Wednesday, October 01, 2008

class notes

I am genuinely amazed that someone employed in teaching science is as bad at science as my geology teacher. Interesting science-y tidbits I have caught her mangling in class this week:

Silicon is a metal, which is why we use it for electronics.

This isn't true, silicon is not a metal. It is one of the most common elements on earth, and is found in a multitude of minerals and mineraloids, including sand and glass. Silicate elements are used in many applications, from computing to soap to non-stick cookware.

Electrons don't have any mass because they move at the speed of light.

This also isn't true. Electrons are subatomic particles with a mass of 1/1836 of a proton; they are very light, obviously, but they do have mass and are matter, not energy. Additionally, the speed at which electrons travel can approach the speed of light in a vacuum but never reach it. Electrons are considered to be fundamental particles with no substructure, and have an electric charge that is negative and equally strong as the positive charge in protons, which is key for electromagnetism. Many other exciting facts about electrons can be found at!

It's amazing how useful the Internet is. What did people with shitty teachers do before it was possible to Google things that sound wrong?


yanub said...

Tayi, you need to complain to the department chair. All that will probably happen is that you get transfered to a class with a teacher who knows what the hell she's talking about. But all the same, you should complain. There needs to be a record of that kind of incompetence.

Tayi said...

You're right, of course. I'm waffling between complaining now or waiting until after I've received my grade for the course. I don't know how easy it would be to complain anonymously, and I don't want to ruin my grades unnecessarily. But then, there are other people in the class who might not realize that what she's teaching is inaccurate. Hence the waffle.

yanub said...

Do it now, and ask for a transfer to a different class. An independent study if that is the only option. There is no reason for you to have your education sabotaged, and future students should be protected as well.

Elizabeth McClung said...

I agree, becuase I think I would have asked about the "electron's speed of light thing" before becuase ANY mass which approaches the speed of light gains mass, doesn't it, plus, how it is optically represented, we simply don't know, except for things that generate light (and electrons don't as far as I know) so to say that we are comprised of atoms which generate light and produce the mass of a white dwarf star seems rather odd teaching. There, probably I got some of that wrong, I am going of my understanding of the General and special theory of relativity and some speed of light conundrums which may not be applicable anymore. I do know that I don't glow in the dark, except to cats and coyote's.

Tayi said...

Thanks for the encouragement!

I did complain to the Science Dept Head, but unfortunately there aren't any classes that I could transfer into, and there's not a whole lot they can do otherwise. I mean, they can't force her to take a freshman physics class no matter how much she would benefit, but on the other hand they're not going to fire her just because one student complained. So I don't expect anything to change, but at least now they know, and if other people complain they'll have a history of complaints to work with.

Neil said...

It can take years for complaints to have any effect. This isn't to say you should shut up; rather, have your classmates who agree with you complain too.

In Regina, a professor who altered her husband's credentials to get the job lasted more than three years before getting fired. She knew less than first year students about the subject, and taught things that whole classes complained about. It still took too long...

Have the courage to complain about bad teaching!