Judging from the opinion of Physics concentrators, there is little beyond excellent laboratory equipment to warrant three years' intensive study in that field. In selecting his courses, the prospective concentrator is faced with the choice of the lesser of two evils--a mediocre course or a very bad one. Exceptions do not excuse the general inadequacy. Possibly in some of those he chooses he may be lucky enough to enjoy the benefits of competent instruction. But if he has any interest in tutorial, he will have to keep that alive himself, for nothing beyond the bare necessities will be supplied him. Often the accretion of even that vital knowledge will be the result of his own labors in Widener. If he does no more than the required work he will be able to graduate, perhaps with honors, knowing almost nothing about his field.
This remarkable state of affairs seems to be the result of a policy based upon a misguided conception of the relative worth of teaching and scholarship. The department of Physics is supposed to teach Physics; at the same time, it appears, its function is to engage in exhaustive research work. At the moment, all its energies are directed toward the latter end. In theory, men are engaged for their teaching ability and their qualifications as research men. Actually, if a man has any teaching ability to begin with, he had best smother it at once if he expects to linger here much more than a year. Promotions come not as a reward for conscientious or even brilliant teaching, but as a guerdon for advancing the cause of science.
Clearly, with no incentive for good teaching--in fact, when holding a teaching job demands that teaching be relegated to the background,--it is not surprising that the teaching level of the Physics department is at a discouragingly low ebb. Concentrators complain that tutorial is a farce. No tutor can be expected to give adequate attention to that part of his work when to do so is nothing short of suicidal. Three years are required to develop an inexperienced instructor into a good tutor; by that time one of two things has happened to him. He has tried to become a good tutor, and departed, or he has become a research man. The yearly turnover in this department is all out of proportion to the number of concentrators.
No one person is to blame for this singularly unfortunate situation. Rather, it seems to represent an uncertainty of policy, policy which originated some time ago, as to just what this department is trying to accomplish. The ideal solution is of course the perfect combination of good teacher and good research man. It is a little hard on the keen and hard-working student to have to hold the test-tube in which the Administration is trying to shake up this perfect solution. The experiment must produce results soon, or the complete disintegration of this field, which at present is no more than a dangerous possibility, will become a reality.