The big bottles used for drinking water in businesses are made of plastic now. They still mark a gathering place in offices where problems are often resolved around the water cooler, but they used to be glass and quite brittle. If two bottles clinked together, there would be a 5 gallon mess and dangerous broken glass.
- I had passed the physics test. The concepts of hydraulics were somewhat clear, or I would not have passed with a fairly high score. Even though I could calculate the pressure transmitted by a fluid, it was difficult to comprehend what the pressure really meant.- The one water bottle in our office was not used for drinking. It was kept high on a shelf by the offset press. A clamped hose passed through a cork in the bottle and hung down by the press. The water was for cleaning the blanket, which is that part of the printer that presses the inked image onto the paper.
- It occurred to me during the physics test that a jack with a very small cylinder could lift a very large object. The car jack I had was rated at 3 tons. That's 6,000 pounds that could be lifted with one finger and a hydraulic jack.
- The water bottle wasn't that easy to fill. I usually ran the hose from the faucet to the bottle. This time I was in a hurry. I inverted the bottle on the top of a round drinking fountain spout and watched the water bubble up into the bottle.
The principles of hydraulics and filling water bottles came together. The bottle shattered in my hands, and the irony of the situation sparked in my brain. I had passed the test on hydraulics and been amazed by the pressure of a fluid and at the same time didn't realize that the water bubbling into the bottle I was holding would easily create enough pressure to shatter the glass.
My education had not transferred from the classroom to the job.
The theoretical had not become practical. I had not integrated what I had learned.
Perhaps one of the biggest challenges in education is illustrated in this experience. Students often seem to compartmentalize what they learn. Somehow each subject stays in its own classroom, and the knowledge from one discipline is not integrated with what is learned in another discipline, and neither discipline is integrated into the practical world in which we live.
One of the subtle problems with an emphasis on testing is that students are usually tested on each subject as if each subject were really independent. It is easy for students to get the false message that knowledge is compartmentalized.
It is especially important to recognize that certain tool subjects like math and English are important across the curriculum. These skills should be taught as early as possible in the context of the other disciplines.
The sooner students can get away from the math problem that asks Amy's age if Brian is three years older than Michelle was when Mark was born, the sooner they will understand that math is really a tool of science and not a complex game.
It is not uncommon for students to ask a history teacher if spelling and grammar are important on the history assignment.
It is even more important that they understand that English skills are important in life and are not just for the English or history class. It may not be too far off to assert that school is not preparation for life; it is life.
The principles of hydraulics can run out of the brains of students taking a test and then travel down their arms and out of their pencils onto the test paper and never be used again if students don't learn that the principles apply in the world beyond the classroom. At the least they should know that bottles inverted on drinking fountains will break.