Here’s another sad story of hysteria used to water down science teaching. David Lapp does a simple and dramatic exercise, the ballistic pendulum experiment: fire a bullet into a block of wood, and from the masses of the two objects and the movement of wood, calculate the velocity of the bullet. That sounds pretty cool to me, and seems like a clever and dramatic way to get students to see the utility of simple math. Now, though, people are practically shrieking penal codes at the poor guy and whining about the terrible example he is setting, putting those poor school kids in danger.
“It’s just absolute madness, from my point of view,” said Feinberg, one of the founding members of the National Emergency Assistance Team, which has responded to most of the school shootings in the country. “It is not only crazy in concept, in light of the world we live in it is absolutely irresponsible.”
Guns are common objects, and a lot of the kids probably have at least one in their household. A lot of those kids have probably been out shooting: they have held a gun near their face, aimed it in the direction of a target, and pulled the trigger. They may have gone hunting with a parent, a situation far, far riskier than the controlled setting of a classroom. Mr Feinberg has no control over what they experience outside the school, and seems to have no idea of what those kids are doing in real life anyway. The virtue of this exercise is that it takes something familiar and uses it to reveal the mathematics of matter and motion.
The phrase that bugs me is “in light of the world we live in”—what world is that? One where if a teacher uses a gun responsibly as a tool, kids will be inspired to…what? Learn physics? What “irresponsible” lesson does Mr Feinberg think was taught?