They Didn't Ask Me (dr_phil_physics) wrote,
They Didn't Ask Me


Yesterday I had to go from the Allendale post office to Walldreams. I decided to go south on 64th and north on 68th, cutting across on the utility road on the south side of the Allendale High School campus. Hadn't been that way in a couple of years.

There was a softball game in progress -- and a ginormous white Hummer stretch limo. Whether the car was for one of the teams, or the seniors, or seniors in the stands, I can't say. Backhoes were tearing up part of the track around the football field. We've never been to an Allendale football game, at either the old high school or the new. Of course, early on they were awful as I recall, and I've rooted for a lot of awful football teams. (grin)

The sign in front of the school reported that May 22nd was graduation day -- so the Falcon seniors should be high school graduates by now.

There was a piece on NPR on Tuesday about commencement addresses -- college commencement addresses. It was sort of a checklist, or Commencement Bingo if you prefer. Very humorous to hear repeated big names saying the same or same type of things.

But my real thoughts are this. It's just the 22nd of May. Western, alas, is on an early spring semester schedule. Finals and graduation were about a month ago. Really? It's insane.

When I was a kid, graduation or at least the end of the school year came in June.

Both Northwestern and Michigan Tech were on quarters when I was there. NU started Fall the end of September, Winter in January and Spring in March, finishing in late June. MTU started earlier in September and split Winter Quarter over Christmas, finishing in the beginning of June.

By the time I was in college, the evil of early Spring semesters made it a pain for summer jobs. The two years I worked at CIBA-Geigy where my father was a formulations chemist, the other college students working on the project had been there a month already. But they had no interest in continuing me into September, so I got gypped out a couple weeks of paychecks. Some of my classmates were gypped out of the summer job market because the early semester students had gotten the jump on the jobs.

Going into the 80s a lot of colleges were looking at early semesters in order to help their students snatch the summer jobs -- not for pedagogical reasons. A lot of the quarter system schools switched to semesters.

Me? You know where I'm going. I think three 10-week quarters are perfect, especially with the full Reading Week before Finals at Northwestern. Semesters used to be 16 or 17 weeks, but the pressure for early semesters and long breaks over Christmas have pushed it down to 14 and 15 weeks.

Now that I am on this front side of the classroom, I feel even stronger about quarters, even though I've never taught them. For a full year course like introductory Physics, you can do Mechanics, E&M and Optics/Modern Physics for I-II-III. Other survey courses can be one or two quarters. You can take more courses in distribution areas.

Why do I prefer quarters? One thing: The Wall. Week 12. This is where students begin to lose it. Trying to keep all those balls juggling in the air? For too many students the balls start falling at Week 12. I truly believe that a Final Exam after ten weeks is a better test of competence than after fourteen weeks.

And then graduation would end up in June where it belongs. (grin)

But of course no one ever asks me what I think.

Dr. Phil

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