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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

In Praise of Teachers

How is it that at the time Einstein wrote his theories of relativity, only a handful of people were able to understand them, but today every physics undergraduate has a relatively good grasp of the concepts? How is it that when calculus was invented it was the domain of the great minds of Europe, but now it is part of the standard curriculum in high schools?

It seems as if people are getting more intelligent all the time, but that is not possible. Evolution does not happen that quickly (which I somehow know even without a Ph.D. in Biology). It must be that ideas are becoming easier to understand. Who do we have to thank for that? Teachers. Einstein, Newton, and Leibniz may have figured out the equations, but teachers figured out how to express the concepts in comprehensible ways.

So as students around the country are returning to school this week and next, let us acknowledge the crucial role that teachers play in the sciences. No discovery matters very much until someone has found a way to put it into words.

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