Shortcomings of High School Physics Classes
Unfortunately, physics classes available in American high schools all too often do not provide students with the kind of benefits possible. In the hope that it may lead to greater public awareness, we offer the following reasons why physics classes are not what they could be:
1. Shortage of qualified teachers: In a sense, physics is a victim of its own success. For instance, anyone qualified to teach physics is also qualified to get a significantly higher-paying job in industry. This makes it difficult to find and keep good physics teachers.
2. Physics-based technology has created a new educational paradigm: Education is by nature a conservative endeavor which responds slowly to changes in society. The United States education system was established in an agrarian society and continues to be influenced by its roots. For instance, we continue to have summer vacation even though our children generally do not help tend crops. The sudden explosion of physics-based technology has largely occurred since World War II and has created a new paradigm which has not yet been absorbed by the education system. The new role of physics-based technology has not been been emphasized or incorporated into teacher, counselor, and
3. Lack of an adequate feeder system for college prep physics classes: Science classes in grade school and middle school often do little to prepare high school students for rigorous physics classes. There is a lack of knowledgeable teachers as well as a lack of emphasis.
4. Physics teachers often cannot focus on their topic: With less than 25% of all high school seniors taking physics, high school physics teachers are rarely allowed to focus on teaching physics. They are generally required to teach other science or math courses in addition to physics. This dilutes their efforts.
5. Resources for purchasing and maintaining equipment are inadequate: A quality physics class requires expensive equipment. While there are many outstanding and cost-effective pieces of educational equipment available, such as computerized data collection systems, there is little budget available to purchase them. However, purchasing funds are only the beginning of the resources needed to effectively use equipment. It takes hours of work to learn how to effectively use equipment in the classroom, not to mention setting it up or maintaining it. Teachers often have to do most of this on their own time.