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Re: [Phys-l] science education goals and strategies

If you reply to this long (10 kB) post please don't hit the reply button unless you prune the copy of this post that may appear in your reply down to a few relevant lines, otherwise the entire already archived post may be needlessly resent to subscribers.

John Denker (2009), in his Phys-L post titled "science education goals and strategies," wrote [bracketed by lines "DDDDDDDD. . . . ."; my insert at ". . . .[insert]. . . ."]>

1) As several people have wisely and accurately pointed out, the integrated "spiral" approach is obviously best for the students.

Making it happen will be somewhat disruptive, but no more disruptive than "physics first" or similar proposals that are on the table. Therefore those proposals are Pareto-inferior . . . . . [<>]. . . . . . . and not deserving of further attention.

2) I would go even further and say that that to my ears, the "physics first" debate sounds like two people shouting at each other
A: You said 2+2=1
B: You said 2+2=7
A: You're wrong.
B: No, you're wrong.
A: You're totally wrong and I can prove it.
B: No, you're totally wrong and ................

This is literally worse than the proverbial holy war between the big-endians and the little-endians! That's because when it comes to eggs, _either_ end will do. But here we have a holy war involving proposals _neither_ of which will do.

There's more I could say about this, but I forebear. But please let's not revisit "physics first" anymore. It's an embarrassment to the entire community.

I COMPLETELY DISAGREE. In "Physics First Revisited" [Hake (2009)] I wrote [bracketed by lines "HHHHHH. . . .":

". . . my arguments for the support of Physics First are summarized in the abstract of "Physics First: Opening Battle in the War on Science/Math Illiteracy?" [Hake (2002a)]:

"It is argued that Lederman's 'Physics First' regime, while not an ideal ramp to science/math literacy for all students . . . . [such as the "Ken Ford (1989) Ramp" depicted in Fig. 2 of Hake (2002a)]. . . ., should nevertheless be vigorously supported as an important opening battle in the full scale war on science/math illiteracy as envisaged by the AAAS 'Project 2061.' This is because a widespread first physics course for *all* ninth graders might:

(a) help to overcome some systemic roadblocks to science/math literacy of the general population - MOST IMPORTANTLY THE SEVERE DEARTH OF EFFECTIVE PRE-COLLEGE SCIENCE/MATH TEACHERS;

(b) enhance the numbers of physics major and graduate students, through programs designed to provide a large corps of teachers capable of *effectively* teaching physics to vast numbers of students in the Physics First schools: ninth-graders plus those taking high school honors and AP physics courses."

In my opinion, although Lederman's steep "Physics First" cliff is not the ideal K-12 "Ford Ramp," the "Physics First (Grade)" of Malone (2006), or the "presentation of physics early, often, broadly, and well in the K-12 years" of White (2008), it has the AAPT(2007)/Lederman(2001)-backed *potential* to enable those goals by blasting through the major U.S. roadblock to science/math literacy for all, viz., the dreadful dearth of *effective* pre-college science/math teachers, as depicted in Fig.3 , page 8 of Hake (2002a), and as bemoaned (but not meaningfully addressed) by Denker (2009) himself.

Richard Hake, Emeritus Professor of Physics, Indiana University
24245 Hatteras Street, Woodland Hills, CA 91367
Honorary Member, Curmudgeon Lodge of Deventer, The Netherlands.

"The better is the enemy of the good."

AAPT. 2007. "AAPT Statement on Physics First," online at <>: "The Executive Board of the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) recognizes that teaching physics to students early in their high school education is an important and useful way to bring physics to a significantly larger number of students than has been customary. This approach-which we call 'Physics First'-has the potential to advance more substantially the AAPT's goal of Physics for All, as well as to lay the foundation for more advanced high school courses in chemistry, biology or physics."

Atkins, L.J. 2007. Comment on Klein (2007). Am. J. Phys. 75(9): 773-775; online to subscribers at <>.

Denker, J. 2009. "science education goals and strategies," Phys-L post of 30 Jan 2009 03:15:45 -0700; online on the OPEN! Phys-L archives at

Ford, K.W. 1989. "Guest Comment: Is physics difficult?" Am J. Phys. 57(10): 871-872; online to subscribers at <>.

Hake, R.R. 2002a. "Physics First: Opening Battle in the War on Science/Math Illiteracy?" Submitted to the American Journal of Physics on 27 June 2002; online at <> (220 kB). Rejected by the AJP editors on the grounds that it was "just an opinion." They advised me to cut it way down and submit it as an "Opinion Piece" but that would have eviscerated the article. According to Elbert Hubbard <> an editor is a "person employed on a newspaper. . . [or journal]. . . , whose business it is to separate the wheat from the chaff, and to see to it that the chaff is printed." [An example of AJP-published chaff is Klein (2007) - see the cogent response by Atkins (2007). ]

Hake, R.R. 2002b. "Physics First: Precursor to Science/Math Literacy for All?" APS Forum on Education Newsletter, Summer, 2002; online at <>. A severely truncated version of Hake (2002a).

Hake, R.R. 2009."Physics First Revisited," online on the OPEN! Phys-L archives at
< >. Post of 26 Jan 2009 17:38:11-0800 to AP-Physics, Phys-L, PhysLrnR, & Physhare.

Klein, D. 2007. "School math books, nonsense, and the National Science Foundation," Am. J. Phys. 75(2): 101-102; online at <>.

Lederman, L. 2001. "Revolution in Science Education: Put Physics First." Physics Today 54(9): 11-12, September; online at <>.

Malone, L. 2007. "Water Skiers and SCUBA Divers," APS Forum on Education Newsletter, Summer, 2007; online at <>. Malone wrote: ". . . .the question of when to teach physics has stubbornly resisted consensus. For me, however, the answer is straightforward: physics first. By first, I mean first grade. . . . . . . .. " " I thank Larry Woolf for alerting me to this insightful article.

White, J.W. 2009. "Physics First and Physics for All (Well, sort of)" Phys. Teach. 46(4): 255-256; online to subscribers at <>.