Sadly, no, especially in high schools. Physics is like the "owners
manual" for the universe, so you would think that pretty much
everybody would have a pretty good understanding of the basic laws.
But even when physics is taught, it is often only the most basic
principals of "Newtonian Mechanics" or at most "Thermodynamics" that
is discussed, with only the briefest introduction to nuclear physics,
cosmology, or quantum mechanics (if they are discussed at all). So,
most kids graduate with only the slimmest understanding of how the
universe actually works.
Want to confirm this? Pick an average teenager and ask him or her the
1. Why does the Earth have an atmosphere and the moon doesn't?
2. How long does it take light to travel from the moon to the Earth?
From the sun to the Earth? From the nearest extra-solar star to the
Earth? 3. What is the difference between "weight" and "mass"?
4. Name the 4 basic forces of nature.
5. What is the difference between "nuclear fission" and "nuclear
fusion"? 6. How does a nuclear powerplant generate electricity?
7. What causes the Earth's magnetic field? Why is it important to us?
8. Why do hurricanes spin?
9. What is the significance of the frequency of light? What is meant
by the phrase "red-shift"?
10. Why can you compress air, but not water?
This should be basic elementary school stuff, but I suspect that the
majority of high school students will give you a blank stare on most
of these questions.
"Civis Texanus Sum"