June 11th, 2007


Wellington Grey ...

The New Physics Exam, from Miscellanea, an irregular webcomic about science and things. I'd recommend going through the whole archive, there aren't too many of them, and they're amusing.
He's also written an open letter to AQA and the Department of Education, protesting recent changes in physics at GCSE level in the UK, and this plea for help in spreading the letter around ... so I am.

From the open letter :
The thing that attracts pupils to physics is its precision. Here, at last, is a discipline that gives real answers that apply to the physical world. But that precision is now gone. Calculations — the very soul of physics — are absent from the new GCSE. Physics is a subject unpolluted by a torrent of malleable words, but now everything must be described in words.

In this course, pupils debate topics like global warming and nuclear power. Debate drives science, but pupils do not learn meaningful information about the topics they debate. Scientific argument is based on quantifiable evidence. The person with the better evidence, not the better rhetoric or talking points, wins. But my pupils now discuss the benefits and drawbacks of nuclear power plants, without any real understanding of how they work or what radiation is.

I want to teach my subject, to pass on my love of physics to those few who would appreciate it. But I can’t. There is nothing to love in the new course. I see no reason that anyone taking this new GCSE would want to pursue the subject. This is the death of physics.
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