Monday, August 11, 2008

What's Wrong With Education In America Part 2: College

True story time. I once took an analytical chemistry class at Salem State. There were 24 students in the class. Ten were chemistry students the rest were from the bio department. One of the labs we did was to detect chlorine in various aqueous samples. One way was with a special electrode and a pH meter. The other way was through gas chromatography and mass spectrometry. It was in the fall semester and I got an A in the class.

One fine spring day I was sitting around the Chemistry Society office. It was a little closet off the Bio Society office. One of the bio majors who had just taken the class with me came into the chem society office to get help on a project he was doing for a bio class. He wanted to know how he could measure the amount of chlorine in pond water.

Having an audience of chem nerds I started fucking with him. I was thinking he'd recognize that I was fucking with him. I told him he should get some sodium metal and throw it in the pond. Then he should evaporate the water off and the sodium chloride would crystalize like when a tide pool at the beach evaporates in the sun. He could weigh the salt and then use the atomic mass to figure out how much chlorine there was.

He goes off looking for sodium and comes back an hour later to call me an asshole. What I told him was, from an engineering standpoint, a very valid way to solve his problem. From a scientific and environmental standpoint it was fucked up. Unfortunately it took his bio professor to point out to him how he had been had. I reminded him that we did the lab twice with two different ways of detecting chlorine. We could also have used Atomic Absorption and UV/Vis techniques but the easiest way to answer his question would be to go two blocks off campus to that pet store and spend five bucks on aquarium test strips. All you have to do is dunk them in and then look at the color.

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1 Comments:

Blogger RicketyFunk said...

Isn't college just another way for arrogant self-important jerkoffs with gigantic egos to get to the top?

If they don't go into the business world, they go into the academic world seeking a form of fame and recognition. It's not about knowledge and instruction, it's about how much more important they are instead of the other people who aren't them.

Aug 18, 2008, 5:59:00 PM  

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