Monday, November 03, 2008

Book Purge

If I didn't want the books out of my office quickly, I'd consider writing up a snarky review of each one as I threw it in the "free" box outside my office door. Most of the books I'm getting rid of are overly-introspective and self-reflexive education books. (And one which tries to use the theories of women's studies to look at science and seems to have a thesis statement something along the lines of "Women don't study science because scientists are mean and cold people who value results over feelings.")

Current book being purged: They're Not Dumb, They're Different by Sheila Tobias. In this book, a bunch of smart grown-ups enrolls in freshman-level intro courses in science and reports on their experiences. The grown-ups all have college degrees (some from places like Yale, another was summa cum laude at Berkeley), are almost all graduate students (in humanities are social sciences), and have all successfully completed a year of college calculus. They find, shockingly, that by paying attention and doing the assigned work that they can easily pass intro-level freshmen science courses and that, in fact, these so-called "weeder" courses with high failure rates are actually pretty routine. They suggest that to improve the pass-rate of the freshmen who normally take these classes that they should be made more difficult and should involve more non-routine problems and more abstraction. After claiming that intro classes are not hard enough, later on the book claims that science classes are too hard, noting that 78% of Harvard students majoring in science report that the classes they take are hard, compared to 26% of students in non-science fields. (The reporting on Harvard students also makes the required dig at Math 55.)

I'll put the box of books out tomorrow and replenish it as necessary.