Stanford University announced in August that they will launch a physics course that is specifically designed for students from “underrepresented groups” who “don’t have the same level of preparation from high school as their majority peers.”
According to a university press release, Stanford will be offering a physics course for minority students. The course is designed to compensate for educational disadvantages that some students may have had prior to enrollment at Stanford.
The course, which is called “Physics 41E,” is identical to the Stanford Physics Department’s mechanics course. However, this version of the course will provide support for students who did not receive adequate preparation from their high school.
The same as Physics 41: Mechanics, which is a required course for physics majors, but with added support. Students from underrepresented groups often don’t have the same level of preparation from high school as their majority peers. The difference in preparation is large enough that it may lead students to drop out of the major but small enough that the kind of support offered by this course can be enough to keep them in.
Stanford Professor Risa Wechsler argues that members of minority groups often feel excluded in physics courses. “Many students from all backgrounds and identities come to Stanford excited about physics, and this interest does not strongly depend on race or gender. But we lose a larger number of Black, Latinx and Native students, as well as women of all races, in the first two years of undergraduate study,” Wechsler said. “A lot of that is due to the lack of community and overall climate. People from underrepresented groups often do not feel welcome in physics classes.”
Wechsler isn’t the only Stanford professor that wants to infuse science courses with identity politics. Professor Lauren Tompkins, who also teaches physics, said that the physics community has placed an increased emphasis on identity in recent years.
“In the last five to eight years, there’s been a growing awareness about the importance of identity within the physics community,” Tompkins said. “Your identity affects your experience as a physicist and even the physics that you do. If we can acknowledge and understand that, it makes us better physicists.”
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