He goes onto give examples from the new syllabus of "the vague, the stupid, the political, and the non-science." It's an impassioned and well written letter:
The thing that attracts pupils to physics is its precision. Here, at last, is a discipline that gives real answers that apply to the physical world. But that precision is now gone. Calculations — the very soul of physics — are absent from the new GCSE. Physics is a subject unpolluted by a torrent of malleable words, but now everything must be described in words.Also worth looking at Wellington's blog entry on this, Asking for your help, which has attracted some great comments.
In this course, pupils debate topics like global warming and nuclear power. Debate drives science, but pupils do not learn meaningful information about the topics they debate. Scientific argument is based on quantifiable evidence. The person with the better evidence, not the better rhetoric or talking points, wins. But my pupils now discuss the benefits and drawbacks of nuclear power plants, without any real understanding of how they work or what radiation is.
- a physics teacher begs for his subject back
This is a big topic. Science and maths education seems to be polarising between a back to basics movement and soft sociological reform, often ineffectual "discovery learning". I believe there is a third way, that traditional science education can be reformed and still remain real science. Student designed computer simulations using software such as Etoys / Squeak could play an important role here.
I've written in my old blog about the decline of science education in Australia, as flagged by astronaut Andy Thomas.