IMAGE:  February 2004
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GRAPHIC:  Also in every issueLETTERS
…the Magazine’s 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 concepts.

Albert Keith Whitaker, PhD’98

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