constant air of self-congratulation…
Though I did not major in science at the University of Chicago,
I read with interest Sharla Stewart’s recent article (“Immersion
Theory,” December/03) on a new method of biology instruction
practiced in the College. The intellectual high point of my own
Chicago studies—and the most fun I ever had at school—consisted
of a nearly three-year-long reading group, initiated by Leon R.
Kass, SB’58, MD’64, on the topic of ancient Greek mathematics.
For much of this time my partner in the group
and I met weekly or even daily at the Reg to work through Euclid’s
Elements. We took a novel approach: We read the enunciation
to each theorem, closed the book, and tried to figure out the construction
and demonstration for ourselves. It sometimes took us weeks to figure
out one proposition, but in return we got a wonderful introduction
to the thinking that lies at the origin of geometry.
It strikes me that this is what science education
should aim at: what the philosopher Edmund Husserl called the reactivation
of the thought that’s sedimented in the scientific tradition.
That reactivation often works best through a combination of historical
and hands-on work, but however it’s achieved, it
shows that the love of pursuing truth in science depends most of
all not on mastering its techniques but on grappling with its fundamental
Albert Keith Whitaker, PhD’98
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