Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Science Requirements: The Real Definition of Madda

The YU Vent is eager to spotlight guest posts from other other YU fans. Here is a guest post from YU Sophomore Julian Horowitz. Please send well written posts to TheYUVent@gmail.com - if they are about YU and well-written, they will be vented.

The science and lab requirements at YU are currently fulfilled by taking courses only slightly less difficult than a 7th grade science class. Assuming we keep the science reqs, why don't we convert them from their current intelligence-insulting/annoying/waste-of-time state into a useful resource which will help us in our futures? I understand that not all of our students can handle the heavy number-crunching and memorization necessary for the "For Majors" courses, but we owe it to ourselves to not allow something as important as science (the real definition of Madda) to turn into a joke.

A few suggestions:

1. Instead of "Physics for Poets," how about "Physics for Politicians?" This course would furnish students with a knowledge of past and present issues that the leaders of tomorrow must be familiar with in an attempt to overcome the ever-present lack of communication between the science and politics sectors. Science Times articles and Al Gore's global warming documentary are the types of materials which could be the primary sources for a serious course which teaches both the fundamentals and the practical applications.

2. Some sort of Torah/Science class, such as Jewish Bioethics. Besides gaining the interest of the student body ("You get to learn during college time? Sweet!"), knowledge of the issues is not just important for pre-meds, but for the decision-making Jewish layperson as well.

3. My father often complains that schooling provides very few practical skills. Instead of an EMT course offered to fit nobody's schedule, why not offer students a serious course in first-aid, which would fulfill a science and lab req. If thats not biology, then I don't know what is. For that matter, as life-valuing Jews, maybe we should require basic knowledge of first-aid to graduate.

Obviously these represent some and not all the possibilties for an expanded and impressive science curriculum to replace the current burdensome one. I hope a meeting of heads between the science and non-science departments could come up with more interesting ideas which would give non-scientists a reason to learn science, instead of it just being a requirement to be taken and forgotten the next week. If we are going to do something, let's do it right.


Eli said...

Regarding 2) A course like this is in the works (Judeochemistry), and from what I've seen, it seems like it will be a very good course.

Anonymous said...

As a supposed devotee of R' Aharon Lichtenstein, I'm surprised that you're really so strict about your definition of Madda, a term that R' Lichtenstein doesn't even like (he prefers Hokhma). See "Confluence and Conflict" in Judaism's Encounter with Other Cultures, J.J. Schacter, ed.

Ibn Avraham said...

How about the purposelessness of labs? What am I supposed to walk away from in my Physics lab- that gravity still works?

Since labs do not teach any additional content, my assumption is that they are an "experience" class, one which imparts not factual knowledge but exposure to an important event.

But if that's the reasoning, let's be honest . . . is lab work an important life experience? It should be optional- a requirement for science majors only.

Noah said...


Julian isn't actually suggesting that science requirements are R Lichtenstein's (or any other serious representative's (of what you would call Torah U'Hokma) views on Torah UMadda. He is just translating.

Ibn Avraham/Ben:

I am with you. I have yet to understand the purpose of science requirements after high school at all, let alone labs.

Anonymous said...

"Al Gore's global warming documentary"

Science? Heh...