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Re: [Phys-l] Premed Requirements Commentary

You point is well taken, this process has already begun in the UK.

Joseph J. Bellina, Jr. Ph.D.
Professor of Physics
Saint Mary's College
Notre Dame, IN 46556

On Sep 19, 2006, at 11:07 AM, Stefan Jeglinski wrote:

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

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
Forum for Physics Educators