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Monday, July 03, 2006

Where Are We Going?

I've slowly gained an immense (I can't encompass it) disdain for our academic syllabus. I'm preparing of the IIT's (as ya'll should know), but I still feel that lack of true persuance of the holy grail of knowledge. As a gentle warning, this is going to be a ranting post, so pardon me if any emotions are flared.

The main problem I have with what we are learning is: WHAT ARE WE DOING WITH IT??? Do we analyse, rip apart and reconstruct situations. What makes a parabola a parabola? There are like a thousand questions which give a very interesting results, GENERAL results. Why don't we deconstruct the situations and understand WHY things happen? I'll give a simple and not very good example: If you find the locus of points from a pair of tangents are drawn to a parabola, such that the intercept made by the pair of tangents on ANY line parallel to the directrix is a constant, it ends up being a parabola PARALLEL to the first one.

Especially in maths, we tend to take a lot of things for granted, that two parallel lines must be straight. If we analyse (which we don't) non-eucledian geometry we see that this is not a condition. We take so many things for granted, that when it comes to interesting new worlds (which represent our world better) we make those same wrong assumptions.

Physics too is becoming a bore. I love physics, and it is my forte, but we take a lot of things for granted again. We derive results for very simple cases, and push them off as universal things. We make horribly inaccurate simplifications of certain differentials. For example the expansion of a rod equation, (L_f = L_o (1+aT), the T is valid only for very small degree changes, in the order of 10^-5 to yield any degree of accuracy, but we use it for things with 40-50 degree differences.

Chemistry is the worst of them all. We were shown Heisenberg's uncertainty princple, without actually understanding WHY it is INESCAPABLE. And Schrodinger's Wave Equation is nothing but a jumble of symbols (though elegant and very professionalistically complex symbols). We are told that it is one of the most important equations there is, and that it can tell the electron density. But WHY? Leave why, how do we apply it? We surely haven't used it ever.
Organic chemistry is a funky subject, because a lot of things are not really known. But I know for a fact that there are good and consistent explanations for most things that we do. But most of the time we have so many exceptions and we have to consider simple rules of thumb: If the product is complex, it is right. If the probable yield of the compound is fractional, it is probably right (I've kinda made these, and they work well).

Why can't we leave this stuff behind? We are in our 12th, and that is definately old enough to understand what's going on. We should understand this world better, and most of what were doing doesn't push us in that direction. No matter what we do, we will have to analyse situations break them down, and there no time too soon. I don't know if it's just me going through these emotions, but knowing that most of you are scientifically orientated, I'm sure that you understand what I'm going through.


Gr81 said...

I comletely agree with u - Thats the reason why most of the students dont take much interest in studies (and why most of them can't go in research - coz anything they dont understand is said to be "out of course")

Well there are many more interesting (and important) things than what we are taught - probably things which we can apply in our daily life - but things like explanation of Schrodinger's Eq etc. require a lot more knowledge (as to how to solve it, apply it etc.) which we might not understand at this stage.

Still I think CBSE (or any Board) could improve the course that we study (Well they are trying)
So lets hope they succeed in it!

Arun Chaganty said...

I think most people really don't care (a lot I know don't). I guess I should also look at it from the view that not every one is going to use this stuff anyway. This I guess means we really really need to have an educational system like they do abroad, where you can select your courses, and persue to subject to the level of detail you see fit. But India's not prepared for something like that.

Another issue I'd like to raise is that we are too preoccupied with exams and their quantitative result. There is no place for a thinker today. We've got to solve a gazillion problems in very very little time, and there isn't much virtue in that (especially since most of our latter work will be done by computers). It's the thought process that we have to evolve, and not just standard problem thought processes. Well... we all have dreams don't we?

Anonymous said...

dude your like so right
but there's a problem to all this
nobody cares
out of the 60 in my class hardly 3 do
half of them dont really care if pluto is a planet or not
or whether the uncertainty priniciple is true or not
as long as its in the portion they just study it blindly
sometimes when i try and think about it
and dont ever reach a conclusion
i waste alot of time
though i enjoy it
but in india
it wont lead me anywhere
nobody appreciates people doing research much these days
especially in india
and that too people like us
they think its better if we just stick to what we have in the sylabus and get into a good college and blah blah blah
i think the mentality has to change
only then something is possible