Physicist outraged: Stanford’s ‘physics for minorities’ is toxic racism
Two more “pure ideological indoctrination” physics courses may be even worse
Wrath-0f-Khan has pointed out a remarkable story in Breitbart
about a new Stanford physics course, Physics 41E. The content is supposed to be identical to Physics 41, a mechanics course, except that the enrolled students are supposed to be students from minorities who had little or no high school physics or calculus. Such students obviously have to be given more care – so they receive “learning assistants” (LAs) who get an extra $1,700 stipend for their work. I suppose that the students from the minorities don’t have to pay for this extra expense.
A female professor whose first name resembles Lisa – a faculty member and a blogger with the defunct “Cosmic Variance” weblog around Sean Carroll (who switched to the “Preposterous Universe”) – seems to be the main driving force of this extremely unfortunate idea. It’s natural to think that certain people have already gotten into the system with the help of the illegitimate ideologically driven distortions – and their gratitude helps them to spread this distortion further.
Incidentally, it’s funny to realize that most of the people behind the split of courses to Physics 41 and 41E have been attacking South Africa and the U.S. for segregation, the ultimate crime. Now it’s their wonderful new idea!
You know, almost 15 years ago, your innocent humble correspondent was forced to notice the stunning racist and sexist approach to students – and the terror against instructors who don’t join it – for the first time. Perhaps because of my naivite, perhaps because of my limited experience, I still believed that Harvard was a fair university and even the grading was accurate and meticulous. But in a course, my TA – who was a perfectionist and whose work I was sufficiently verifying to have a full confidence in him – has determined some final grades for the students, based on some homework and/or exams.
Soon afterwards, I was contacted by various senior people and told that it was impossible for someone to get a C or a D in that course because she was female; and a similar comment about another student who had to get a better grade because he was brown. A famous professor associated with the birth of grand unification seemed to be one of the bullies, too. I was completely shocked and frankly speaking, I am completely shocked even now, 15 years later. This was like a policy from Nazi Germany and the people who pretend that the analogy is misleading are lying to themselves. They still haven’t answered my question whether Harvard really wants race-based grading; or whether they believe that a junior professor whom they hired – I – plus his TA wasn’t respecting the basic principles of fairness. Well, everyone actually knows it’s the former.
As far as I can say, the treatment and grading of female and non-white students in Harvard courses (and at almost all universities, I guess) is pretty much corrupt so you should pay no attention to these grades and perhaps even degrees. They are not trustworthy – especially the relative grades between minorities and non-minorities seem to be complete garbage. An A in a physics course may have been well-deserved for a “minority” student but as far as I can say, based on my experience, it’s far more likely that it is not and it is a result of ideologically-driven fraud and blackmail.
The situation has gotten much worse in the following years and the professors who apparently matter today seem to be completely fanatical. The aforementioned ex-blogger is offering us some “theory”:
Many students from all backgrounds and identities come to Stanford excited about physics, and this interest does not strongly depend on race or gender. But we lose a larger number of Black, Latinx and Native students, as well as women of all races, in the first two years of undergraduate study. A lot of that is due to the lack of community and overall climate. People from underrepresented groups often do not feel welcome in physics classes.
What a pile of junk. The interest in physics in an ethnic group (or anywhere) is clearly heavily correlated with the actual number of members of the group who choose to study physics or its prerequisites and because far fewer blacks, Hispanics, and American Indians go to physics than the percentage of the Jews, Asians, and whites, you may be pretty sure that they’re also far less interested in it. That’s also why many of them decouple from those who are actually more interested in physics – and good at it – which is why the less motivated or talented physics students generally feel less welcome, too.
In other words, if someone hasn’t had any calculus and/or physics at the high school, it shouldn’t be shocking that he’s more likely to decouple during the first years of the Stanford physics courses. The reasons may really be explained without any concept of the race. One just needs prerequisites to be good at some course.
More generally, independently of races, I find it highly unlikely that it’s a good idea to teach a “university course on mechanics” to someone who hasn’t been exposed to calculus and/or physics as a high school student. There is no general rule that such a person with this limited background cannot comprehend mechanics. But it’s very likely that he or she won’t. The education must be assumed to be a somewhat gradual process. If it assumes that a student jumps from a kindergarten level of physics knowledge to the graduate school physics right away, it’s not a realistic assumption and the resources and time spent for such schools will probably be mostly wasted. The discontinuity in the learning isn’t the only problem with their plan; another problem is that the absence of the prerequisites is quite a hint that the person wasn’t keen on similar things – so he or she is likely not to be too keen on the higher but related topics, either.