A Farewell to Physics

by Melanie Zhang ’22

Source: Melanie Zhang

Published Feb. 24th, 2021

A recent decision by the school board to remove Physics and Honors Physics from the freshman science curriculum has sparked widespread backlash, due to both the loss of a valued class and the lack of a clear reason why. 

For years, MHS’s Physics First curriculum had given freshmen the opportunity to learn the basics of physics before taking harder courses in later years. While the 2018-2019 school year introduced IPELS (Integrated Physical, Earth, & Life Sciences) as an alternative course, the majority of freshmen continued to take a physics class. Next year, this will no longer be an option. 

Students who support this decision primarily cite the difficulty of the course itself. Adriana Santiago ‘24 found that the course was “very stressful and hard to comprehend”, and could also take a heavy toll on students’ grades. 

However, over 80% of students surveyed believed the change would be harmful and fail to solve the issue of pressure in science courses. Daniel Xue ‘21 believes that there “are countless more impactful ways to tackle the stress that students at Montgomery feel and reform how we prepare students for success… but removing Physics is not one of them”. 

Meanwhile, the existence of IPELS as a class already made the change seem unnecessary to students. According to Nicole Feng ‘21, “this path is not being forced upon any student. So, why must a less rigorous, more ‘comfortable’ curriculum be pushed onto [students]?”

Others cited the fact that Physics has provided a solid groundwork for AP Chemistry, AP Physics, and other challenging classes. Considering that a concrete new curriculum has not been put forward, the future of MHS students appears unclear. “The jump from Physics or Physics Honors to something like AP Chem is already pretty tough… I can’t imagine the difficulty future kids will have jumping from IPELS/IPELS Honors to something like AP Chem without the option of taking Physics Honors,” stated Edward Liu ‘23. 

Beyond the change itself, students are unhappy with the Board of Education’s lack of transparency or room for input. Bonnie Chen ‘22 was disappointed that “students who went to the board meeting… were just told ‘thank you for your input, but this is the decision.”

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