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Back to School 2013


Callie
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It's that time of year again: the fall semester is beginning at many universities (and secondary schools). What classes are you taking, or instructing?

 

I am starting my senior year:

 

Sustainable Energy

Chemical Reactor Design

Unit Operations Lab I

Process Design, Economics, and Analysis

Chemical Process Safety

Separation Processes

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I'm on a quarter system, so I only take four classes and I won't start until the very end of September, but I'll be taking:

 

Honors Organic Chemistry

Honors Physics

Biotechnology for the 21st Century

Science/Culture/Society in Western Civ.

 

The latter two courses are filling gen-ed requirements.

 

Excalibur's class list looks much more exciting.

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This is strange school year. For the first time in my life, I am no longer TAKING classes. I am now the instructor. I'm teaching one section of HIST 10603, a.k.a. U.S. History to 1877. It's your run-of-the-mill American history survey course. So far, so good. I've got about 20 students, a reasonably nice classroom, and things have gone smoothly so far. I am far from being the smoothest or most interesting or most knowledgeable speaker, but I hope the kids are learning something. I haven't had an epiphanies yet, but I feel like just having the experience of prepping lecture notes three times a week, making notes to myself on what I want to test them on, all the little tasks of teaching, are valuable experience. I've enjoyed it so far, that's good, given that this is the career for which I've been preparing for the past several years.

 

I still need to work out a balance between teaching and taking time to do research - that dissertation won't write itself...

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I still need to work out a balance between teaching and taking time to do research - that dissertation won't write itself...

I was doing the same thing this past winter quarter. The advice I got (and tried to follow, with varying degrees of success) was to dedicate one full, uninterrupted day a week to dissertation research. The class I was teaching had lectures Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and I work on Thursdays, so that met Tuesdays were (in theory) my research day. Some weeks I (mostly) succeeded. Other weeks, not so much.

 

Going into it, though, I knew I wasn't going to get nearly as much done that quarter. But, as long as you are making at least a little forward progress then at least you aren't slipping backwards (which can happen if you completely ignore your research for 10 weeks...)

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The shocking thing about teaching is that results do not correlate well with effort. You can put in hours and hours of preparation for a lecture and have it go badly in every way. The students are bored at the time and none of them ever learns much from it that they wouldn't have learned otherwise. Or you can whip something up in a few minutes and see it take off.

 

The trick my wife discovered was to make the students do more of the work. In-class discussions and debates are so awesome, they ought to be illegal. You spend about fifteen minutes thinking up some good topics, while drinking a beer. You take an hour or so to post a list of good references for the students to consult. Then you're set for the week. The students will get into it to an astonishing degree, especially if you've chosen cool topics and references, because this kind of thing is what students think college education is supposed to be about. They've been waiting to do this, through every lecture they've attended.

 

All you have to do, during the class, is inject a few comments from your own background knowledge. You'll appear much more impressively erudite than in a lecture, where you still have to cover the parts that don't really make sense to you either, because when you don't know what to say, you can just keep mum. The students will think you're a deity of higher education. You'll work two hours a week, outside class.

 

Okay, it's not quite that great. You can't quite pull the same trick every time. But you can really do it a lot. Lampshade it, tell the students loudly that this is your advanced concept of learning.

 

If you're having trouble getting discussions going, I can offer an exercise that I invented myself. It's a kind of homework assignment, that you do have to grade. Each student has to submit an 'idealized transcript' of the actual classroom discussion. They are supposed to quote selectively and to paraphrase, to make a coherent discussion. And they are allowed to inject fictitious comments from themselves — things they should have said in class, but didn't — for up to 50% of the text they hand in. The lines they attribute to others, however, must be basically accurate. So you have to take decent notes yourself, so that you can judge accuracy fairly when you grade.

 

The grade should reflect both accuracy in representing what people really said, and coherence and substance of the discussion in the transcript as written. You might need to hand back one week's assignments giving nobody more than 4/5, just because the discussion that took place was too shallow. Fidelity alone should not be enough for an A. Length can be short, at least at first — a page or two.

 

In my experience, even fairly slow classes get the idea pretty quickly, and it makes for quite interesting discussions. Somebody says something that seems intelligent or interesting, and there's a pause while everybody scribbles it down. It really makes the students listen to each other. The main problem is that the discussion can remain coherent but go off the rails. The students may end up having a vigorous debate that is based on totally false assumptions. So you do need to moderate, and you need to provide references in advance so that they can arrive at least minimally informed.

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This semester is my last undergraduate one before I finish school in December and become a full-time worker drone (assuming I can't get MA funding), so I'm down to two classes and finishing off extended written piece:

 

Cuture and Counterculture

After the Modern: Existentialism and Postmodernism

Independent Study.

 

Once I finish, I'm hoping to do a masters course in either critical theory or twentieth-century literature, though I'll have nine months between finishing one course and hopefully starting the other.

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Web Technology

Mobile Computing

C# and .NET Framework

Software Testing

Principles of Management

 

They're all interesting in their own way, but what you guys are taking sound a lot more so as mine are mostly only technology-oriented. Will probaby go into psychology, religion or something similar after this.

 

@NW : What's Technical Livelihood Education ?

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I'm hoping to do a masters course in either critical theory or twentieth-century literature, though I'll have nine months between finishing one course and hopefully starting the other.

 

The subjects are certainly interesting, but I'm curious as to what exactly you want to get out of a formal course on them, as opposed to just reading in your spare time on your own, or joining a book club. What's the interest in the course as such? The credential? Expert instruction in person rather than in book form?

 

Higher education is changing, and I've thought a fair bit about how it might change in physics. I'm not sure everything that's currently an on-campus course, or a course at all, should stay as that. I wonder about the humanities as well.

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The subjects are certainly interesting, but I'm curious as to what exactly you want to get out of a formal course on them, as opposed to just reading in your spare time on your own, or joining a book club. What's the interest in the course as such? The credential? Expert instruction in person rather than in book form?

One thing I've come to appreciate is that there's no real substitute for a class for deep reading. You'll have expert guidance and opinion, but you can get that from critical writing. You'll read with more care and scrutiny, which I certainly have trouble eking out of myself without others to provide external impetus. And you'll have the hardest thing to replicate, a cohort of similarly motivated, similarly scrupulous readers and thinkers. It's an ideal case, but it really is the ideal.

 

—Alorael, who believes in the speed of in-person discussion for literature. Math and sciences require too much in-depth grading for good problems to be handled with aplomb in massive online modules. Good question writing can help, though, and something well-tought but poorly examined is probably better than something poorly tought with rigorous and enlightening examination.

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The subjects are certainly interesting, but I'm curious as to what exactly you want to get out of a formal course on them, as opposed to just reading in your spare time on your own, or joining a book club. What's the interest in the course as such? The credential? Expert instruction in person rather than in book form?

 

Well, if I do the 20thC Lit course, it'll be at the University of Nottingham which focuses heavily on Lawrence. If I do Critical Theory, I want to go to Cardiff or Swansea and study under Catherine Belsey/under Belsey's previous staff. Both places are highly respected, and Belsey especially is really an expert in her field.

 

I do get a lot from personal reading, but I need the extra stimulus to really tease ideas out. Personally, that happens for me when I'm in an academic setting with expert guidance; I've found that most book clubs don't really engage in the level of analysis that I crave.

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Honestly, it's not great. I took the Artificial Intelligence for Robotics course first, and it's a pretty cursory overview of the subject and labeled as an "advanced" course. I didn't have Sebastian Thrun at Stanford but he claimed it was at least as hard as his Stanford classes, which I give serious sideye to.

 

I think Coursera is better for advanced subjects because it's mostly actual university classes (and I did have Ng and Koller as profs)

 

But we'll see how the GPU course is - it could be very good!

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I might not be so surprised if Thrun's Stanford course wasn't really that deep.

 

One of the dirty secrets of elite schools is that selection is a bigger part of what they do than they'd like to admit. How much of the value of a Harvard or Stanford education accrues at admission, when you're marked as someone who got into that place? A lot more comes from hanging out with the other students, so how much is left to come from the actual courses taught by those big shot professors? Obviously people learn from them, but in most cases people at less prestigious institutions learn the same things from their smaller shot professors.

 

Sometimes I think that the future of higher education will see universities withering away, while fraternities thrive.

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One of the dirty secrets of elite schools is that selection is a bigger part of what they do than they'd like to admit. How much of the value of a Harvard or Stanford education accrues at admission, when you're marked as someone who got into that place?

And there was the famous Dale and Krueger study to this effect (relatively simply summary here). There are limitations to what they studied — most notably, the outcome variable was "earnings," which obviously is only a small part of what you get out of college — but it is there, nonetheless.

 

That being said, I took introductory economics at community colleges in Oakland and Berkeley. Now I teach economics (as a grad student) at an elite university. The depth of the courses is so starkly different that it's staggering. The difference probably would not be as great if I were comparing, say, UCLA and Seton Hall, but was is pretty huge between the two that I saw, anyway.

 

This may have less to do with the professors and more to do with the students, though. I'm pretty sure that the community college students I was in class with could not have handled the economics class that I now teach, but my students can. You teach to the students in front of you, so if the students can handle a higher-level course, they get a higher-level course.

 

This is one of the challenges that online classes face: they have to understand their student population without in-person interactions. It's possible, but it's not an easy transition from brick and mortar classes.

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Looking at that linked summary, it seems the main shortcoming of the study is that it only looked at schools pretty near the top of the heap. They still cover a big range in prestige and tuition cost, but kind of in the way that 'upper class' includes the family doctor as well as Bill Gates. Smaller colleges and less renowned state universities weren't included. So it may be that teaching really does start to slide at some point down the pecking order.

 

One reason that might make sense is that professors are produced by cascade. Top-tier schools grant dozens of times more PhDs than would be required to maintain their own faculties. Most of those people trickle down into jobs at less famous schools. So even if you don't go to Harvard, there's a fair chance your professor did. They know what their course was like when they took it at Harvard, and they'll be doing the best they can, under their circumstances, to make their course as good as that one. But below some point on the totem pole, Harvard-trained faculty start to thin out. The best you can get may be professors whose professors went to Harvard.

 

I don't mean to take seriously the premise that education quality consists in degree of separation from Harvard. But there may perhaps be some partial effect along these lines. Universities aren't closed systems. They generate each other's faculty, and there's a kind of prevailing wind in the direction of flow.

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I might not be so surprised if Thrun's Stanford course wasn't really that deep.

 

One of the dirty secrets of elite schools is that selection is a bigger part of what they do than they'd like to admit. How much of the value of a Harvard or Stanford education accrues at admission, when you're marked as someone who got into that place? A lot more comes from hanging out with the other students, so how much is left to come from the actual courses taught by those big shot professors? Obviously people learn from them, but in most cases people at less prestigious institutions learn the same things from their smaller shot professors.

 

Sometimes I think that the future of higher education will see universities withering away, while fraternities thrive.

 

I was a CS grad student at Stanford - I took a lot of Artificial Intelligence classes, just not Thrun's. I took a class that covered everything in Thrun's Udacity course - but in way more depth and rigor. I mentioned that I had Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller as professors, the two founders of Coursera, and their Stanford classes were both incredibly difficult and incredibly rewarding.

 

I think what you say definitely has merit, but the professors are Stanford are known for their teaching and their research (incidentally, not Thrun - who was recruited for his robot car skills, then left for Google and Udacity). The more common view is that it's just very hard to fail out of an elite university. There are a lot of resources and second chances. But in engineering specifically, the courses are difficult and challenge students, especially in the graduate-level classes.

 

And yes, a lot of people leave a lot of schools with the same skills (and "earning potential" ... although like the article Kel linked, that's obviously not the best measure of measuring post-graduate "success"). But the low-income and racial differences are definitely worth noting (as well as the fact that super top tier schools have better financial aid than almost all state schools).

 

For people interested in stuff like this, the Washington Post is in the middle of a 10-part series on higher ed and tuition.

 

ETA: I don't think that online learning will ever replace brick and mortar institutions. But I do think that it can fill an important gap for ambitious high schoolers, people who can't afford college but want a college education (and plan to go later in life), nontraditional students who are looking for a way to ease back into education or can't go back to school, people in foreign countries with less access to higher ed, and hobbyists. And that's a lot of people.

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Tentatively, I have:

 

Administrative Law

Regulation of Financial Institutions

The Making of a Politician

Introduction to Education Policy

 

I'm also teaching a yearlong introductory economics course.

 

Next semester, I finally get to take Constitutional Law and get to work in the Child Advocacy Clinic, both of which should be really exciting. Not sure what to make of this semester, really. I think it should be good, but it's hard to tell.

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  • 4 months later...

Ahh!

 

I was going to bump this thread, or Triumph's thread here next week, but I may as well just post it now. :p

 

Last Monday I submitted my undergraduate thesis for marking, and last Wednesday (the 8th), I submitted the last ever regular piece of coursework in my undergraduate career. I don't want to jinx myself, but I'm hoping to do as well as it's possible to do, and hopefully secure some sweet, sweet scholarship money for a Master of Arts course. It's been a pretty very bumpy ride, and even getting to school was a big deal, so I'm pretty proud of myself, even if everybody and their aunt seems to have a Bachelors degree these days. I don't much like to blow my own trumpet, but yeah.

 

This means, too, that I'm reading precisely what I want to, rather than prescribed texts. So, I'm working my way through the complete Sherlock Holmes stories, and I've got Ted Hughes poetry lined up next.

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This is my second semester of teaching. I've got one section of HIST 10613 - US History Since 1877. Of course, I'm also still working on my dissertation. I pretty much dropped the ball last semester in terms of balancing teaching prep with research (i.e. almost no dissertation research got done) and I'm really hoping to do better this time around.

 

Making the shift from student to teacher has been...easier than I expected, but still weird, and certainly plenty of work. It was great to find out that after all these years of school in order to teach history, that I actually enjoy teaching history! I've got a great deal of room for improvement, but hopefully that will come with time and more experience.

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This is my second quarter in college. Woo! As of right now, I am taking less classes than I would prefer to, only 3 along with a workshop. English, Physics, and Chemistry. I was also taking bio, but after taking a look at my schedule, I realized how mainly do to that class my entire schedule was fairly inconvenient and I would have little time for anything really, so I ended up dropping that class. Which I didn't exactly like seeing as I'm majoring in bio. However, I do have plenty of quarters left so I'm not worried or anything.

 

By the way, to all you people out there that have taken physics and chemistry. Back in high school, I can't really say anything about my chemistry class, since that was an extremely easy class where the hardest thing we did was probably stoichiometry. (I never took the college level version of that class due to the fact that it was taught by a terrible teacher and almost no one passed the class or the test) However, I do remember all of the topics I went through when I took the college level physics course in high school. I know that physics being physics, it can be applied in nearly ever field of science. One of my old physics teacher's favorite sayings was that the only science there was was physics, and that everything else was a branch of physics. So far, in my college classes, I can't say this applies to my bio classes as there has been nothing even remotely resembling physics yet (I think), however, in my Chemistry class, other than basic knowledge about atoms and molecules and whatnot that is purely chemistry, and bonds and stoic and all that fun stuff, nearly everything we have gone over I remember something similar, if not the same, from when I took my high school Physics class. My physics class, is of course, purely physics. Is this the norm for other colleges and their classes? Should i expect to need to apply all of my physics knowledge to my chem class? Or should the course eventually start branching out into its own thing? And keep in mind, this isn't a specific chemistry class, since I'm not taking a concentrated chem major. This is just, according to my schedule, General Chemistry.

 

I don't exactly have a huge problem with so much physics being applied in my chemistry class, I am mainly wondering if I should expect to see some purely chemistry stuff happening down the road, or just keep expecting to see physics applied through chemistry.

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Physics is the science of the laws of reality, broadly. Chemistry focuses that down to apply to substances and their interactions. Biology focuses that down to specifically living things. There's plenty of room for overlap, though, especially in the really basic stuff. But I'm somewhat surprised; normally intro/high school physics is concerned with kinematics and dynamics, mostly. That's Newtonian stuff, energy, and maybe some electromagnetism. Chemistry does get some electromagnetism, of course, but it tends to have a very different focus.

 

In any case, in higher-level courses there's not necessarily wider difference, but there can be. Biochemistry, of course, melds biology and chemistry. Quantum mechanics are the same topic whether you approach them as a physicist or a chemist, though of course focus differs a bit. But ecology and molecular genetics are really solidly biological, for example. I'd say chemistry and physics tend to share more material overall, but organic chemistry, while derived from physical principles, is still not going to much resemble any physics class, and there's just not going to be any mechanics in any normal chemistry class.

 

—Alorael, whose course load for the semester is weighty and deep. He's a student of life, man. The learning never ends!

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Child Advocacy Clinic and Clinical Seminar (primarily composed of a placement in a public interest law firm)

Public Problems: Advice, Strategy and Analysis (seminar)

Criminal Investigations / Police Practices: Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendments (law class)

Constitutional Law: Separation of Powers, Federalism, and Fourteenth Amendment (law class)

Arts of Communication (half-semester module focused on making speeches)

 

Teaching the second half of a yearlong introductory economics course (macroeconomics this semester).

 

I'm a little anxious, because it's going to be a really, really heavy load, but I've planned it out such that I think I can do it.

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My introductory chemistry and physics courses overlapped somewhat in regards to heat transfer and heat engines. Physical Chemistry does directly apply physics to chemistry; i.e. using statistical mechanics and kinetics to determine various chemical properties, or using absorption spectra to determine rate laws. There are many more applications of physics to chemistry, of course. The extent to which you'll apply physics depends on your major, though. I'm in my last semester of chemical engineering, for which heat transfer (thermodynamics) and fluid mechanics are crucial subjects.

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There are also different versions of the introductory physics and chemistry courses depending upon your major. Engineering and hard science majors have a more thorough course requiring more math than liberal arts and other majors.

 

Don't get me started on Physics for Nursing majors since I can no longer repeat stories about it in these politically correct times. :)

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But I'm somewhat surprised; normally intro/high school physics is concerned with kinematics and dynamics, mostly. That's Newtonian stuff, energy, and maybe some electromagnetism. Chemistry does get some electromagnetism, of course, but it tends to have a very different focus.

Using the infinite wondrous powers of google, I have found a current syllabus for my old physics class. The subjects we went over were:

 

Vectors, 1D Kinematics, 2D Kinematics, Forces and Newton's Laws of Motion, Dynamics of circular motion, Conservation of energy and simple harmonic motion, conservation of momentum and rotational dynamics, static electricity, current electricity, electricity and magnetism, waves, light, thermal energy, thermodynamics, and nuclear energy.

 

Obviously, the biggest overlap I've been seeing so far has come from the thermo part, but early on in my last chemistry class, for some reason the very first thing we went over was light and waves. So while chemistry has definitely been happening, I have been noticing a decent amount of physics popping up there too. Or at least, since I saw it in my physics class first, I am calling it physics.

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I pretty much dropped the ball last semester in terms of balancing teaching prep with research (i.e. almost no dissertation research got done) and I'm really hoping to do better this time around.

 

Teaching is fun, at least at college level, where students are normally motivated to learn or they wouldn't be taking your course, and where they can often bring in some cool input of their own. The nasty downside of teaching is that it is also a black hole for time. You can spend unlimited time preparing for a single class. Not only can you refine your pitch endlessly, looking for just one more reference or example; you can also endlessly try out major shifts in approach, to the point where you're seriously thinking how cool it would be to do the whole thing in mime.

 

My wife and I have both resorted to the brute force way of limiting teaching preparation time: you decide in advance how much time you need to prepare for each class, and you just don't start preparing at all until that long before the class starts. When you seriously need to get some research done, I'm afraid this may just be the only way to go. If you do this, then the added constraint is that your estimate of how much prep time you need has to be short enough to leave adequate research time. You're not allowed to assign three days prep time per class, just because that's how long you took last semester ...

 

Other than that brute force method, which is stressful, the main tool in making teaching manageable is unfortunately one that tends to make it less fun. You figure out what the customer really wants, and you concentrate your effort on supplying that and only that, rather than spending time on other things that happen to be fun for you. The customer in this case is the student, but for "what the customer really wants" you should imagine a somewhat idealized student, who actually wants to learn something worth learning, and doesn't just want an A. On the other hand it's true that the customer doesn't want to have to work infinitely hard for a decent grade; that's a reasonable want which should be respected.

 

From my and my wife's experiences so far, I think I can say that teaching can be much less time-demanding than one thinks, because a lot of what the students really want is a lot easier to supply than one might think. As a grad student with several more years of higher education under your belt, there are a lot of things that you tend to take for granted as obvious. You can easily teach them just off the top of your head. So you tend to slave for hours on finer points, that seem more valuable to you. In fact most of those fine points will go over your students' heads, and most of what they actually value from the course will be things that you could have provided much more easily, off the top of your head.

 

The better teacher, in my view, spends less time preparing, but more of that prep time is spent in improving the presentation of simple things that you already know well yourself. The problem is that tracking down fine points that are interesting to the teacher is a lot more fun, even if it is time-consuming, than polishing the presentation of basic stuff. Unfortunately, I'm afraid, the right thing to do is to give class prep three hours of hard work, figuring out how to make basic stuff clear to beginners, rather than nine hours of fun, preparing great stuff that will go over their heads.

 

When all else fails, there's always class discussion. You can spend five minutes thinking up a good discussion topic, let the students go at it for an hour (maybe after breaking into small groups for twenty minutes first), and just summarize and moderate; and the students will be happy that they're getting a real college education, from a real college-level instructor, hooray. As long as you don't do that too often, it works great. So you can use it as an escape pod for when your lecture just doesn't come together in time. It works because, once again, most of the value your students actually get is from stuff that you already know. The stuff that took you five minutes, plus on-the-spot reaction during class, is more valuable to them than the stuff on which you could have spent nine hours.

 

At least, so it seems to me, from one side of the lectern. I was a student, too, once, of course, but that was twenty-five years ago now. I'd be curious how current students see this. What kind of preparation by the teacher is appreciated, and what would you just as happily do without?

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Strictly speaking, all of chemistry is just molecular physics. It's the 'just' that's silly there, though.

 

Molecular physics is extraordinarily hard. The strict comparison between theory and experiment, that one demands in pure physics, is impossible, because the theory is too complicated for anyone to understand, or even to simulate with the biggest computers available. So one relies on empirical data and simplified models, which are special to particular problems and cases, and don't extend to the rest of physics. That's chemistry.

 

If chemistry weren't so important, it would just be a particularly obscure and thankless branch of physics; but of course it is extremely important, of enormous industrial value, essential to life, and so on. So it's its own science. It's built on top of some basic physics but most of it is unique.

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I've heard the assertion that, had we powerful enough computers, all of chemistry would just be statistical mechanics. I've heard the only slightly tongue-in-cheek counter-assertion that computers that powerful are provably impossible.

 

—Alorael, who suspects that best praxis varies widely by discipline. What and how a physics teacher needs to teach is utterly unlike the work of an English teacher. Neither are really all that much like a sociology teacher, although you can draw some similarities. I think, and it's largely baseless supposition at this point, that thinking back on the best teachers and lessons you've had and drawing on that to make your own lessons is a good way to avoid reinventing the wheel while still providing quality education. But even that supposes that your students are similar to you; if you're a physicist and you're teaching all those nursing students, what they want and what they already know may widely differ from what you were at the time and in the equivalent class.

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School was fun senior year and that's about it. Graphic Arts Design was easy because the teacher didnt teach anything. We had an elaborate cheating program that was in place. 3 People did the work in the class and it was their job to make the right stuff. From there we would take assignments which were always different, and change a few things each time. I got an A- in class and I didn't do one thing. It was clutch!

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School was fun senior year and that's about it. Graphic Arts Design was easy because the teacher didnt teach anything. We had an elaborate cheating program that was in place. 3 People did the work in the class and it was their job to make the right stuff. From there we would take assignments which were always different, and change a few things each time. I got an A- in class and I didn't do one thing. It was clutch!

 

Well, I suppose it's a good thing you won't be going into any career that matters with that attitude. I'd hate to see you become a doctor or something if that's your idea of a good class.

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Calc-based physics, calc II, and cultural anthropology. Should be interesting, even with the drone of a calc professor and the Miss Smack The Table Over and Over and Over anthro professor.

 

I will also say that custom textbooks are evil. Near-impossible to find online, forcing you to buy at the college bookstore. I can only hope that with selling it back it won't cost me too much more than the usual.

 

School was fun senior year and that's about it. Graphic Arts Design was easy because the teacher didnt teach anything. We had an elaborate cheating program that was in place. 3 People did the work in the class and it was their job to make the right stuff. From there we would take assignments which were always different, and change a few things each time. I got an A- in class and I didn't do one thing. It was clutch!

That is disgusting. I, personally, do my own work and never for anyone else. I would rather fail than turn in someone else's work. Even if it is something I'm both struggling in and I don't really care about, I will do my damned hardest to succeed on my own work. Which I have.

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I will also say that custom textbooks are evil. Near-impossible to find online, forcing you to buy at the college bookstore. I can only hope that with selling it back it won't cost me too much more than the usual.

When they are well written they can be better than regular ones. When they are bad ....

 

One text that I didn't use was written by the professor teaching the course one year, a student taking it said there was an average of one math mistake per page. Another had so many mistakes in the second edition that is was cheaper to make the corrections and release it as the third edition.

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That is disgusting. I, personally, do my own work and never for anyone else. I would rather fail than turn in someone else's work. Even if it is something I'm both struggling in and I don't really care about, I will do my damned hardest to succeed on my own work. Which I have.

I would never advise academic dishonesty. In fact, I'd say it's morally questionable and in practice has far too much risk for the rewards, as being caught can be disastrous to future prospects.

 

That said, I do think that one lesson that schooling teaches, and it's often not intentional, is how to triage work. Sometimes there's more work than you can reasonably do; often there's work that simply isn't of any value to you. Figuring out what minimal required effort is, and how to do it effectively, is actually a skill that will sadly stand you in good stead later in life. Figuring out which projects matter and which are busywork is important. Quickly deducing which articles are key and which are ancillary reading, then going over the former in depth and skimming the latter, is something that will be directly applicable to many jobs.

 

Because despite all the rhetoric, you can only give 100% of yourself. Sometimes the demands add up to more than that, and then you need to know how to cut back and cut corners well rather than poorly.

 

—Alorael, who also feels somewhat differently about coasting in bad classes where the teacher doesn't teach than classes where the teacher is trying but has poor detection of students gaming the system. For the former, well, cheating is still both bad and wrong, but sometimes the most you can get out of it is putting little of yourself into it. For the latter, you can get something out of it, and you really should. You may not like the class, you may not think it will ever be helpful or relevant, and you would be surprised how often little things you pick up are also "clutch" later.

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