Friday, December 12, 2008

Steve Chu και εκπαίδευση

Μερικά ενδιαφέροντα στοιχεία για τον τρόπο που βλέπει την εκπαίδευση ο Steve Chu (από την αυτοβιογραφία του).
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I studied, but not in a particularly efficient manner. Occasionally, I would focus on a particular school project and become obsessed with, what seemed to my mother, to be trivial details instead of apportioning the time I spent on school work in a more efficient way.
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Geometry was the first exciting course I remember. Instead of memorizing facts, we were asked to think in clear, logical steps. Beginning from a few intuitive postulates, far reaching consequences could be derived, and I took immediately to the sport of proving theorems. I also fondly remember several of my English courses where the assigned reading often led to binges where I read many books by the same author.
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In my senior year, I took advanced placement physics and calculus. These two courses were taught with the same spirit as my earlier geometry course. Instead of a long list of formulas to memorize, we were presented with a few basic ideas or a set of very natural assumptions. I was also blessed by two talented and dedicated teachers.
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My physics teacher, Thomas Miner was particularly gifted. To this day, I remember how he introduced the subject of physics. He told us we were going to learn how to deal with very simple questions such as how a body falls due to the acceleration of gravity. Through a combination of conjecture and observations, ideas could be cast into a theory that can be tested by experiments. The small set of questions that physics could address might seem trivial compared to humanistic concerns. Despite the modest goals of physics, knowledge gained in this way would become collected wisdom through the ultimate arbitrator - experiment.
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I had spent all of my graduate and postdoctoral days at Berkeley and the faculty was concerned about inbreeding. As a solution, they hired me but also would permit me to take an immediate leave of absence before starting my own group at Berkeley. I loved Berkeley, but realized that I had a narrow view of science and saw this as a wonderful opportunity to broaden myself.
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... My department head, Peter Eisenberger, told me to spend my first six months in the library and talk to people before deciding what to do. A year later during a performance review, he chided me not to be content with anything less than "starting a new field".
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(on students) Ted Geballe, a distinguished colleague of mine at Stanford who also went from Berkeley to Bell to Stanford years earlier, described our motives: "The best part of working at a university is the students. They come in fresh, enthusiastic, open to ideas, unscarred by the battles of life. They don't realize it, but they're the recipients of the best our society can offer. If a mind is ever free to be creative, that's the time. They come in believing textbooks are authoritative but eventually they figure out that textbooks and professors don't know everything, and then they start to think on their own. Then, I begin learning from them."

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