RE: [asa] science education (was: YEC the default Christian belief?)

From: Alexanian, Moorad <>
Date: Thu Nov 19 2009 - 23:33:01 EST

My suggestion was more meant to teach conceptual physics earlier on and not as a replacement of more mathematically based courses that can be taught later in K-12. Of course, math is important enough and that should be taught early on so that it becomes the basis of quantitative thought.

From: [] On Behalf Of Jon Tandy []
Sent: Thursday, November 19, 2009 6:58 PM
Subject: RE: [asa] science education (was: YEC the default Christian belief?)

The following books advocate teaching conceptual physics at lower grades and
moving biology up to higher grades.

However, I would echo Merv's statements on the math. My concern about using
the Conceptual Physics in place of a standard curriculum is the absence of
the more rigorous treatment of formulas, etc. In some situations, such as
in homeschool or as an elective science option for physics, it may make
sense to do the conceptual physics instead of the trig-based. Not everyone
is capable or interested in going through the math needed for taking such a

Unless there have been some new developments that I wasn't aware of, you
don't need trig and calculus to do (most? all?) high school level physical
science and biology. In this respect I think the standard order makes
sense. You could certainly put a physics course at a lower level, but you
would either have to double up or skip entirely the higher-math-based
physics in high school, as Merv said. I believe Moorad is involved in
physics, so I can't imagine that he would advocate the latter. I believe it
would be a worthwhile effort to incorporate something like conceptual
physics into earlier science courses, even in elementary and middle school.
Perhaps some do already.

Jon Tandy

-----Original Message-----
From: [] On
Behalf Of
Sent: Thursday, November 19, 2009 11:26 AM
To: Alexanian, Moorad
Subject: RE: [asa] science education (was: YEC the default Christian

The 'physics first' advocacy that you referenced with your link is
interesting to me for what it might reflect about our scientific views &
methodologies, though I didn't see the authors of that site delving into
that so much as their more practical opinion that students would be better
served by getting physics early so as to establish their scientific mindsets
& habits as preparation for the more complicated courses like biology.

Our school (& in this I'm sure we are reflective of most other institutions)
didn't make some kind of philosophically motivated decision to teach the
sciences in their current order. Rather, we are following a larger
institutional inertia (for better or worse) that prescribes this order;
making it simpler for transferring students to know what to expect in
another school's course schedule. I.e. most seniors wouldn't want to be
taking a freshman level biology course with 9th graders just because the
school they transferred from used a different order of classes. But that is
to side-step the question and, by itself, makes for poor justification of
why we do what we do.

That said, I think there is some legitimacy to the current order and why (I
imagine) it arose. First of all, students DO get some physics early on, via
their physical sciences course taught at 9th-10th grade levels. And that is
enough physics to give them a rudimentary launch into chemistry or other
 Ideally this introduction is HEAVY on scientific methods, etc. But it is
brief and necessarily incomplete physics --not just because it has to share
the year with other necessary sciences like geology or oceanography, but
also because students at that level are not mathematically prepared to
really enjoy physics as they ought to. If they already had a firm basis
with algebra (at least as far as the quadratic formula) and with
trigonometry (enough to process vectors), then physics can be given at least
some of its rigor even at the high school level. And for that rigor, it
needs a whole year AND the said mathematical proficiency. (to say nothing
of how calculus can tie into it for those students who pursue math that far
in high school.) None of that happens for 9th or 10th graders. You can
fairly ask, "why not?" Shouldn't they already have all that math by that
age? Perhaps so. Perhaps we are mathematically "in bad shape."
But I just don't see that changing any time soon. The reality (IMO) is that
the math should precede the physics. And all that said ... one can fairly
ask, "so why are U.S. students so woefully underprepared in science?" --a
fair question, and I won't presume to attempt an answer here. But I don't
think such a proposed course re-arrangement would help anything.


Quoting "Alexanian, Moorad" <>:

> The order of science teaching ought to be physics-chemistry-biology.
> This makes sense since it goes in the direction of the simpler to the
> more complex---recall physics deals with dead matter! Therefore, one
> can develop a better understanding of what science is and what it is
> not from learning physics first rather than biology. In biology, the
> experimental results are often yoked to an evolutionary explanation by
> burdening the teaching of the experimental aspect of biology, viz. DNA,
genetics, etc., which is nonsense.
> Physics is more quantitative and so the teaching of physics first
> would remove that false notion gained by those who start science
> studies with biology, which is very qualitative, and damages the
> conception of what science is that if often irreversible. That is why
> students always balk at physics and say that it is very hard. Of
> course, physics is difficult if you compare it with biology, which
> does not put a strain on the brains of our
> K-12 students.
> See the following websites.
> More students need more science! (Physics Nobel laureate Leon Lederman
> is a leader in this effort.) Also, Physics
> First in Science Education Reform
> Moorad

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Received on Thu Nov 19 23:34:01 2009

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