Critical Thinking: It’s What’s For Dinner

Read the whole thing: here. Emphasis below is mine.

R.L. Loeffelbein, a physics teacher at Washington University in St. Louis was about to give a student a zero for the student’s answer to an examination problem. The student claimed he should receive a perfect score, if the system were not so set up against the student. Instructor and student agreed to submit to an impartial arbiter, Dr. Alexander Calandra, who tells the story.

The examination problem was: “Show how it is possible to determine the height of a tall building with the aid of a barometer.”

The student’s answer was, “Take the barometer to the top of the building, attach a long rope to it, and lower the barometer to the ground. Then, bring it back up, measuring the length of the rope and barometer. The lengths of the two together is the height of the building.”

… (Read the whole thing: here.) …

Finally, he admitted that he even knew the correct textbook answer — measuring the air pressure at the bottom and top of the building and applying the appropriate formula (p=p0e-ay) illustrating that pressure reduces as height increases — but that he was so fed up with college instructors trying to teach him how to think instead of showing the structure of the subject matter, that he had decided to rebel.

For my part, I seriously considered changing my grade to unequivocal full credit.


R.L. Loeffelbein has been a teacher and writer for 20 years. He was an assistant professor aboard the first voyage of the University of the Seven Seas.


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