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Thread: Bad Astronomy in Community College

  1. #1

    Bad Astronomy in Community College

    I'm a high school student currently enrolled in classes a the local community college. One of the classes I'm taking is an Astronomy course. Now, there's nothing wrong with the class, the professor is pretty entertaining and the class has been a good learning experience as far as the basics are concerned; but today something made me want to pound my head through a wall.

    I was sitting there, waiting to take a test, and some guy behind me was talking on his cell phone and says somethign to the effect of: "No, I'm not doing anything, I'm just waiting here to take my astrology test."

    Now, I understand that there are lab science requirements to get your associates degree and not everybody intends to go into a scientific field, but is it really that hard to remember the name of the class you're in? Is it honestly that hard to remember the difference between what is and is not science? There's got to be a point where it ceases to be an honest mistake and becomes willful ignorance.

    Maybe this isn't a case of bad astronomy. Maybe it's just a case of people not caring enough about their education.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pip
    SNIP
    I was sitting there, waiting to take a test, and some guy behind me was talking on his cell phone and says somethign to the effect of: "No, I'm not doing anything, I'm just waiting here to take my astrology test."
    A good followup would be to tell us what his score on the test was (probably not possible). I'm sure it wasn't very good (At least it better be).

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    I have to say it sounds like an honest mistake, I also occasionally get the words confused.
    After all, they're just labels for the concepts and it's the concepts I consider important(to be able to distinguish).
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    I bet he got a pass - this is a good week for Scorpios to take tests.

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    Another possibility is that it might have been a joke. I remember there were a lot of nicknames for courses. One of the Intro to Geology courses was Rocks for Jocks

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by hhEb09'1
    Another possibility is that it might have been a joke. I remember there were a lot of nicknames for courses. One of the Intro to Geology courses was Rocks for Jocks
    I teach an intro astronomy lab and TA the lecture section, and you'd be suprised how many students *still* refer to it as astrology in all seriousness, even after completing the class.

    Also for the record, myself and other TA's have refered to the class as Flying Rocks for Jocks.

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    Quote Originally Posted by hhEb09'1
    Another possibility is that it might have been a joke. I remember there were a lot of nicknames for courses. One of the Intro to Geology courses was Rocks for Jocks
    An aside: the rock shop near me has a rock with the quote:

    Rock hounds never die,
    they just slowly petrify.

    Pip, it might have been just a word mind-blip. Students are allowed to talk on cell phones in the classroom? Geesh, I wasn't even allowed to chew gum.

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    Four years of being a basic-level astronomy TA has made me a bit of a pessimist, but I really doubt that was a mistake. I've seen reports written two months into Astro 100 that focus on astrology. msussman is completely right.

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    When I took Astronomy 101; out of the 30 or so students, I recall one other student (besides me) that was actually interested in what was being taught. Most of the kids took it because of the big comfy reclining chairs and the once per week skyshow. (Class was taught in the Planetarium).

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    Most of the kids took it because of the big comfy reclining chairs and the once per week skyshow
    Is that all I need to keep my students intersted? Sweet. I could use chairs like that anyways

    Pete

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tobin Dax
    Four years of being a basic-level astronomy TA has made me a bit of a pessimist, but I really doubt that was a mistake. I've seen reports written two months into Astro 100 that focus on astrology. msussman is completely right.
    You're probably right; when I think of all the students playing with their Gameboys in Geography (in college classes) and the horrendous English papers I still have (some are so bad they're hysterical) that other students wrote, it very well could be lazy thinking.

    I still have my school catalogue, though, and for Astronomy it says that algebra, trigonometry and one semester of physics is a prerequisite. Doesn't this help filter out the loafers? I recall my mother's astronomy class being small. Pip, are there any requirements such as these before taking Astronomy at your school?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Melusine
    I still have my school catalogue, though, and for Astronomy it says that algebra, trigonometry and one semester of physics is a prerequisite. Doesn't this help filter out the loafers?
    It would if it applied. Here, Astro 100 is specifically for non-majors, and is a general education course. So all of those astrology-types will end up in this class when that's what they want to study. The next pair of courses up requires math as a prerequisite, and the next one up after that is for majors. But the 200 students taking Astro 100 are there because it sounds more interesting that any other course that would fit that requirement. Most just want the grade, and I know a number don't get what they're expecting since astrology is only "mentioned" when discussing the zodiac.

    Heck, that astrology mistake applies to all ages of college students. My advisor is teaching a senior-level scientific writing course this fall. A couple months ago, a student who was a senior in advertising emailed him asking to take the course. Her reason for taking it was an interest in astrology. (Maybe I should post that in Small Media at Large to explain a few things.) Suffice it to say, it didn't happen (for legit reasons).

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Melusine
    I still have my school catalogue, though, and for Astronomy it says that algebra, trigonometry and one semester of physics is a prerequisite. Doesn't this help filter out the loafers? I recall my mother's astronomy class being small. Pip, are there any requirements such as these before taking Astronomy at your school?
    Nope, there are no such requirements. I thought MATH 099, the eqivalent to second year high school algebra, was required but I checked the course catalog it it's not.

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    Since this thread has been revived, I'll add to it again. I had a student call galaxies, stars, etc., "astrological objects" on his homework today. This is week 4 of a four-week summer course. He's been in the class almost every weekday for over three weeks, and he still said astrology. Some people just keep doing that despite the fact that they should know better.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tobin Dax
    Since this thread has been revived, I'll add to it again. I had a student call galaxies, stars, etc., "astrological objects" on his homework today. This is week 4 of a four-week summer course. He's been in the class almost every weekday for over three weeks, and he still said astrology. Some people just keep doing that despite the fact that they should know better.
    In my classes I like to make the distinction between a student being intellectually present, and merely physically present. It seems your student was only physically present.

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    Quote Originally Posted by aporetic_r
    In my classes I like to make the distinction between a student being intellectually present, and merely physically present. It seems your student was only physically present.
    I don't remember who it was, so I'm not sure. However, there are two students in this small class who aren't even physically present.

  17. #17
    I'm in a running battle on the astrology/astronomy issue with my local supermarket.

    They keep putting the astrology magazines in the science section because they think they should be next to the astronomy stuff. I spoke to several people about it, got blank looks and now simply resort things on my own initiative about once a month.

    This works fairly well. I feel better and some manager is probably slowly going insane.

  18. #18

    Smile Back in the day...

    I took Astronomy 100 back when comet 1P/Halley made it's last visit (1986). I don't recall too many folks calling Astrology then - but it's possible I tuned those sorts out. I bought a set of "Sears" 10x60 (with zoom to 40x) tripod mount binoculars. Unfortunately the tripod fell over a few times in the intervening years and the optics aren't so well aligned anymore. For cheap binoculars they worked pretty well.

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    Quote Originally Posted by blc303
    They keep putting the astrology magazines in the science section because they think they should be next to the astronomy stuff. I spoke to several people about it, got blank looks and now simply resort things on my own initiative about once a month.
    I see this occasionally in book stores as well, with astrology, psychics, or some other pseudoscience books being placed in the science section.

    [side note] It also drives me nuts when a store selling chess sets doesn't set the board up correctly in their display. [/side note]

  20. #20
    There's a Borders in town that is terrible for including astrology books in their astronomy section. I've literally picked up a huge book titled "Neptune" once, only to find out that it's some garbage about how the planet can influence your life...

  21. #21
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    Words that are close in pronunciation and deal is similar subject matter are always going to be erroneously transposed.


    colostomy/colonoscopy is another pair.( and one sure to ellicit an ooof! from some people )

    What is grating to those here is the fact that in the case of astronomy/astrology one is a science backed by centuries of careful study and calculation while the other is not, and confusing(or conflating) the two is seen to bring disreput to the former.

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    I remember a grad student, an architect, who wanted to register for a course called "computer archtecture".

    He got really huffy when told he couldn't register because he didn't have the pre-reqs. He got mad and stomped off.

    I assume he thought it was some sort of computer-aided architecture course, rather than what it really was, a course on how to design computer hardware.

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    See, that's one reason (of many) why good course descriptions are your friend.

    I have to admit, there are similar-sounding words that I switch sometimes, and for a long time, astronomy and astrology were among them.
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    As an adolescent, I wondered why they called it "public" hair, since it was in such a private place.

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    sounds like a case of the "suposebly" syndrome.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Graybeard6
    As an adolescent, I wondered why they called it "public" hair, since it was in such a private place.
    I thought the same thing when I was a kid.
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    Cosmologists like astronomy; Cosmetologists like astrology.

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    "I find astronomy very interesting, but I wouldn't if I thought we
    were just going to sit here and look." -- "Van Rijn"

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  28. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by farmerjumperdon
    When I took Astronomy 101; out of the 30 or so students, I
    recall one other student (besides me) that was actually
    interested in what was being taught. Most of the kids took
    it because of the big comfy reclining chairs and the once
    per week skyshow. (Class was taught in the Planetarium).
    Where was that?

    -- Jeff, in Minneapolis
    http://www.FreeMars.org/jeff/

    "I find astronomy very interesting, but I wouldn't if I thought we
    were just going to sit here and look." -- "Van Rijn"

    "The other planets? Well, they just happen to be there, but the
    point of rockets is to explore them!" -- Kai Yeves

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