In my senior year of high school, I took Physics. I somehow was placed in the “Smart” physics class. I guess they thought I was smart. I had a “B” in chemistry, and in 1962, a “B” was a good grade, unlike today where they give out “A’s” like candy so as not to upset a student’s self-esteem.
I was placed in the “smart” physics class. It was called PSSC Physics, it was a curriculum designed by an MIT group to study improved teaching of physics, the Physical Science Study Committee.
Most of my friends took physics in the “stupid” class. They played with ripple makers and test tubes, memorized formulas and learned some interesting stuff.
In the PSSC class we were taught how to figure out and explain the phenomenon known as the Physical Science. It was not enough to learn a formula, we were to understand the how’s and the why’s of developing those formulas.
The result of this marvelous program was out of a class of 24; two kids learned and understood the basics of physics. Twenty two kids learned nothing and to this day do not have a clue as to what physics really is.
I did get a “C” in this course. How did I get a “C” in a course that I cannot even tell you what the science explains?
It was graded on a curve.
The tests were so hard, that in order for anyone to pass, the teacher Mr. Taylor (loved that dude, but that is another story) graded on a curve. I clearly remember Mr. Taylor explaining the results of one test, a twenty question multiple choice test,
“Guys you did so bad on this test a 25 was a passing grade. Now for God sake (teachers could say God in 1963) twenty questions, each with only four possible answers, if you just guessed at every question the odds would be you would get at least a 25. If you failed, don’t come crying to me.
A monkey could have passed this test!”
From the back of the room everyone could hear Richard Kuna (who by the way scored 800, a perfect score, on his math SAT’s) mumble,
“Holy Shit, I got beat by a monkey!”
If you asked me today if I took physics in high school, my answer would be… “Sort of.”