I had a genuinely incredible physics teacher when I was at high school. Rothwell Whitney Glen. If you grow up on the North side of the Clyde and you’ve got a name like Rothwell Whitney Glen, and if you’re not very tall, you grow up fairly hard.

He would angrily demand the best from all his pupils and he was well known as the strictest teacher in the school. He would occasionally be called on to go to other classes to restore order. R W Glen was the most feared teacher in the school, though he never once sent anyone to the school office or handed out punishment exercises in my time. He was also the most popular teacher among his pupils.

At a time when I was truanting, and at threat of being expelled, I would still show up at the school for most of his classes, even though I was being marked absent for the day. Because of him, and a few other teachers I managed to get together the qualifications to go to university. I studied Electrical Enginerering because my physics teaching had been so inspirational. Today I googled Mr Glen for the first time, and found that there are others that think the guy was as great as I did.

I hear that he has long been involved in setting the syllabus for physics in Scotland. I don’t know if that’s still true, but certainly when I look at the syllabus for electricty in Standard Grade physics, it contains all of things I would expect to see, circuit theory, the things that the future builders of this world need to know. Contrast this with the current, politicised, GCSE syllabus that unfortunate pupils in England must learn at the same age.

It’s an outrage.

Here are my favourite quotes from the current furore about this physics qualification:

The GCSE physics paper had replaced the testing of physics concepts with questions about the advantages and drawbacks of CCTV, mobile phones and the internet.

Boyle’s law, the use of a capacitor as a timing device and detailed consideration of the optics of the eye and the projector were also removed. The content that was added tended to be concerned with the social implications of technological applications, rather than physics concepts.
Update: I found this. The bold Rothwell himself writing about Physics teaching in Scotland!


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