Summary: New Trends in Astronomy Teaching, edited by L. Gouguenheim, D. McNally, & J. R.
Percy (Cambridge University Press), 1998. Pp. 352, 25.5 x 18 cm. Price
£45/$69.95/Euros ? (hardbound; ISBN 0 521 62373 1).
In their preface to this Colloquium volume on the teaching of astronomy, the editors
indicate that eight years have passed since the first IAU Colloquium (No. 105) on
astronomical education. Seldom in human history, have eight years been so packed with
change. The computer, the Internet, and the electronic-detector revolutions over that interval
have created a genuinely paradigm-shifting opportunity regarding our methods of
astronomy teaching (as well as many other aspects of life). John R. Percy, in his opening
lecture in this volume, points out that about 100 research IAU conferences occurred between
the two Teaching Colloquia, and he calls for a better balance between research and teaching
as inspirations for IAU meetings. I strongly support his view. Is the purpose of astronomy,
research? I maintain that it is not; the purpose of astronomy is human advancement, and
teaching is probably an even more critical element in this than is research.
Let me illustrate the amazing power of the new technical methods: on page xii, this
book lists the email addresses of most of the participants. I have transcribed those
addresses and I have created an "exploder," eduAstronomy@eta.pha.jhu.edu. The reader
of this review, should s/he wish to do so, can, with a few keystrokes, tap a world-wide bank
of experts in astronomy teaching. I am comfortable in taking this minor (but I hope
important) action because this review is appearing in a highly respectable publication which