As a university earth science professor, I view my son’s middle and high school science texts with horror. I see similar symptoms in the behavior of some of my undergraduate students. I view the problem as being an educational system in which, through high school, teachers are trained how to teach but not what. College faculty are hired based on what they will teach but not whether they know how to teach it. Clearly, there is room for growth in both sectors.
Bozeman, Mont. Regarding reviewers’ “corrections” to errors they found in various physical science textbooks, note that one such correction is itself in error. Namely, the reviewer complains that the text under review “ignored the fact that the acceleration due to gravity is also related to the radius of a body.” In fact, the gravitational field produced by a spherical body is identical to that produced by an equivalent point mass located at its center and hence is not related to the radius of the body, but only to its total mass and the observer’s distance from this central point. The body radius is a handy but arbitrary reference range. Michael Tarbell
Manitou Springs, Colo.
San Diego, Calif. Sure, errors in science texts are bad. Less obvious is whether they have a significant effect on learning. Do the texts of countries where students outperform Americans have fewer errors? You should have asked. Seth Roberts
Berkeley, Calif. The article was an affirmation of what most of us middle school science teachers already knew. The textbooks are flawed. I have solved the problem of textbooks by not using them. Because science is such a dynamic subject, I started developing my own booklets for my students. Even as we review them in class, I continue editing in an effort to constantly improve them. Another benefit to this is the ability to easily add or delete information when the state’s standards are changed. Marjorie B. Caruso
Gainesville, Fla. This article describes the sad state of the so-called science books that major textbook publishers sell to our middle schools. Stephen Driesler of the Association of American Publishers says that publishers are taking the “remedial step” of posting textbook errors and corrections on the Web. Does he really regard this as a remedy for the sale of a defective product? I don’t. William J. Bennetta
The Textbook League