A few excerpts from the book itself will make it clear. Feynman was visiting
Later I attended a lecture at the engineering school. The lecture went like this, translated into English: "Two bodies . . . are considered equivalent . . . if equal torques . . . will produce . . . equal acceleration. Two bodies, are considered equivalent, if equal torques, will produce equal acceleration." The students were all sitting there taking dictation, and when the professor repeated the sentence, they checked it to make sure they wrote it down all right. Then they wrote down the next sentence, and on and on. I was the only one who knew the professor was talking about objects with the same moment of inertia, and it was hard to figure out.
I didn't see how they were going to learn anything from that. Here he was talking about moments of inertia, but there was no discussion about how hard it is to push a door open when you put heavy weights on the outside, compared to when you put them near the hinge--nothing!
After the lecture, I talked to a student: "You take all those notes--what do you do with them?"
"Oh, we study them," he says. "We'll have an exam."
"What will the exam be like?"
"Very easy. I can tell you now one of the questions." He looks at his notebook and says, “‘When are two bodies equivalent?' And the answer is, 'Two bodies are considered equivalent if equal torques will produce equal acceleration.' So, you see, they could pass the examinations, and "learn" all this stuff, and not know anything at all, except what they had memorized.
One other thing I could never get them to do was to ask questions. Finally, a student explained it to me: "If I ask you a question during the lecture, afterwards everybody will be telling me, 'What are you wasting our time for in the class? We're trying to learn something. And you're stopping him by asking a question'."
It was a kind of one-upmanship, where nobody knows what's going on, and they'd put the other one down as if they did know. They all fake that they know, and if one student admits for a moment that something is confusing by asking a question, the others take a high-handed attitude, acting as if it's not confusing at all, telling him that he's wasting their time.
Then I held up the elementary physics textbook they were using…and started to read: "Triboluminescence. Triboluminescence is the light emitted when crystals are crushed..
I said, "And there, have you got science? No! You have only told what a word means in terms of other words. You haven't told anything about nature-what crystals produce light when you crush them, why they produce light. Did you see any student go home and try it? He can't.
"But if, instead, you were to write, 'When you take a lump of sugar and crush it with a pair of pliers in the dark, you can see a bluish flash. Some other crystals do that too. Nobody knows why. The phenomenon is called "triboluminescence."' Then someone will go home and try it. Then there's an experience of nature."
I have often faced a situation during my school or college days where I have asked for a concrete example for the phenomenon that the professor was explaining, and I was told not to bother about examples but to learn up the things that were taught. If someone asked a question in the class, the others scolded him for that. How can we expect to achieve anything significant in science if we have an attitude like this? I know, there are naïve people around who will jump up on reading this post and try to make me memorise (that’s the only way of understanding they know) that things have changed, India is progressing; Indian scientists are doing great work, not only outside India but here as well. But unfortunately the truth is, nothing has changed yet. We are opening new schools, colleges and universities everyday, but we don’t care about the quality of teaching. There are scientists who are doing a great job, but they are doing it in spite of the system and not because of it.
When we are in a rat race, we are rats even if we win. I am an office rat now. Who has time to think about all this nonsense anyway? I myself will be executing memorised algorithms again tomorrow. Who has time for useless questions like “Why”? Even if I ask I’ll be told that it is “outside the scope” of my work.
Only problem is, I always thought I was a science student in school and college. Feynman made me see my mistake. Like he said, “No science is being taught in