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Once again, arbitrary "moderation" has risen. A perfectly on-topic question was asked but was then moved inappropriately to another board. If I could formally register a complaint, I would, but I've seen here that people are usually punished for speaking out. This forum consistently shows a disdain for anything related to educational aspects of physics and astronomy.

It is unfathomable that a topic for which a tag exists can be considered topic. It is just as unfathomable that moderators can choose to ignore the established framework and throw out questions that they personally don't like or personally don't agree with. Simply.....staggering.....there is no stronger word I can think of for it.

There also seems to be a consistent bias toward users with sky high reputations even though they give bad answers. It's very difficult around here for newcomers to establish reputation amidst the bias and arbitrariness and willingness to accept any answer without even knowing whether it answers the question that was asked.

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    $\begingroup$ I believe this post is in relation to the migration of this question from Physics to Academia. $\endgroup$ – eykanal Mar 13 '13 at 17:54
  • $\begingroup$ I'm done, and am leaving the site. The arbitrariness with which "rules" are applied around here is just plain egregious. So long. $\endgroup$ – user11266 Mar 13 '13 at 18:00
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    $\begingroup$ I agree, the question was specific about explaining QED and should therefore be allowed to be answered by physicists. $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Mar 13 '13 at 18:17
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    $\begingroup$ @Dilaton: QED was mentioned as an example, but the question seemed to be extremely broad. $\endgroup$ – user1504 Mar 13 '13 at 19:25
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    $\begingroup$ A note: Next time someone wants to dispute a closing/migration, please bring it up constructively on meta. We don't punish people for speaking out, especially for reasons like these. Closings/migrations are easily reversed, and can be constructively discussed on meta -- there really is no need to make it a political issue. $\endgroup$ – Manishearth Mar 14 '13 at 9:12
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    $\begingroup$ Also: the existence of a tag doesn't make a question on topic. We have the homework tag -- doesn't mean that all homework is on topic. $\endgroup$ – Manishearth Mar 14 '13 at 9:14
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    $\begingroup$ I actually agree that the question was too broad and not suited for this site. On the other hand, based on the comments that preceded the migration, I think you're being glib about tags, @Manishearth, as it seems clear that many here believe there is no such thing as an on-topic "education" question. (I feel that way about homework questions, but alas, that's why I'm hardly ever here...) $\endgroup$ – wsc Mar 14 '13 at 16:19
  • $\begingroup$ @wsc: Well, I wasn't completely sure, and I didn't want to make an absolute statement (and I didn't have the time to sift through all the current questions on the tag and meta). Looking at the tag, it sure seems that way, I'll look into it later. $\endgroup$ – Manishearth Mar 14 '13 at 16:24
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    $\begingroup$ @user1504 . It is broad, because it is asking for context/semantics of physics presentations. think of the wave particle confusion which is a prime example of semantic confusion, which affects understanding of concepts, and therefore important . $\endgroup$ – anna v Mar 16 '13 at 12:27
  • $\begingroup$ @annav I'd argue that that question was just too broad. It seems like the answer is obviously yes (although I'm sure some people could argue no), but examples can come from any part of physics. That's just an invitation to a flamewar. $\endgroup$ – user1504 Mar 16 '13 at 13:04
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Here's why this wasn't an example of arbitrary moderation: there were four people who expressed opinions that the question was off topic, another who was ambivalent about it, and one who strongly stated a belief that the question was on topic. If your definition of "arbitrary moderation" includes a consensus decision by four well-established users, it's a pretty useless definition. And what happened here is pretty nearly the opposite of moderators ignoring the established framework and closing questions because of a personal disagreement.

If you want to say that the opinions - not actions, but merely opinions - of some of those well-established users should be discarded simply because they happen to be moderators, well, that just doesn't make any sense.

If I could formally register a complaint, I would,

You can. Email team@stackexchange.com to provide feedback to Stack Exchange.

but I've seen here that people are usually punished for speaking out.

No, I can't recall a single instance where that has happened. Sometimes people are punished based on how they say what they say (i.e. rudeness), but never simply for speaking out.

This forum consistently shows a disdain for anything related to educational aspects of physics and astronomy.

Well, yeah. (It's not a forum, but) This is a site for conceptual physics questions; education questions are sort of a fringe topic. Some of them are okay and some aren't. And in some cases, the question is unacceptable for reasons unrelated to whether it's on topic.

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    $\begingroup$ IMO it was a question having to do with the context of physics, and should have stayed here. Certainly only a physicist could answer it. How many are active in acedemia.se? $\endgroup$ – anna v Mar 16 '13 at 11:52
  • $\begingroup$ Quite a few, I think. They get a number of physics-specific questions over there. $\endgroup$ – David Z Mar 16 '13 at 22:48
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I wish I'd stuck my nose in earlier, though I would not have argued strongly against the migration. Still there are a few points that need to be made one way or another.

  • Many physics departments now have programs in the field known as "Physics Education Research" (PER), and professors hired for their skill in that discipline are called "physics professors" (and indeed they generally have Ph.Ds in physics).

    That said, no one argues that the discipline is physics, it is clearly a field in the study of education. You can go to their talk or chat them up in the hallway and come to understand that very well.

    The reason PER is not in the College of Education is that those people have spectacularly failed us for generations. They have been unable to address the specific needs of technical disciplines in general and physics in particular. Not to mention a widespread feeling that their approach is not very scientific and a lot of their doctrine is nonsense.

  • The PER people are trying to understand the value and costs of particular turns of phase as well as pedagogical approaches (things like "Is following the historical lines of development of physics useful or and unnecessary distraction?" and "math separately or as you go along?").

    However, they actually have very sparse concrete answers in those parts of their field. The place where they've made the most reliable and helpful advances is in the structure of instruction. Clickers and demos to break up the presentation and re-focus the students; investigative rather than follow the steps lab; more lab and less lecture; and so on.

  • I have to say that the original questions isn't about what it says in the title, because physics isn't taught using the phrases that the OP singles out for interest. Physics is conveyed in a general and non-technical way to the interest lay public using those words and metaphors.

    That may seem like arguing of semantics, but I think it is important because popular science and science education have different audiences and different goals. You always tune your message to the audience and what you expect them to take away, and pop-sci is aimed at giving the intelligent non-specialist an overview of the results and the flavor of the theory; it is not intended to enable them to do physics at that level. Notwithstanding that a lot of us got engaged and started down the road to being scientist from exactly such entertainment.

To sum up, personally, I'd have left it where it was. The answer to the question are not going to be physics answers, but to the extent that there are actual authoritative answer they will come from physicists.


We don't have a fixed policy on PER questions that I'm aware of, and I don't have a sense of what would be a good one. It is a murky business where many of the topics of investigation are of generally applicability (sometimes to all technical subjects and sometimes to learning in general). We don't want to open the door to any question about educational technique as long as it has "in teaching physics" appending (those of you who were around in the early days of Stack Overflow may remember the "boat programming" question). But these means that allowing PER questions becomes a nightmare of trying to articulate well drawn lines. What fun that will be.

If Acedamia.SE does a good job of answer that kind of question then it might be best to ship all there just for consistency.

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    $\begingroup$ FWIW, given that it has been migrated, anyone who thinks they can answer it should feel welcome to post an answer at Academia. $\endgroup$ – eykanal Mar 13 '13 at 19:45

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