Tuesday, March 29, 2005

The Merits of Academic Professionalism

Okay, my physics teacher was mentioned in my first ever post here. Here is his website. Or at least should be. If the link is wrong, tell me. Go ahead and visit. He likes visitors, and you should see some of the stuff he did in his younger days.

Getting a PhD from Princeton is no easy task, I'll say that, whether the year is 1961 or 2005. However, there's a couple problems with his teaching style nowadays that I don't exactly want to link to age, but I think it could afford to be looked at.

He was hired in 1962. What's so special about that? It's not that it means he's 70, but it means he was hired before the Vietnam war really got started up. Thus, by the time it really got around to the teach-ins and sorts, he already had tenure.

Why is Dr. Kim so different? He spends the first fifteen minutes of class talking nothing but conservatism. (My favorite quote of his - "The Russians, they used to think they had the best system in the world, but they were just silly. Silly silly Commies. Silly, yes? Very good."

"Hey!" You say - "That's pretty cool, not to have a leftist indoctrinator brainwashing your classmates!" But I say "Hey! I'm paying 13,000 dollars a semester for classes like physics!" The man is a self-described "Freedom-loving person", but that's not what his job is. When a class is 50 minutes, and less than half of it is spent on actual physics, and then 80 percent of the class scores less than a 70 on his exam, there's a problem.

This is an actual quote from one of his lectures:
Okay, the next is electricity. You should know how to sum up a field and force. Do you know the difference between field and force, yes or no I am telling you not to move, but you move. You always do what I tell you not to. Then force is what. Q and Iznit, yes or no, c’mon. Do you remember this problem here? This is A. A, and this is what, V, Iznit? We have a charge, Okay. If the charges are the same, what happens, c’mon. Force will add up, Iznit? In what way, c’mon. This force is coming this way and this force is coming this way, Iznit? So what happens, c’mon. Tell me, please tell me what happens. I am not going to tell you in the exam, what happens, c’mon. How would you add? Vector sum. How would you do the vector sum. Yeah, triangle. What happens to vertical components, cancel out? Horizontal components add. How many of you remember this as a homework problem. The problem also called for the reading. It’s the same problem. Logic dictates that it’s the same. Very very good. Yeah, we will have this kind of problem, and you had a lot of exercises about charges in a vector field.

That's basically how every single lecture goes, except during this quote, he actually tried to teach us something. It's easy to see how we can all be failing his exams. Now, I don't know what to do about this, but I really needed to rant on the subject. If I had been the only one to fail (okay, score lower than 70 percent) on the exam, I'd account it to my lack of studying (though I studied rather often). But when about 4 of 5 people are failing it, then there is something amiss.

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