An Open Letter to the President: US physics education is crap. Let's fix it.

Illustration for article titled An Open Letter to the President: US physics education is crap. Lets fix it.

Henry Reich — creator, illustrator and narrator of Minute Physics — has a message for the President. America's educational standards for physics, he argues, provide a surprisingly dated and incomplete introduction to the world of physics. A lot has happened in the field since 1865; shouldn't some basic knowledge of that progress be made a requirement in our nation's curriculum standards?


Watch the full video below. Reich makes some damn compelling points here:

[Minute Physics via It's Okay to be Smart]

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As much as I like Henry, I can't help but think that this view is a little short sighted. The way I see it, if you want to teach QM and relativity to high schoolers, you have two options. 1) You can teach it to them in a Carl Sagan, Richard Feynman way... which means getting an overview of the topic, a basic familiarity with the philosophy and ideas of the subject, but no real feel for what it really means or way of solving problems. Then you're left with a generation who love physics coz they've been taught all the cool stuff, but can't *do* it without WAY more teaching Or 2) You attempt to teach the math and concepts on a more fundamental level. The problem with this is that I can't see a way of doing this without teaching the "classical" (ie. pre-1865) stuff first. For example, understanding Special Relativity without understanding kinematics and Newtonian Relativity, or understanding QM without understanding how waves work, or how probability functions. To get a real feel from these things you need to understand where they come from.