... and we teach it wrong. That's the conclusion of a NYT op ed, titled 'why science majors change their minds (it's just so darn hard)'. Aimee Stem (here at Science2.0) argues that it's in part a diversity issue, that we're focusing our effort on the wrong age group. I'd argue that the core is how we teach.
Make no mistake, science is hard. So is finance, and come to think of it, history wasn't a cake-walk either. English majors have to read and write copious amounts of text. Law school difficulty was made famous in 'the Paper Chase'. Put simply, any well-executed major is and should be hard.
I agree with the article that discusses the perils of 400-student lectures, the grind of Junior/Sophomore year physics theory, and the difficulty in connecting academic learning to real-world problems. We need more simulation, problem solving, and experimentation over rote lecture-and-scribe techniques.
However, I find the article rather... stale. Issues with college as it stands today seem to be mired in the way the current crop of op Ed writers learned. College today is different. A huge number of students are taking different approaches.
Students are doing college part-time while working. They're taking community college courses before finishing up at a traditional college. They're doing the 5-year plan as they balance out life and school. And, in some cases, they're being smart consumers and intentionally going for the majors where they don't have to sit in 400+ lecture halls.
How do you fix science education at the college and university level? Apparently, economic forces and student/customer choices are providing some of the fixes the institutions fail to recognize. People don't finish a major because it's hard, only because it might be poorly taught, and the system corrects itself, slowly.
The real lesson these days is to not accept a college at face value, but look at what you can get out of it.
teaching physics these days, and still writing at Science2.0
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