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Re: [Phys-l] Premed Requirements Commentary

I recommend we defend the appropriateness of our
courses. We should not tacitly let them do away with these
requirements, and we certainly should not agree with them that we are
doing a lousy job of teaching.

I am in neither the teaching nor the medical profession. One curiosity I have is the reference that has been made in this thread and in others about the role of weeding out, which I believe is not imagined. I have talked to some, and there may be at least a few here, who are part of physics programs which exist primarily, if not totally, to support other programs such as premed or engineering. [In the case of engineering, we've already seem a comment about an ME dept that believes its students only learn physics in ME, and, to paraphrase the original commentary, how many EE students need to be able to analyze a spinning top?]

Add to this the current [premed] controversy, and today's environment of administrators looking for profit centers in every corner, it occurs to me that there is a further but unstated real danger to doing away with courses such as physics or calculus: that without a supporting role, some universities/colleges will find reason to eliminate entire departments. Their solution would be to tell students if they want to study physics, no problem, simply go to the dwindling few campuses where it is still taught. Perhaps there is pressure of this nature anyway, but taking this idea (eliminating the premed physics requirements for example) to the next level could bring an avalanche of departmental closures. And how many administrators would be just fine and dandy with this?

How far down this slippery slope is the teaching of physics right now? It does seems trivial to come up with reasons to defend the appropriateness of physics courses, but is physics teaching approaching a major (evolutionary?) shift that it can influence only weakly?

Some might see my point as hand-wringing, but I'm not so sure. I'm watching a slightly modified version of this being played out at my undergrad alma mater, but the physics dept there commands respect and has clout, at least for now. That the conversation is even being had, though, strikes me as a chink in the armor.

Stefan Jeglinski