Towards Teaching Chemistry as a Language

  • Laszlo P
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This paper presents views on the teaching of chemistry and directions for its further development. A detailed critical analysis is offered for the inadequacy of much of the current teaching, weighed that it is by a conventional, traditional and, as it turns out, rather outdated sense of the material to be covered. The ambient meta-discourse on the nature of chemistry is unduly dominated by the physicalist assumption, believing chemistry to be reducible to physics, which I hold to be unrefutable and thus parascientific. This all-too-tenuous link is countered with a parallel, bolstered by a slew of examples and analogies, between chemistry and linguistics: it is both more legitimate, in terms of the supporting evidence, considerably more effective than a physicalist approach. Chemical teaching needs to hybridize the bottom-up and the top-down communication vectors between the students and their teacher. It can only benefit from infusion of a strong dose of history. Chemistry ought to be taught in like manner to a language, on the dual evidence of the existence of an iconic chemical language, of formulas and equations; and of chemical science being language-like and a combinatorial art.

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  • Pierre Laszlo

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