11.22.2010

On Wednesday evening, I’ll be flying out to Seattle to take what feels like a well-deserved Thanksgiving break. Of course, my life being occasionally a sort of comedy of errors, Mri is not coming along and so I’ll be spending 4 days hanging out with two of my closest guy friends. In the general scheme of things this is pretty awkward, but frankly I couldn’t give less of a hoot.

Today, I received an email announcing that two of my classes will be accepting online instructor evaluations. One of them is my Plan II physics class, and really I couldn’t be happier. I have an entire list of very reasonable complaints that I have every intention of making known to the fools who organized this course:

  1. Teaching us highly mathematical and abstract concepts like action and waves is a huge waste of time. Not only do many of the students not have enough of a mathematical background to sit back and absorb the concepts instead of struggling with equations, it’s not at all obvious how these concepts apply to us in daily life. I love physics, and I find this class boring 90% of the time.
  2. Our professor can’t teach. There are no ifs and buts about this. I’m aware that teaching is a job that requires some charisma to get your kids to listen to you, but theatrics are not going to help us understand special relativity, actually. Either he spends most of his time referring to very specific terms and equations, or he waves his hands around and refers to “thingies”. Neither is useful, and both together are contradictory.
  3. The only reason kids survive this class is because of the TAs. And the only reason TA sessions work is because the TAs do most of the work and then leave the last few parts of a question up to us. And guess what? Not all TAs work the same way! Since my TA values learning above copying, and since I can’t go to any other TA, I spend a lot of time working out the answers myself, interpreting Gleeson’s highly idiosyncratic grammar. Net result: I learn something, I do badly in the homeworks; others do very well on the homeworks, learn very little.
  4. Speaking of grammar, Gleeson needs to realize that writing badly is not some kind of adorable personal quirk; it’s a serious impediment to understanding. If necessary, he has to hire an editor to make his questions comprehensible. Physics is hard as it is. Don’t make us wade through the English as well.
  5. In short, this has been one of the most disappointing courses I have ever taken at college. The only thing that surpasses it is probability. The only thing that rescues it is special relativity.
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