Archived Newsletters

Physics Teaching Resource Agents

Jim Nelson

Many industrial and university physicists feel that US education is not up to standard. Often physicists would like to be involved with the efforts to improve precollege education, but do not have a mechanism for such involvement. If this describes you, read on.

The American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) has trained over 200 of the nation's top high school physics teachers to be Physics Teaching Resource Agents (i.e., PTRA's). As a PTRA the teacher has been trained to conduct over 20 teacher professional development workshops. These workshops have been developed by PTRAs and members of AAPT. Since the PTRAs are among the nation's best teachers they are generally very busy, and need assistance from you to organize PTRA workshops. This assistance could consist of any of the following:

  1. Provide site for local teacher workshop
  2. Prepare announcement for workshop,
  3. Prepare mailing labels for announcement,
  4. Cover cost of mailing announcement,
  5. Provide funds for workshop materials to be given to teachers who attend workshop,
  6. Provide funds for workshop fee ($5.00 per hour per teacher attending workshop),
  7. Provide funds for stipend to be given to teachers who attend workshop,
  8. Provide breakfast and/or lunch during workshop,
  9. Collect registration forms and fee for workshop,
  10. Provide secretarial service for maps, telephone answering, typing material, and/or
  11. Cover cost of photocopying workshop materials.

If you have questions about the PTRA program contact any of the following:

Jim Nelson
Orange County Public Schools 
445 West Amelia Street 
Orlando, Florida 32801 

Larry Badar
Case Western Reserve University 
10900 Euclid Avenue 
Cleveland, OH 44106-7079 

Maria Elena Khoury
American Association of Physics Teachers 
One Physics Ellipse 
College Park, MD 20740-3845 

Undergraduate Research and Physics Outreach

Dwight E. Neuenschwander

The complete physics education is an Arch with two sides. One side is course work, with its end-of-chapter exercises and exams. The other side of the Arch, equally important, is a generous dose of extracurricular professional development activities designed to enhance the student's communication skills, professional identity, self-confidence, leadership qualities, and networking. Two extracurricular instruments that enhance the professional development of individual students--while enlivening the culture of the physics department--are Undergraduate Research and Physics Outreach to local K-12 grades.

Undergraduate Research
The usual image of undergraduate research pictures an externally-funded program where undergraduates assist faculty in cutting-edge work that is published in Physical Review Letters. This approach is analogous to the tight focus and deep pockets that characterized NASA through the Apollo era. Examples of this "NASA-Apollo Model of Undergraduate Research" include the NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates summer programs and the DOE Science and Engineering Research Semester. To solve some research problems the NASA-Apollo type program is crucial because of the resources it makes available. However, the NASA-Apollo Model is not the only model for undergraduate research. What is the ultimate aim of undergraduate research? I would suggest the following Mission Statement for it

The PURPOSE of undergraduate research is not the research itself, but the growth in self-confidence of the undergraduate scientist

The PRODUCT of undergraduate research is not a publication, but the transformation of the student.

The lessons of undergraduate research experience, such as rising to the occasion, dealing with "stuckness," communicating, defending one's work before an informed audience, are too important to be left to only those who are accepted into a highly structured program. In the wider view of the Mission Statement, it is not necessary to have a grant or a cutting-edge problem in order to create some meaningful research experience for the undergraduate physicist. This realization is liberating. Complementing the NASA-Apollo approach, we remember the much smaller scale of the Wright Brothers' shop as they designed, built, and tested their Flyer.

A Wright Flyer Model of Undergraduate Research may feature a student and faculty member (or other mentor) meeting weekly to extend a calculation, design a computer simulation, or conduct a table-top experiment. I am convinced that meaningful Wright Flyer projects can be sustained. In my own experience at Southern Nazarene University, since 1989 I personally mentored some 20 students in about 30 Wright Flyer projects, resulting in over 50 presentations at regional meetings (and eight student-authored or co-authored publications since 1991), all with zero external funding. The value of the experience to the student was independent of the project's publishability. (Also, during those same years a half-dozen of our students were accepted into NASA-Apollo Model programs at other universities and national laboratories.) Just as the work of the Wrights and the work of NASA were equally important in the history of aerospace, the Wright Flyer Model and the NASA-Apollo Model are both important for physics education, and physics needs lots of homes for both of them.

These themes are discussed in a 26-page booklet published by the Society of Physics Students (SPS), How to Involve Undergraduates in Research: A Field Guide for Faculty. It may help put wheels on the vehicle of undergraduate research, from describing the implementation of Wright Flyer and NASA-Apollo Models, to practical matters such as coaching student presentations. Originally distributed to SPS chapters, the booklet is available to others from the SPS by sending $5 to the address below.

Physics Outreach to Grades K-12
When we think of educational reform, we tend to think "top down" in terms of NSF funded Projects and national standards. Top-down approaches are important, and for certain purposes they are essential. But they are not the only models for encouraging science education reform and increasing science appreciation. Another model is a grassroots, or "bottom-up" approach. Until every single physicist is taking a presentation into at least one local K-12 classroom per year, we are not doing everything we know to do for science education. I may not be able to control Congress or the implementation of national standards, but I can volunteer to take my lenses and magnets to a nearby fourth grade, and heed the advice of their teacher on how to communicate effectively with this audience.

There is a genuine need for such interactions. Teachers tell me that among their greatest obstacles to effective science teaching are lack of materials to prepare demonstrations or experiments (much is paid for from the teacher's own pocket), and lack of time to prepare demonstrations or hands-on activities (the day in the life of an elementary teacher is structured down to the last ten minutes). Making ourselves available to "take physics on the road" helps answer these needs.

We know the physics, but it is the teachers who know how to communicate with their pupils. From them we can learn much about communicating to young inquisitive minds, and to the general public, in jargon-free language. Had the culture of physics in recent decades held outreach in the same esteem that it reserved for those who win grants, then the intellectual climae towards science in today's society might have been much better than the present reality.

Many chapters of the SPS have already established a tradition of physics outreach to local K-12 grades and the public. To assist them the Society recently began publishing The Physics Outreach Notebook, offering advice and ideas solicited from successful practitioners in the art of "taking physics on the road." Hole-punched installments are added as they are published. Originally distributed to SPS chapters, the Notebook installments we have to date are made available to others for $5, payable to the SPS.

Faced with describing physics principles in third grade languages, bearing the responsibility of being considered an "expert," and revealing that there are many deep questions to which we do not know the answer, through outreach efforts the university students and faculty gain a sobering experience in science communication. Second-graders ask, "What makes the sun shine? What holds the moon up when it's on nothing? Why are all people different?" These are profound questions, the very questions that drive science. Hearing them from the mouths of babes is a humbling experience. That they no longer ask these questions by grade seven is tragic. Thus we must do what we can.

The question of what "the country" is doing about science education reform is important, but is only the second question. The first question is, What am I doing personally about it within the sphere of influence that I already have? This is the first question because I alone have the responsibility to answer it, and because I alone determine what the answer shall be. Dwight E. Neuenschwander is Manager of the AIP Education Division and Director of the Society of Physics Students Address of the SPS:

Society of Physics Students
One Physics Ellipse
College Park, MD 20740

Browsing Through The Journals

Thomas Rossing

Although discrimination against women in the sciences has been outlawed in the United States for more than two decades, disparities remain in several areas and fields, report Gerhard Sonnert and Gerald Holton in "Career Patterns of Women and Men in the Sciences" in the Jan./Feb. 1996 issue of American Scientist. The article summarizes results of Project Access, which focused on a group of female and male scientists who had the same kind of auspicious starting positions as they began their careers as professional scientists. In biology, virtually no differences appeared between the academic career progress of men and women; however in the physical sciences, mathematics and engineering (lumped together, as usual!), a significant gap separated the average academic ranks achieved by women and men, especially among younger faculty.

Some preliminary results from the evaluation of the Introductory University Physics Project (IUPP) carried out during 1991-92 are reported in two papers by R. Di Stefano in the January 1996 issue of American Journal of Physics. One conclusion, not specific to the IUPP course, is that demonstration experiments in class are a valuable learning experience. (Typical comment: "I think I pay attention more if something is being shown to me rather than told to me.")

The December issue of The Physics Teacher includes 18 more "physics trading cards." The 1995 all-stars include: Luis Alvarez, Hans Bethe, Ludwig Boltzmann, J. Willard Gibbs, Johannes Kepler, Maria Goeppert Mayer, Jules-Henri Poincare, Isidor Rabi, Lord Rayleigh, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, Benjamin Franklin, George Gamow, Lise Meitner, Albert Michelson, Wolfgang Pauli, Charles Townes, Hermann Weyl, and Chien-Shiung Wu. A set of 18 trading cards previously appeared as a centerfold in the December 1991 edition.

Regular readers of this column know that one of my favorite editorial writers is Clifford Swartz, editor of The Physics Teacher. In the November 1995 issue is an editorial entitled "First, the Answer." His suggestion for solving physics problems: first, write down the [approximate] answer. This approach to physics problems is the same as we use in everyday life, he points out. If you go to the store to buy a new coat, you figure out in advance the price that you will pay, probably to within 25%. Working a physics problem should be like buying a coat. "Within a factor of 2 or 10, what would be a reasonable value?" An editorial entitled "The Teacher-Centered Lecture Method" in the October 1995 issue defends physics lectures, which have been under attack from so many quarters recently. Of course, he defends good lectures, not bad lectures. "A physics lecture should not be a means of transmitting facts from teacher to student. For that, we have textbooks, which students should learn to study." The lecture, rather, should do something that most texts can't -- demonstrate an attitude, whip up enthusiasm, show a love of the subject. A good lecture should center around one "powerful idea," should include an appropriate demonstration experiment, should include pauses during which students can discuss a problem.

Three articles in the November issue of Journal of College Science Teaching summarize talks on introductory science courses presented at an NSTA meeting in March 1995. "The Nature and Process of Science: A Goal-Focused Approach to Teaching Science Literacy" by Elliott Hartman and Nathan Dubowsky discusses courses that carefully define science literacy, designate science literacy as the primary goal, and direct all learning activities toward achieving this primary goal. "Teaching the Process of Science Using Risk and Folklore as Examples" is the title of the second article by biologist Florence Juillerat. An interdisciplinary unit on folklore might use folklore to establish differences between science and nonscience, for example. Finally, Lynda Micikas discusses the "why" and "how" of teaching science in a paper entitled "Ask 'Why?' Before Considering 'How?'" Reasons why students should learn about the nature and processes of science include these: learning to think investigatively and clearly is a useful life skill; and learning about the methods of science can help correct misconceptions that people have about it.

In the Dec./Jan. issue of Journal of College Science Teaching is an article by Diane Bunce entitled "The Quiet Revolution in Science Education-Teaching Science the Way Students Learn." The author points out that students are not easily able to access their knowledge or even properly encode it in memory if it is unconnected both to their past experience and to other concepts in the course. An important point is to establish a need to know within the learner. Such needs might involve setting a scenario from stories in the newspaper.

The Harvard Commencement Day address by President Neil Rudenstine, entitled "The Imagination of Well-Prepared Minds" appears in the October issue of American Journal of Physics. "Research and advanced education are inescapably linked to one another," Rudenstine reminds us. "Neither can flourish without the other." He recalled that Sir Alexander Fleming, speaker at the Harvard Commencement 50 years ago described the role of chance in his own discovery of penicillin. However, fortuity alone does not produce new knowledge; rather significant new knowledge depends on the rigorous work and imagination of prepared minds. "The unprepared mind cannot see the outstretched hand of opportunity," Fleming reminds us.

"Most people who obtain a degree in physics do not end up as physicists," Marc Brodsky reminds us in an editorial "Making the Case for Physics" in the Spring 1995 issue of Radiations of Sigma Pi Sigma. Out of 20,000 technical employees at Boeing, nearly 1600 have at least one degree in physics (although fewer than 100 belong to one of the AIP member societies and thus probably do not consider themselves to be professional physicists). Apparently Boeing finds that a physics degree has prepared its employees for careers as engineers, managers, and technicians. Brodsky's conclusion is that the case for physics has to be reestablished. Physics must be acknowledged as a discipline that is just as effective at helping the United States achieve economic security as it was for bringing the nation military security during and after World War II. "If I can convince the physics faculty that physics is the best darned way to prepare students for the uncertainties of the job market, then I will have succeeded as a leader in my profession," comments Brodsky, who is Executive Director of the American Institute of Physics.


Using Physical Science as an Effective Tool to Help Us Better Educate Individuals Versus Group Processing

To the Editor:

Improvement in the quality of education will be a major factor in determining our future as a nation. What are we willing to do in the U.S. to really improve education, and particularly science education? What are we failing to do that should be done? Various studies on education have indicated that America's children received a better education fifty years ago than they do today. If education did a better job in the past, what has caused the deterioration of education to its present condition? What are the real basics which play a part in becoming educated? That which determines more than anything else whether or not an individual is going to succeed as a student depends on the individual's eagerness to learn and the individual's willingness to be completely involved in doing what needs to be done, and this is typically closely associated with strong family life and parental concern.

We need to keep in mind that gifted students who are truly motivated to learn will succeed no matter what type of support is given by the educational system. Therefore, evaluation of improvement in the educational process must be determined by the progress shown by average and below-average students. These are the students who need more motivation and more individual help. I believe that one of the keys is that each student must be taught according to his or her ability within the framework of what needs to be achieved in each grade level. Eagerness to learn is greatly enhanced when students have the opportunity to investigate and find out for themselves. Future success in any type of human endeavor depends mostly on what a student continues to do on his or her own time in addition to what is required at school. This effort is strengthened when there is an eagerness to learn. We need to eliminate the practice of equalization, the mass processing of all students according to a model of what has been determined as the level of the average student's capability. This method ignores the different abilities and interests of students and provides a mediocre and limited type of education for students. Over the last three decades or so, students have become adept at memorizing and passing tests but haven't developed, as they should, their ability to think or to write. As a result, these students are not prepared to function at the college or university level and are also limited in terms of being able to function properly in society. In many cases, the memorization syndrome is continued and even enhanced in universities and colleges.

Many of my physical science colleagues at BYU have told me that in the last few years more and more of their students lack the ability to think and write properly, and they try to get by through memorizing what is needed to pass tests. The over emphasis in public schools, and in many instances in universities and colleges, on passing tests, usually accomplished by memorization, has had a debilitating effect on learning science, especially physics. Many professors have seen a need to reduce and simplify what they require of their students now because the students don't have the capability to do what has been done in the past. Emphasis must be placed on the need to educate individuals instead of educating by group processing so that each individual learns how to think and is able to report orally or in writing what he or she has learned.

I believe that physical science teachers at all levels of education have the opportunity to be primary catalysts in this process, because physical science courses, more than any other basic courses, provide numerous opportunities for students to investigate and learn for themselves. Physical science courses provide hands-on experience with the opportunity to express orally and in writing what has been observed and what it may mean. We must take full advantage of these opportunities to help our students think for themselves and optimize their individual potentials.

Alvin K. Benson
Department of Geophysics and Geology 
Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah

Communication Skills

To the Editor:

I have been motivated, reading the summer issue of the FEd, to give some reflections about the problem of the so-called "communication skills" of physicists. For 28 years I have been professor of the Faculty of Physics at the University of Havana, Cuba and I have worked with other colleagues conceiving the curriculum of Physics. I can say that in our experience we make an effort to develop the skills in our students to communicate their results, because research work, participation in seminars, and in scientific events have an important weight in the curriculum. And we really reach the desired result in this way.

Nevertheless, I agree that there is a lack in our professionals if we talk about the "social communication skills" and I wonder what we can do in order to obtain that our students are more open and interacting with the surrounding social media. I consider that these are precisely the communication skills that we need to improve in our students in order to have in the future a physics community which will be more closely related with the society, as other professionals are now. My opinion is that we must include in the curriculum some courses dealing with relations between people, management, etc.

I ask you to include this letter in your next issue, because I would like to exchange experiences and opinions with other colleagues of the Forum on Education and of the APS in general. I will receive any opinion with pleasure.

Prof. Jose Marin-Antuna
Faculty of Physics
University of Havana
San Lazaro y L. 
Habana-4, Cuba
Phone: (537) 783266, (537) 701506, or (537) 786150 | Fax: (537) 333758 or (537) 335774.

Election Results and Related Notes

Congratulations to the new elected officers of the Forum on Education. The new Vice-Chair is Paul Zitzewitz. Secretary-Treasurer is Morton Kagan. Member-at-Large of the Executive Committee, with Joint APS/AAPT Affiliation, is Jack Wilson. The other new Member-at- Large of the Executive Committee is Helen Quinn. 590 members voted out of a possible 3600.

Nominations Invited
Members of the Forum on Education are invited to nominate FEd members for positions on the Executive Committee. Any member proposed for a post on the Executive Committee by at least 36 members (1% of membership) before October 1, 1996, will automatically be included on the ballot. Nominations may be sent to Paul Zitzewitz, Chair of the Nominating Committee, or to any other member of the Executive Committee for forwarding. See the back page of this newsletter for addresses.

APS Fellows Nominations invited 
Forum members are encouraged to nominate deserving colleagues for Fellowship in the American Physical Society through the usual nomination procedure which is published regularly in APS News. Prospective Fellows do not have to be members of the FEd, but must be APS members. Readers can obtain nomination materials through our Web site, Chair of the Fellowship Nomination Committee for the Forum is Ruth Howes.

Members and friends of the Forum on Education are reminded that the new APS policy requires that they select the forum or forums they wish to join (or renew) with each membership renewal. Do not forget to check off the Forum on Education, to maintain your membership and support its activities. The first two forum memberships are free.

Powerful Ideas for Physics Teaching

Editor's note: The following is taken in large part from the Web pages of the AAPT ( Readers are referred to this site and connected sites for more information about this course and about the AAPT itself.

Powerful Ideas is a new and effective teaching tool for college and university faculty who instruct prospective elementary teachers and non-science majors in physical science phenomena concepts. The materials are published in a three ring binder and include instructor materials, ready-to-copy transparencies, student materials and homework. The student materials are available in both hard copy and electronic format to facilitate adoption to your particular teaching situation. This course was developed by the American Institute of Physics and the American Association of Physics Teachers under a grant from the National Science Foundation.

Beginning from the premise that students arrive in the classroom with their own ideas about the physical world, the course allows the learner to critically examine these conceptions through a set of interesting activities and experiences. The activities engage students in both individual and collaborative activities which elicit their own existing conceptions, allow students to test these ideas against observable events using everyday materials, and inspire students to decide on more effective explanations or models when events often do not match predictions based on these original conceptions.

Five units are provided:

  1. Constructing Your Course
  2. Light and Color
  3. Electricity
  4. Heat and Conservation of Energy
  5. Nature of Matter

The AAPT is sponsoring Summer Faculty Enhancement workshops on Powerful Ideas in Physical Science, where faculty can learn more about this model and collaborate with other colleagues in adapting it to their own course needs. Although it is too late to apply for the June workshop at Mississippi State University, interested faculty should watch for announcements of next summer's workshops, for which funding from NSF is anticipated.

For more information about Powerful Ideas, contact:

Cliff Sheppard
One Physics Ellipse
College Park, MD 20740-3845

Comments from the Chair

Beverly Hartline

The Forum on Education actively promotes visibility for education within the physics community and for physics within the education community. Traditionally, the major focus of "physics education" has been to prepare bright young people for careers in a broad range of physics research fields and/or for faculty positions at universities. Many physicists, especially those electing membership in the Forum, identify with a broader personal mission in education, extending variously to include children, teachers, media, and the public, as well as the traditional audience. I believe that one very important role for the Forum, now that it is well established, is to publicize and promote ways the American Physical Society and its members can "educate" the broadest possible population to share our enthusiasm for science in general and physics in particular. An important goal is to achieve a scientifically-literate citizenry, able to handle the complexities and the decisions of the 21st century, and able to understand and appreciate the value of scientific research.

This goal is especially important in the current era of federal deficit reduction and the attendant cutting of federal discretionary spending. In this climate, it will take a major and deliberate investment of effort and energy--by many knowledgeable and committed people--to sustain the health and vitality of science in the United States. Physics is no exception. One thing is certain, and that is that people in a position to make decisions on programs, funding, and priorities will make them for their reasons and based on their knowledge and values. Given that physicists comprise a very small minority of U.S. taxpayers and policy makers, and that most people can barely spell physics--much less appreciate the breadth and depth of its subject matter, benefits, and applicability--we have been very fortunate in the past level of federal investment in the field.

The big challenge will be to garner strong support for science and physics, even as the total federal budget declines. Education is the best tool we have. But it is education with a modified purpose, and a larger and substantially more diverse audience--in age, profession, interest, and educational background--than traditionally enroll in undergraduate and graduate classes. You-- the nearly 4,000 members of the Forum on Education--can each be a leader and activist in this effort.

Working together, and using the Forum to catalyze, promote, and publicize successful initiatives, we can:

  • Help precollege teachers know physics and science as exploration and inquiry instead of facts.
  • Motivate students at all levels to develop skills, pursue socially-acceptable interests, and acquire "scientific literacy."
  • Recognize and publicize the variety of 21st century careers available to well-qualified individuals with an undergraduate physics background.
  • Evolve graduate physics programs to provide experiences applicable to a broad range of careers where professional physicists would bring valuable expertise, perspective, and capabilities.
  • Mobilize work places to greater involvement in education at all levels.
  • Network, coordinate with, and learn "best practice" from each other and from the education efforts of other professional societies focused on physics, teaching, and/or related scientific fields.
  • Increase policy makers' and public servants' knowledge and appreciation of science in general and physics in particular by relating with them on their terms and helping them solve their problems.

With your active participation, the Forum is working to increase the education-related dialog at all professional gatherings of physicists--from the major "Spring" meetings to the more focused Division, Sectional, and Regional meetings. Please send us your ideas and input via the World Wide Web at, or via email, phone call, or face-to-face contact with any of your elected Executive Committee. We hope to see you at our annual business meeting Saturday, 4 May 1996, 10:30 a.m., in Room 106, at the Indianapolis APS/AAPT Joint Meeting. Better yet, volunteer to organize an education-oriented session at an upcoming National, Division, or Section Meeting. I sincerely hope to hear ideas and activities from each of you during the coming year, while I serve as Forum Chair. You are the Power of the Forum.

Importance of Undergraduate Science Education

Robert C. Hilborn

Let me begin by thanking the leaders of the National Science Foundation for organizing this important and timely review of undergraduate science education and for inviting me to represent the physics community in this enterprise. In addition, all of us owe the members of the review committee a debt of gratitude for undertaking this Herculean task. I would also like to acknowledge the many leaders of the American Association of Physics Teachers and the American Physical Society who provided valuable comments on draft versions of my written testimony. Though the particular formulations of the issues are my own, I believe that they accurately reflect a wide range of consensus within the physics community about the challenges facing undergraduate science education.

In my remarks today, I want to emphasize the connections between undergraduate physics education and other levels of science education and other aspects of the scientific enterprise. (When I say science, I mean the four-fold enterprise of science, mathematics, engineering and technology.) In my thinking about undergraduate physics education there are four numbers, 24%, 3%, 10%, and 40% that I believe dominate all considerations. Let me explain what these numbers represent.

First the 24%. Only 24% of high school students currently take some form of high school physics. For comparison, about 54% take chemistry, and 93% take biology. That means, even with the most optimistic estimates, that fewer than half of the students entering college have any background in physics. The implications for all college science courses are ominous. Many of the students will be innocent of basic physical principles such as conservation of energy and momentum; they will lack the sharp problem solving and math skills that are often honed by physics courses, and their knowledge of electricity and magnetism, not to mention simple circuits, will be close to zero.

The 3%. Only 3% of the students who take calculus-based introductory physics in college go on to take another physics class. If we include those taking algebra-based physics the numbers are even smaller. This points out a dilemma mentioned in other testimony several times today: How to balance the need to prepare potential majors with the needs of students who will have careers in other fields.

The final two numbers apply to the Ph.D. end of the physics educational pipeline, but have direct relevance for undergraduate physics education. Less than 10% of the Ph.D.s in physics in the United States go to women and minorities. That deeply troubles me as a physicist, as a physics teacher, and as a human being. Physics, as well as society as a whole, cannot afford to continue to let that much of the nation's talent fail to see physics as a viable career option, or to phrase it in a way probably closer to the mark, find themselves unwelcome in physics.

The second Ph.D. number is 40%, the fraction of physics Ph.D.s who take career positions in academe or in basic research in industry and the national labs. 60%, the majority, go elsewhere. Yet most undergraduate programs and nearly all the Ph.D. programs focus solely on preparation for a career in basic research with almost no attention paid to what in fact most Ph.D.s actually do for careers. To exacerbate matters, public recognition and prestige focus on graduate education and basic research to the detriment of teaching and to careers outside academe and basic research.

By these remarks I don't wish to downplay the importance of research, both as an intrinsic good and as an equal partner with classroom teaching in both the graduate and undergraduate physics enterprise. But I do wish to point out a wide-spread and ultimately unhealthy bias against what myopic academic physicists have called "non-traditional" careers.

Now let me turn to questions of fostering and implementing science education reform. The American educational system is not a monolith. That is both a strength and a weakness, but it is a fact. It requires programs to encourage both small-scale innovations that may later grow into major national reforms (like Workshop Physics) and also broad initiatives (like the calculus reform movement) that can more directly effect systemic changes. I would like to make a special plea for programs like Instructional Laboratory Improvement program of NSF that, although modest in scale, have acted as crucial catalysts for curriculum development and improvement at the local level.

Another fact: the financial and educational needs of public colleges and universities can be quite different from those of private institutions. I believe that public colleges and universities with only bachelors or masters degree programs are under particularly acute stress. Generally their financial resources are more constrained than those of research universities or private institutions, but their ambitions are just as high. All of us will need to be creative in finding a diversity of programs to match the diversity of American higher education.

A final point: education does not end with the awarding of a degree. Science educators and scientists in general need to be concerned with continued outreach to the general public. Investments in everything from traveling demonstration shows for schools to science and technology museums to TV shows (we really could use a show called Philadelphia Physics and a 10 part series on science by Ken Burns to supplement Nova and Bill Nye, the Science Guy)- all of these will pay enormous dividends in the public's awareness and appreciation of science.

Let me close with a visual demonstration that illustrates a theme that underlies and connects many points I have raised. These three interlocking loops of wire are in a configuration called the Borromean Rings named after the Borromeo family of northern Italy in whose coat of arms they appear. I just learned about these rings last week in a research seminar on the topological properties of states related to Bell's Theorem in quantum mechanics, but explaining that connection would take a half-hour's lecture. For our purposes here I want one ring to represent undergraduate science education which is closely linked with both pre-college science education, represented by a second ring, and graduate education and research, represented by the third. As you can see these are closely intertwined, with considerable overlap. But there is an unusual feature of the Borromean ring configuration, which is shared by the enterprise of science education: If any one of the rings breaks, the entire complex comes apart. A vivid warning to anyone who believes that we as a nation do not need to pay serious attention to undergraduate science education.

Robert C. Hilborn is the Lisa and Amanda Cross Professor of Physics at Amherst College, Amherst, MA. These remarks were taken from testimony given before the National Science Foundation Review of Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering and Technology: Disciplinary Perspectives, October 23, 1995

Darwin and the Pear Blossoms: An Editorial

Stan Jones

Although it is not my native state, I have lived long enough in Alabama to learn to love many things about it. As I write this in early March, in short sleeves with the windows open, knowing the pear trees are already in bloom, I feel sorry for my friends up north who still have a considerable amount of winter ahead of them. But there are aspects of life in Alabama that I am sure my northern colleagues do not envy...such as the remarkable decision of our state school board to insert in every high school biology text a supplement explaining that evolution is just a theory. Surely this happens only in the bible belt...or does it?

The subject of evolution vs. creationism is just one of many issues that arise when citizens try to instill their particular set of values into the curriculum. Banning of books is another way, and placing restrictions on "family life" or "health education" courses is another. To one degree or another, we face these conflicts all over the country. I see all these issues as arising from a basic misunderstanding of the fundamental purpose of education. I will try to make this point by focusing on the creationism conflict.

Of course, I do not teach evolution, and in fact don't have much occasion to discuss the big bang either, which tends to get trashed along with evolution. But I consider this to be part of the great body of science, and somehow to reject part is to reject the scientific approach itself. It then becomes a matter of little concern to such people if (for instance) support for scientific research is cut sharply in budget-balancing negotiations in Congress. Opposition to evolution is just a symptom of the lack of acceptance of the scientific view of the world.

To me, creationism is a case of rejecting conclusions based on rather solid evidence, and believing instead in a theory which has little experimental support. This occurs in other places: people insist on believing in e.s.p., astrology, or telekinesis in spite of the scientific evidence against them. Even when shown in cleverly arranged demonstrations that horoscopes have no basis (all the people in the audience are secretly given the same horoscope, yet all attest that it suits them very well), people go on as they did before, using them to plan their activities. This is an attitude that cannot understand or value scientific research.

There is a deeper level at which this mentality is dangerous to our country. It is not just a rejection of science, but of education as a whole. Maybe I'm stretching things here, but I believe that the attitude which rejects science is the same attitude that rejects the educational system itself. Although most Americans would deny it, this country really does not place a high priority on education. It is seen as a necessary route to better wages, but not as a way to develop thinking skills. It is in this sense that I say that the public does not really understand the fundamental purpose of education. I see this as a serious threat to our educational system, and as a consequence to our future health as a society.

Because we do not truly value education itself, we repeatedly deny adequate funding for education, at all levels. Although the justification given is that a proposed tax was unfair, or that there is too much waste in the education system, the bottom line is that neither the community, the state, nor the federal government has ever funded education adequately. Teachers continue to be among the lowest paid professionals, and they are not given the support research shows they need to properly teach our children. School facilities are crumbling, and all evidence shows that American children fall behind most other developed countries in achievement. If we cared, we would do something about it, even though it costs money.

There is a chicken and egg aspect to this problem: perhaps the public doesn't understand science or value education because we are not doing a good job of the educational process itself. This is of course the main way in which we can combat an anti-education mentality: through education itself. We must show not only that education leads to a better lifestyle, but also to clearer- thinking, more adaptable, more understanding citizens.

Last week the voters of my county rejected a property tax increase intended to build new schools ( we have so many temporary classrooms in the county that one school was mistaken for a mobile home park). I reflected on hearing this news that the people of Alabama do not care that much for evolution, and that in fact they don't care that much about education, either. I'm afraid this is happening all over America.

N.B. Shortly after this was written, an unseasonably malicious cold front came through, turning all the pear blossoms to a dead brown. It was about this same time that our governor, using his discretionary funds, purchased and mailed to 900 biology teachers throughout the state a copy of the anti-evolution treatise Darwin on Trial. So it goes.

Sessions at the Indianapolis APS/AAPT Meeting

Thursday Morning, 2 May 1996, 08:00Session A6. AAPT: Enhancing Physics Learning via Research in Physics Education: Improving Understanding with Simulations Maloney, Somers, Kautz, Loverude, Thacker, Steinberg. Room 106. Chair: L. McDermott

Thursday Morning, 2 May 1996, 11:00Session B6. AAPT & FED: Frontiers in Physics Education Beichner, Stewart, Garcia, Francis. Room 106. Chair: H. Georgi.Session B14. FED & FPS: Education, Arms Control, and Energy Sheffield. Room 117. Chair: A. Nero

Friday Morning, 3 May 1996, 08:00Session E4. FPS, FED, & FIAP: The Future of Physics Careers - A Panel and Open Forum Larson, Schmitt, Aylesworth, Fainberg, Ripin. Sagamore Ballroom 6. Chair: B. Schwartz.Session E'8. Topics in Undergraduate Physics Education Shaibani, Tan, Brooks, Akridge, Brooks, Gangopadhyaya, Akridge. Room 102. Chair: D. Tamres

Friday Morning, 3 May 1996, 11:00Session F11. AAPT: Reaching Teachers and the Public Discenna, Agarwal, Marroum, Maasha, Wenning, Watson, Robinson. Room 210. Chair: R. P. Bauman

Friday Afternoon, 3 May 1996, 14:00Session G6. AAPT & FED: The Workplace Skills: What Are They and How Do We Help Students Acquire Them? Blake, Duch, Heller, Andre, Patton. Room 106. Chair: A. Van Heuvelen

Friday Afternoon, 3 May 1996, 16:30Session H1. Special Plenary Symposium of The American Physical Society and The American Association of Physics Teachers Patel, Thorne, Wieman. 500 Ballroom. Chair: K. Johnson & R. Schrieffer

Saturday Morning, 4 May 1996, 08:00Session J6. FED & AAPT: Frontiers in Physics Research Perl, Schrieffer, Haxton. Room 106. Chair: H. G. Voss

Saturday Morning, 4 May 1996, 11:00Session K6. AAPT: Uses of Media and Computers in Physics Education Novak, Davis, Miller. Room 106. Chair: G. Spagna

Saturday Afternoon, 4 May 1996, 14:30Session L6. AAPT & APS: Modern Methods of Teaching Astronomy Kouzes, Bisard, Higdon. Room 106. Chair: J. Burciaga

Sunday Morning, 5 May 1996, 08:00Session M'9. AAPT: The Undergraduate Physics Course and Laboratory Puntenney. Room 103. Chair: J. Hehn

Sunday Morning, 5 May 1996, 11:00Session N6. AAPT & FED: Promoting Physics to the Public Harp, Raeburn, Bishop. Room 106. Chair: C. Will.

New Faculty Conference, October 30

Ken Krane

The American Association of Physics Teachers will hold a conference aimed at helping new physics faculty from the research universities become more aware of new developments in pedagogy and curriculum, so that they will improve the level of undergraduate instruction. This conference, to be held at the University of Maryland (College Park) from October 31 - November 3, 1996, is supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation. The workshop is limited to 50 participants.

Faculty in the first few years of a tenure-track appointment are under great pressure to establish a research program, which is often the primary criterion for promotion and tenure. The development of expertise in undergraduate teaching is generally regarded as of secondary importance, although it is receiving increasing emphasis in promotion and tenure decisions at many institutions. The Conference will highlight techniques for improving teaching and will provide materials and guidance for individual improvement. Enhancing networking of new faculty to share ideas is also a goal of the Conference.

Participants will include physics faculty from research universities in their first few years of an initial tenure-track appointment, including more senior faculty who have recently entered academia after careers in industry or government laboratories. Department chairs will be invited to nominate their faculty to attend. The NSF grant will provide funds for all local expenses for the participants; the individual institutions are expected to provide only the support for the participant to travel to the Conference. Funding is also provided for the participants to attend the summer AAPT meeting, where they will hold a special session for new faculty to inform one another of their activities, to discuss common issues and concerns, and to share their experiences with others who were not able to attend the Conference.

The conference will be organized around a series of participatory workshops, with resource leaders selected from among the leading innovators in undergraduate physics education in the U.S. The resource leaders will provide participants with a detailed bibliography and background materials. Topics to be discussed include active learning and interactive lectures, using technology in teaching, how your research can inform your teaching, minority and gender issues, using technology, addressing conceptual misunderstandings, and mentoring research students.

A special feature of the Conference will be a NSF visitation day on Thursday, October 31. Participants will be able to meet with NSF program officers in their specialty areas to discuss research funding.

For further information, contact Ken Krane, Department of Physics, Oregon State University, (541)737-4569,