The Death of Physics

Wellington Grey is a guy I just read about on BoingBoing. He is a physics teacher in the UK who is currently very irked by the teaching of his subject (I agree) and on the side he makes fun diagrams, including the recent WiFi will kill yours babies one.

Not incidentally, his open letter to the AQA about the teaching of physics is excellent and everyone in the UK should take heed of what is happening all over the sciences in particular. Here are some extracts which anyone should think hard about.

…this past academic year things changed. The Department for Education and the AQA board brought in a new syllabus for the sciences… While my colleagues expressed scepticism, I was hopeful. After all, most pupils will not follow science at a higher level, so we should at least impart them with a sense of what it can tell us about our universe. That did not happen

Wellington Grey then goes on to explain that he thinks the problems fall into four categories: the vague, the stupid, the political, and the non-science. In order these are then dissected and explained in turn. My favourite is from the stupid category:

One questions asks `why would radio stations broadcast digital signals rather than analogue signals?’ An acceptable answer is ‘can be processed by computer / ipod [sic]’ Aside from the stupidity of the answer, (iPods, at the time of this writing, don’t have radio turners and computers can process analogue signals) writing the mark scheme in this way is thoughtless, as teachers can only give marks that exactly match its language. So does the pupil get the mark if they mention any other mp3 player? Technically, no.

In conclusion, Wellington implies that he is not only dissatisfied but tempted to leave He asks that the AQA let him do his job. He also offers advice to people like me who may be tempted by teaching in the near future.

There is a teacher shortage in this country, but if a physicist asked my advice on becoming a teacher, I would have to say: don’t. Don’t unless you want to watch a subject you love dismantled.

I hope that the AQA pays attention.


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