Education is not entertainment

This tweet reminded me of a pet peeve of mine:

I do want to make this clear: I am in no way attacking this teacher or attacking the idea that “cool science tricks” aren’t fun….they can be and they do have a place for learning.
What I am attacking is the idea behind this:

““Teachers who make Physics boring are criminals”” (typo corrected…and yes, all of us make these on occasion)

There seems to be an idea that physics would be popular if only there were more cool tricks in class or that somehow cool tricks lead to the learning of concepts. Color me unconvinced: my guess is that what is remembered is the trick itself.

This also brought to mind a discussion I stumbled into. People were saying that they were considering a second career as an astrophysicist ….though..they’ve never even had calculus. I cannot tell you how hard I rolled my eyes.

That is the danger of too much pop-science and cool tricks.

Think about it: to be any sort of physicist, you need to learn some quantum mechanics. And you can’t learn that until after 3 semesters of calculus, some calculus based probability theory, linear algebra, differential equations, partial differential equations, and Fourier series and that is just to start! And while the conclusions can sound interesting, learning the details can be mind numbing and, yes, involve some drudgery.

And keep in mind, I am talking about undergraduate quantum mechanics, not graduate level particle physics.