Chemistry 3.1: the year that didn’t
Around this time, the senior chemists of our school would be turning their minds to their reports for their extended practical investigations. Thursday would have been the last day to complete practical work, and three Fridays from now would have been due date for their reports. It was a routine that my year went through, and the year above me, and the year above them. This year, though, is different.
All in all, they seem rather glad to have missed the opportunity to freely walk into the chemicals room and play with chemicals at their own discretion (or just about), and get four credits for it. Relieved, it seems, to not have to carry out the investigation, to not have to write a report, and to not have to put hours of effort into something whose outcome is less than worthwhile. The school does take a rather stringent interpretation of the standard. And give six hours less than the recommended time for the investigation.
Yes, this year’s chemists are a happy bunch indeed. In fact, this would be an opportune moment for me to point out something that this bunch ought to know. Under our old principal, the dropping of a component like this would never have been allowed, and you would be doing the investigation just like everyone else. Those requirements to offer full courses are no longer in place. So if you ever wanted something to thank your new principal for, this is it.
I can’t say I would’ve shared the same enthusiasm if I were in their position, and having actually done the rather stressful standard, my position nonetheless remains the same. But when I learnt that I had achieved what was initially the only excellence in all of last year’s chemists (it didn’t stay the only one), I sensed something was wrong, somewhere. According to last year’s national statistics, 21.7 per cent of achievers did so with excellence. Statistics from 2005 were similar: 21.6 per cent nationally. Either our school is dumb, or our school marks too hard, or everyone else marks too easy. I leave it to you to decide for yourself.
I was surprised that there was initially just one excellence and two merits in all of year thirteen, so I decided then and there that next year, I would attempt to explain some aspects of reports that should be considered. The font used, for example, or aspects of presentation and research. I would no doubt not be alone in this: most of last year’s senior chemists would be willing to do this same. Naturally, none of us have done so.
There was something unique about the Chemistry 3.1 experience. The end-of-3.1 party that should have taken place didn’t (either that, or I heard of its conception but not its details), but that aside, and as stressful and sometimes frustrating as it might have been, having been through it, and having experienced the decline in the fun of titrations, we can say we tried. And for some of us, it was the last four credits in the full 24-credit chemistry course.
This year, though, is the year that didn’t. The year that isn’t doing what all those before them have done: the year that, when we were playing with burettes and flasks, is sitting in class learning about organic chemistry. In virtual unanimity, they consider themselves lucky, but I do not envy them.