

I believe the educators should borrow a page from John Elway’s playbook and pay the price to get good talent. We all know this will never happen, so plan B should be to supplement classroom science instructors with the excellent online material that is now available. Professor Wolfson’s 36 half-hour Physics in Your Life course might serve as a model. I believe a semester devoted to classical physics, a semester devoted to modern physics and a semester of chemistry and biology should be part of every high school graduate’s background. The courses should be so easy and fun that all the kids sign up.

Every effort should be made to upgrade science education in America by obtaining and training good instructors and by redefining the very goals of high school science education. Six billion people on the earth and most of them believe snakes can talk and horses can fly and science is a hoax. No wonder the clowns are running the circus.

Bob Dungan

This story was posted on October 10, 2013.