Chronology Current Month Current Thread Current Date
[Year List] [Month List (current year)] [Date Index] [Thread Index] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Prev] [Date Next]

Re: [Phys-L] Survey of Physics; Hewitt, or not

John Denker says: " Physics concepts start out like a pile of loose
bricks. "

That reminds me of a quote I have seen and often present to students in
such a class. "Science is built up of facts, as a house is built of
stones; but an accumulation of facts is no more a science than a heap of
stones is a house" Henri Poincare.


On Sat, Jul 25, 2020 at 6:13 PM John Denker via Phys-l <> wrote:

On 7/25/20 10:07 AM, Snow POP wrote:

Though it has some notable flaws, we are still using Hewitt’s
“Conceptual Physics.”

Yes, notable flaws. I am seriously underwhelmed by that book.

IMHO a "survey" course ought to give the students some idea
of how a scientist would approach a problem. Hewitt fails at
this. He seems to assume that the students are too stupid to
actually /think/.

Many of the students who sign up for a "survey" course have been
trained for 12+ years that /reasoning/ is not allowed on school
grounds, and their low expectations are a good match for Hewitt's
low expectations.

I have every reason to believe that the students *are* quite
capable of abstraction, multi-step reasoning, and so on. You
see it in the games they play. It will take time and effort
to convince them that we really want them to do that in class,
but it can be done. (Of course there are always some special-ed
students who have serious deficits in their reasoning, but they
don't need to sign up for physics classes.)

I think concepts, properly speaking, are good. However, the
word has become twisted. In some circles, "Conceptual Physics"
is a euphemism for "Bone-Head Physics". It doesn't have to
be that way.

Physics concepts start out like a pile of loose bricks. As such,
they will not hold students' interest in the short run, and will
not be remembered in the long run. They become interesting,
useful, and memorable only when they are assembled into some
sort of structure. A major hard-to-fix flaw of this book is
that it fails to put the concepts together.

In addition, there are dozens and dozens of smaller flaws,
where the book gets the concepts wrong. If you adopt this
book, plan on spending a *lot* of time trying to undo the
damage it causes.

This is not actually the worst book I've ever seen, but it's
definitely bad. If you want to think like a cartoonist, this
is your book. If you want to think like a scientist, find
something else.

More details here:
Forum for Physics Educators

This e-mail message, including any attachments, is for the sole use of
intended recipient (s) and may contain confidential and privileged

information.  Any unauthorized review, use, disclosure or distribution
prohibited.  If you are not the intended recipient, please contact
sender by reply e-mail and destroy all copies of the original