Latin New Science Curriculum: Thoughtful Alterations

Note: This article is an amendment to a previous article in hopes of creating a more balanced argument 

MJ Porzenheim

Staff Writer

For those of you who are unaware of the changes, in the coming years freshmen will take physics, juniors will take biology, and sophomores will continue taking chemistry. Additionally, freshmen science courses will not have an honors designation. The science department mulled the idea over for a few years and has, along with other members of the community, decided to implement this change, starting with the class of 2016. As I briefly covered before, there are many reasons for this decision. Biology is arguably the most complex of the sciences; it is the study of organisms, which is then inherently the study of the structures that make up organisms, which is then the study of the chemicals that make up those structures, which is then the study of why those chemicals behave the way they do. As Mr. Coberly believes, “bio… rests on the understanding of [chemistry] and physics.” Why, then, did we ever have bio first? “The focus of bio has changed,” says Mr. Coberly. He explains that it used to be about memorizing kingdoms and phylums, learning what distinguishes an arthropod from a chordate from a mollusk. Nowadays, in freshmen biology, we are more concerned with the chemistry and details of how life works, making the science more complex. Furthermore, Mr. Coberly explains, “We can teach in a much more straightforward manner in physics.” This is largely because physics labs are replicable by nature. Gravity, in a vacuum, will always cause an object to accelerate towards our planet at 9.8 meters/sec2. Living organisms are not quite so predictable- sunflowers in general are positively phototoxic, but the sunflower that a student grows in a biology class may not exhibit that characteristic. Thus, to teach the basics of science it is better to go with the most consistent science: physics. “It’s about making bio more prominent,” Mr. Coberly adds. How so? Well, if you have to spend time in bio class explaining the chemical and physical basis for why organic molecules behave the way they do, students will not spend as much time on pure bio. This year, Mr. Kim has spent a good month on these principles in various ways. Luckily for us, he’s managed to incorporate it well, but had we done the new science order, he would not have needed to do so. Ultimately, this change will allow students to go more into bio, and it will be a good summation of previous science experience since it draws from other sciences. Mr. Kim adds, “This is a paradigm shift, recognizing how the science learning experience can be built up from fundamental physics principles to better appreciate and understand atomic and molecular interactions that we see in chemistry and biology.” I continued my investigation asking Mr. Coberly why there would be no honors available for freshmen in the new curriculum. Physics depends a great deal on math, and the best way to attempt to place people would be by what math they had taken. However, this means that Latin would be placing students in honors or regular science “based on what sixth grade math class you were put into.” Furthermore, the teachers “want every Latin kid to walk out… having had a certain core experience whether they were in regular or honors” and this core experience should include many of the ideas that will be covered in the new freshman science curriculum.]]>