Tendencies to emphasize practical problems in the teaching of physics in secondary schools

by Robert Ernest White

Institution: University of Missouri – Columbia
Year: 1910
Record ID: 1535115
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10355/15663


Perhaps no subject in the secondary school curriculum has greater possibilities than the subject of physics. Most of the sciences are more or less dependent upon it. Not a single one can stand alone. Indeed, approximately every advance in recent times has had its inception in physics. Great advances in lighting systems, wireless telegraphy, aerial navigation, and the methods of transportation of all kinds have been due to physics primarily. Notwithstanding the great service physics has rendered mankind, we are only beginning to appreciate its possibilities in both content and method. Rich as it is in data, and possessing so much of interest, it will certainly soon occupy its deserved place in the list of secondary school subjects. Many things are responsible for its failure to receive proper recognition commensurate with its importance in the curriculum. When first introduced, physics was not well organized, and few know its possibilities. Teachers who were called upon to teach it were incompetent to give creditable instruction. The course then was too bookish and failed to arouse interest as it is calculated to do. Then too, there were the staid language courses with their centuries of learning and prestige. To win a coordinate place was a task or great proportions. To successfully present a physics course worth-while, there must be ample laboratory equipment. This was a stumbling block twenty-five years ago, and even is a matter of great concern today. While the teacher was quick to see what was demanded of him, yet his efficiency was lessened by the lack of laboratory facilities. School communities had to be educated and time was necessary. Along with this failure to furnish laboratory work there was the question of how much time to devote to such work. Beginning with the first account we have of physics as a subject for study in schools, laboratory work has steadily increased in favor. When the course consisted of only two fifteen minute periods per week, no laboratory work at all was thought of.