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Save the Phenomena
The Primacy of Unmediated Experience

Martin Wagenschein

It seems that most adults who have completed their secondary education take the constructs of physics to be the material or magical "causes" of natural phenomena. Such an assumption is questionable, both epistemologically and pedagogically, and if we want to prevent this kind of error from continuing, it won't be enough to try to protect a few high school seniors. The only thing that will be effective in all types of schools is, from the outset, to follow a basic principle and adhere to it strictly: understanding needs grounding in the phenomena.

It is easy to see that only a very small percentage of physics students - five out of a hundred perhaps - have ever seen a planet in the sky or followed its course. I mean: the very thing, with the naked eye, outside. Nobody was there to point to the actual planet. This is a remarkable finding when one considers how the planets stood around the cradle of physics during its infancy in the 16th and 17th centuries.

I'm convinced that the loss - or disappearance - of freely observed natural phenomena in the physics classrooms of our secondary schools and colleges is not merely a discarding of semblance and show. It implies t