Chem Goes PC

An interesting, depressing article in today’s Inside Higher Ed describes the advances that the Green Left have made in the teaching of undergraduate hard science classes. According to the article, the new movement involves the “infusion of an environmental ethic regardless of what topic, be it thermodynamics or plastics, is being taught or studied.”

One instructor has students write up the environmental implications of laboratory experiments in their notebooks, answering in their conclusion sections not only what they learned about the topic at hand, but also “What was green about the procedure, what was not green about the procedure and how.” Another introductory class, for non-majors at a second-tier state University (University of Massachusetts Lowell), involves “requires the students in [a] chemistry [course] for non-majors course to design green experiments for eighth-graders as a service learning project.” The students, Inside Higher Ed reports, did this by designing an experiment that involved making ice cream without electricity.

I find this particularly telling. Majors — people who intend to become chemists — will, by definition, need to master a certain body of knowledge. Non-majors, however, are pursuing chemistry to learn fundamental facts about the nature of matter, stoichiometry, and, perhaps most importantly, convince themselves of the existence of the unseen world. As the Nobel Laureate Roald Hoffman has pointed out, chemistry is the most artistic of the hard sciences: Almost every reaction produces a different, unique product. Reducing it to a matter of ideology robs it of its fundamental role.

I can’t see how any good can come of this.