Stronger Than Steel

Steel is the symbol and embodiment of strength. An alloy made by adding carbon to iron and some other metallic elements in minor percentage. The strength of steel doesn’t come from the strength of iron or the strength of carbon, it come from the binding strength between iron and carbon; it is a great example of how the whole is more than the sum of its parts. Those elements that like titanium can be added as trace will also transform the alloy into a substance with properties that non of the individual elements have. These are the powers of unity.

and Watching this video from NOVA http://www.pbs.org/video/1701025927/

Today we are experiencing in our society dislodging forces that are working against unity, politically, socially, economically, and pedagogically. In this post I want to address the pedagogical implications of unity as they relate to the other aspects of our lives.

Over the years teaching has been designed in a way that subjects are taught individually and separate from other subjects, even though this seems impossible when dealing with areas like math and physical science. It sounds impossible to separate math from physical sciences but it is not about the use of it, it is about the learning of it. It is normally understood that when some one is using math, say algebra, in physical science the student is supposed to know the principles of algebra and not learn them as s/he learns the principles of the physical science. The problem is that when students learn something in a class, they find it extremely difficult to cross the line to another course and apply those ideas from the other class. This semester (Spring 2018) I am teaching an introductory college chemistry course, and finding out that basic mathematical operations have to be taught together with the chemical principles. Things like equality operations, where multiplying both sides of an equation by a constant doesn’t change the equation. Concepts that students learned while in middle school and are supposed to understand but when it comes to the time of applying these concepts have difficulty.

There is another aspect about the separation of learning about a topic and learning about how to deal with problems related to that topic. Let me explain.

The basic idea in stoichiometry is that there is conservation of mass in a chemical reaction, the amount (in mass) of reactants must be conserved and therefore the amount (in mass) of the products should be the same. If, for example, there are 5 carbon atoms as reactants yielding products, there must be 5 carbon atoms in the products!

Similarly with our society where the union has different properties than the individuals that conform it. A situation where the total is greater than the sum of its parts. In science we have system theory where one can analyze the behavior and characteristics of the whole independent of the characteristics of the individual components without forgetting there are individual components with their own characteristics and properties. The main problem we have in our dualistic thinking is that you can study them separately without having in mind both. Having both in mind is critical for the solution of the problems now affecting society.

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s