There is No Remedial Physics

August 6, 2016


Justices John Roberts and Antonin Scalia* both made extreme and condescending comments confirming that ignorance and bigotry are indeed undoubtedly teamed up with injustice. Comments regarding things that very few people can even speak on simultaneously: minorities, diversity and physics. But I can. Justice Roberts has apparently doubled down on the fact that either 1) there should be Black physics and White physics or 2) minorities don’t need to be in physics classes at all. Justice Scalia went filters off and blatantly stated (I’m paraphrasing slightly) that minorities need to take it slow and ease up to real physics at real universities. In other words, there must be two different flavors (no pun intended for those who get it) of physics; accelerated and remedial.


I can only surmise that the students that are being “pushed into schools that are too advanced for them” should be at schools that don’t have research programs, accomplished faculty members or predominantly white student bodies. These students aren’t ready for the physics big leagues yet and should be studying in the minor leagues before being drafted. This belief epitomizes a couple of things that I have previously commented on. Primarily, the alleged big STEM push for minorities, girls in particular. This push and these recent comments are at best contradictory. The recent shaming of corporate America into appearing interested in creating diverse environments isn’t to help us, but to help themselves. These acts are voluntary and will dry up when we stop talking about it.


Students that study physics all study the same physics; F=ma everywhere (F and a are bolded to signify vector quantities; hope you’re keeping up). As one progresses up the scholastic ladder, the rigor involved usually advances linearly, but in some cases exponentially. Nevertheless, there are those of all races that can’t cut it. Classical Electrodynamics by J.D. Jackson is a fixture in most graduate physics programs, both predominantly white institutions and Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Yes there are a handful of HBCUs with PhD programs in physics and I attended one of them. I passed two semesters of Jackson, I passed the qualifying exam, I defended a thesis and a dissertation in two different concentrations of physics so I can say with conviction that THERE IS NO REMEDIAL PHYSICS!


What is remedial is the level of insensitivity and reasoning demonstrated by these (air quotes) Justices. If they had some facts to go on, they would see that proportionally white men aren’t all that plentiful in physics either. From 1973–2012 approximately 22,000 white men earned PhDs in physics. That’s only those that finished; surely they all weren’t capable of the real physics at the accelerated universities.


Intelligence comes in all colors; opportunity does not.


*Article originally posted on; Justice Scalia met his demise shortly thereafter.

Please reload