The Path to Public Service at SEAS
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Chemistry, physics, and biology have the merit that their shortcomings are clear-cut, and often even glaring. As the Freshman Committee's report indicates, the quality of the teaching offers here as elsewhere, the greatest room for improvement.
To the physics department goes the distinction of having repeatedly refused to consider plans of reorganization very similar to the recommendations of the committee, which advocated a change in Physics C toward making it more thorough and more advanced. More advanced should mean, however, that the course ought to go more deeply into fundamentals, rather than "passing rapidly over them," as stated in the report. A further change that would lighten the burdens of the department would be to open Physics B to men who had had physics in school, but were inadequately prepared for more advanced courses.
As a possibility it is distinctly worthwhile also to consider a general course in physical science to include the principles of physics to be soundly understood in themselves, and also as they are related to astronomy, chemistry, biology, and the like. This is a proposition that will make the little man tremble in his shoes, or burst into ridicule. But those of greater intellectual stature will realize that synthetic knowledge has today become of equal importance with primary information, and that the withdrawal to be laboratory and library stacks is as often as not a refuge from the necessity of making up one's mind on larger and more living issues.
Through the whole trinity of sciences runs the same distemper of bad morale. Cure this and most of the bad symptoms will vanish. Louder and louder grows the murmur that men are afraid to teach, driven away from the student by the intense pressure to produce tangible results from the laboratory. This pressure arises from the official belief that instructors will be intellectually dead at forty if they cannot drink deep of the fountain of perpetual youth that flows in the laboratory and the stacks. With some instructors this is true. But as a substitute for an intelligent personal estimate of each individual by his fellow workers, this principle can only end in failure. Four out of five men in every sciences department will testify to the truth of this canker--if he is sure that he will not be quoted by name to the "higher-ups." It has proved to be academic suicide to those with the courage to state their views openly.
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