non-traditional u-grad needs encouragement

lappel at lappel at
Mon Apr 8 15:14:53 EST 1996

In article <4k25p6$t78 at>, "Julie M. Phillips" <jphillip at> writes:
> (about the grief of 2nd semester organic chemistry)

Dear Julie:
	Have you considered the possibility that the course is not being taught

	There is a lot of literature showing that when things suddenly get hard
for a person in some aspect of math or science, there is a tendency for boys to
think something is wrong with the subject or the course, and girls to think
there is something wrong with themselves - that all of their previous success
was a fraud, somehow.
	I also had great trouble with second semester organic, and I was a chem
major.  The problem for me was with the racist sexist piece of pedagogical 
malpractice who was teaching the course by means of trick questions and 
offensive innuendoes, instead of by logic.  I couldn't stand any of it.  
	Luckily, I had a loving father who played tennis with a chem. prof. at 
our local university, who arranged a tutor for me over spring break.  One week 
of going over the Klaisen (?) condensation several times with a good instructor 
and I really understood it, and how the electrons moved around, and then I 
could see that most of the rest of the reactions were the same thing, or a 
slightly different version. I came back to college, held my nose and went to 
lecture, and changed a mid-semester flunk notice into a B-.
	I think there is an unfortunate tradition of accepting poor teaching in
what used to be the "weeder" courses for pre-meds in chemistry.  I can only
hope that this will improve as those with that mentality retire, and the
students who are struggling to put together tuition get more demanding of good
	Meanwhile, I agree with everyone else's advice.  This is my standard
recommendation for anyone having trouble in a course:
		- get Schaum's
		- try a different textbook
		- try a different instructor or tutor
		- form a study group
Good luck.  It was both reassuring and depressing to see how many of us there
are out there who barely survived what could be an excellent and fascinating
course if only it were taught well.
	Laurel F. Appel

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