Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Political Economy of Quantum Mechanics Pedagogy

I did a lot of work on my engineering paper yesterday - one of the things we're looking at is the demand for engineers by the military over the years. In gathering more info and literature on that, I stumbled on this fascinating piece by historian and physicist David Kaiser: "Turning Physicists into Quantum Mechanics". Kaiser looks at how physics was taught before and after WWII. One of the things he points out is that pre-war physicists delved deeply into the philosophical implications of what they were doing in class with students, particularly - of course - when teaching quantum mechanics. The teaching style changed dramatically after the war. Kaiser says the source of the change was the increased demand for physicists by the military that lead to the dramatically increasing enrollemnt that Kaiser has spent a lot of time studying. Philosophical discussions are not easily held in larger classrooms, and they also make it harder for the students to digest the material sufficiently.

Feel free to draw parallels to economics.

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