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Author Topic:   Science Textbook Authors--are they scientists?
nator
Member (Idle past 2256 days)
Posts: 12961
From: Ann Arbor
Joined: 12-09-2001


Message 1 of 14 (261301)
11-19-2005 3:28 PM


In another thread, I asked randman to answer the following questions.
Who do you think writes/edits/approves your hated public school science textbooks?
Who do you think has the power to change/improve them?
Specifically, I am asking you to tell me the background of most of the people who write the science textbooks. Like, are they professional scientists, or are they people with degrees in education and not experts in Evolutionary Biologists at all?
I know the answer. Do you?
So far, he hasn't done so after repeated requests, but it really needs it's own thread.
Anyway, we all know that randman has a bee in his bonnet about high school biology textbooks.
He seems to blame scientists for the poor quality (in his estimation) of science textbooks, and seems to think that it is scientists who are responsible for the content.
Furthermore, he seems intent on ignoring all of the other factors and influences that go into textbook writing, editing, and approval, to the ultimate selection of a textbook by the school district.
So, Hor responsible should we hold professional scientists for what appears in high school science textbooks?
This should probably go in Science and Education?

Replies to this message:
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Adminnemooseus
Administrator
Posts: 3977
Joined: 09-26-2002


Message 2 of 14 (261415)
11-19-2005 11:59 PM


Thread moved here from the Proposed New Topics forum.

  
Adminnemooseus
Administrator
Posts: 3977
Joined: 09-26-2002


Message 3 of 14 (261417)
11-20-2005 12:13 AM


OK - Let's hear from anyone that has a biology text book around
How about title of biology textbook, author(s), background of authors, grade level book used in, state/country used in, etc.
Might as well bring in data for some college texts also.
Adminnemooseus

Replies to this message:
 Message 11 by Zhimbo, posted 11-20-2005 10:20 AM Adminnemooseus has replied

  
Nuggin
Member (Idle past 2579 days)
Posts: 2965
From: Los Angeles, CA USA
Joined: 08-09-2005


Message 4 of 14 (261421)
11-20-2005 12:34 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by nator
11-19-2005 3:28 PM


Committee for approving the approval committee
I don't know for certain how a science textbook gets approved, but I'm sure the process if very similiar to that of a history text.
The problem is that publishers don't make the same kinda bank on textbooks as they do on NYT Best Sellers. They don't want to have to make ten different texts and try and market them all. If you've got a good one size fits all book, you maximize your profit.
You'd think that a school board would turn to some professionals to determine the text books worth, but often it's "concerned citizens" and "busy-bodies" who do the actual reading and evaluating.
Frequently you'll run into this problem. Mrs. Finkle is sixty five years old and is trying to evaluate a book based on the education she got when she was younger - be it about science, history, or sex education. There's a built in stunting process.
Then there's the problem of regional areas and learning. Obviously a textbook designed for (let's say) 6th graders in some areas is going to be way to advanced when given to 6th graders in a different area. So, we've gotta dumb down the text so that everyone can follow along.
If there were more publishers, more variety of texts, there would be more competition and stronger material available.
As to the question of "do scientists write these books"? I'm sure they do. But, I'm also sure they have help.
Engineers don't write manuals. Technical writers write manuals. But they get their info from the engineers.

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 Message 1 by nator, posted 11-19-2005 3:28 PM nator has not replied

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arachnophilia
Member (Idle past 1430 days)
Posts: 9069
From: god's waiting room
Joined: 05-21-2004


Message 5 of 14 (261434)
11-20-2005 1:52 AM
Reply to: Message 4 by Nuggin
11-20-2005 12:34 AM


Re: Committee for approving the approval committee
The problem is that publishers don't make the same kinda bank on textbooks as they do on NYT Best Sellers.
even with college textbooks? i'd be damned suprised. i mean, they come out with a new edition every semester, JUST so you can't resell your book afterwards. and these things ain't cheap, either. 120 for a stupid book?

אָרַח

This message is a reply to:
 Message 4 by Nuggin, posted 11-20-2005 12:34 AM Nuggin has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 6 by Nuggin, posted 11-20-2005 3:07 AM arachnophilia has replied
 Message 7 by Darwin Storm, posted 11-20-2005 3:52 AM arachnophilia has replied

  
Nuggin
Member (Idle past 2579 days)
Posts: 2965
From: Los Angeles, CA USA
Joined: 08-09-2005


Message 6 of 14 (261438)
11-20-2005 3:07 AM
Reply to: Message 5 by arachnophilia
11-20-2005 1:52 AM


Drifting dangerously off topic
It's the college bookstore making all the money there.
I remember a situation where I had to pick up "ways of seeing" by John Berger for a class. (10 years ago and the book is still on my mind, tells you a little something about what's to come)
There were two stacks of books - plastic wrapped brand new books for 12 dollars, or used books for 15 dollars.
Glancing at one of the used ones, I noticed that it had had multiple resells and repurchases over the years - each with a new "used" sticker. As I peeled them away, I found the prices had gone up over time. First 12, then 14, finally 15 dollars.
Interesting that a book appreciates so much as it gets more and more beat up.

This message is a reply to:
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Darwin Storm
Inactive Member


Message 7 of 14 (261443)
11-20-2005 3:52 AM
Reply to: Message 5 by arachnophilia
11-20-2005 1:52 AM


Re: Committee for approving the approval committee
The difference between a college text and a best seller is sheer volume. A NY best seller may easily sell millions of copies for a single title. That is not the case for a text book.
To make a tidy profit, the publishers try to push out new editions as often as possible to make old versions obsolete. A used book nets the publishers no money. Often revisions are minor, but usually sufficient, to force a change of edition. They simply stop reprinted earlier editions. The schools are forced to get the new edition.
As for the bookstores, they know you are stuck buying the books. Its a captive audience and they can charge a fortune. Some of my favorite physics texts are old texts that are still highly regared and can be bought for far less than current text books. However, the publishers make sure those are put out for "individual purchase" and are not pushed as texts. Often, in graduate school, its these more obscure texts or individual papers that become important, not inflated textbooks. I do find it especially ironic that many current textbooks will often cite or refer to these older yet excellent texts! But they fall under recommended reading and are not to be confused with your required text. *sigh* (btw, where can I find a list of the text format commands?)

This message is a reply to:
 Message 5 by arachnophilia, posted 11-20-2005 1:52 AM arachnophilia has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 10 by arachnophilia, posted 11-20-2005 6:31 AM Darwin Storm has not replied

  
randman 
Suspended Member (Idle past 4985 days)
Posts: 6367
Joined: 05-26-2005


Message 8 of 14 (261452)
11-20-2005 4:30 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by nator
11-19-2005 3:28 PM


here is one author, you tell me
Dr. George B. Johnson was born in 1942 in Virginia, went to college in New Hampshire (Dartmouth), went to graduate school in California (Stanford), and is Professor of Biology at Washington University in St. Louis, where he has taught biology and genetics to undergraduates for 30 years. Also Professor of Genetics at Washington University’s School of Medicine, Dr. Johnson is a student of population genetics and evolution, renowned for his pioneering studies of genetic variability.
Dr. Johnson has authored more than fifty scientific publications and seven texts, including BIOLOGY (with botanist Peter Raven), THE LIVING WORLD, and a widely-used high school biology textbook, HOLT BIOLOGY. In the 22 years he has been authoring biology texts, over three million students have been taught from textbooks he has written. Dr. Johnson has recently served on a National Research Council task force to improve high school biology teaching, and has been involved in innovative efforts to incorporate interactive learning and internet experiences into our nation’s classrooms.
Here is some quotes from his educational web-site.
At its core, the case for evolution is built upon two pillars: first, evidence that natural selection can produce evolutionary change and, second, evidence from the fossil record that evolution has occurred.
http://www.txtwriter.com/...rounders/Evolution/EVpage01.html
Some of the strongest anatomical evidence supporting evolution comes from comparisons of how organisms develop. In many cases, the evolutionary history of an organism can be seen to unfold during its development, with the embryo exhibiting characteristics of the embryos of its ancestors (figure 22.16). For example, early in their development, human embryos possess gill slits, like a fish;
http://www.txtwriter.com/...rounders/Evolution/EVpage11.html
I found this in relatively few minutes. I suspect you can. Btw, I really don't want to bash this guy because I think he basically presents your typical mainstream stuff as far as evolution. In other words, while I think a lot of this stuff is bogus, I think he believes it as do most college professors teaching these things.
This message has been edited by randman, 11-20-2005 04:35 AM

This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by nator, posted 11-19-2005 3:28 PM nator has replied

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arachnophilia
Member (Idle past 1430 days)
Posts: 9069
From: god's waiting room
Joined: 05-21-2004


Message 9 of 14 (261482)
11-20-2005 6:21 AM
Reply to: Message 6 by Nuggin
11-20-2005 3:07 AM


Re: Drifting dangerously off topic
It's the college bookstore making all the money there.
i find that hard to believe. why would a publisher do something to benefit the store and not themselves?
it seems more likely the publisher is making the money. requiring new editions in classrooms every semester or two seems like a good way to devalue the resale of used textbooks.
There were two stacks of books - plastic wrapped brand new books for 12 dollars, or used books for 15 dollars.
Glancing at one of the used ones, I noticed that it had had multiple resells and repurchases over the years - each with a new "used" sticker. As I peeled them away, I found the prices had gone up over time. First 12, then 14, finally 15 dollars.
10 times out of 10 i buy a used textbook because it's cheaper. i've never seen one more expensive.

אָרַח

This message is a reply to:
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arachnophilia
Member (Idle past 1430 days)
Posts: 9069
From: god's waiting room
Joined: 05-21-2004


Message 10 of 14 (261483)
11-20-2005 6:31 AM
Reply to: Message 7 by Darwin Storm
11-20-2005 3:52 AM


Re: Committee for approving the approval committee
The difference between a college text and a best seller is sheer volume. A NY best seller may easily sell millions of copies for a single title. That is not the case for a text book.
maybe. but i've seen music albums not make the top ten because the band decided to issue 3 different version, which all counted separately. the same principle might apply.
Often revisions are minor, but usually sufficient, to force a change of edition.
i've seen editions where they bumped everything by three pages with a new intro, and editions where they swithed the even- and odd-numbered problems. if they don't make them minor enough, we're usually smart enough to buy and old edition -- for even cheaper.
Some of my favorite physics texts are old texts that are still highly regared and can be bought for far less than current text books. However, the publishers make sure those are put out for "individual purchase" and are not pushed as texts. Often, in graduate school, its these more obscure texts or individual papers that become important, not inflated textbooks. I do find it especially ironic that many current textbooks will often cite or refer to these older yet excellent texts! But they fall under recommended reading and are not to be confused with your required text. *sigh*
i built and organized a library of mathematics texts this summer at my university. most of the GOOD quality texts were not textbooks, per se. they were individually published papers, in series of books, or public domain thesi put out by dover. sometimes we'd have two or three copies of a text, and one would be 50 years old, and the other only 2 or 3, and they'd be the same to the page. just a different cover.
but when i got to stats textbooks? i threw most of them out. and this brings us back on topic:
high school and college textbooks simply are not as good as scientific or mathematic papers actually in the field. they're dumbed-down notes and lists of problems and study guides, not a representation of what's actually going on in the study.
(btw, where can I find a list of the text format commands?)
most html commands work, as do dbcodes. if you click the links at the left of the reply box that say "help," ie:
quote:
HTML On (help)
dBCodes On (help)
Smilies Legend
you'll get the list you want.
This message has been edited by arachnophilia, 11-20-2005 06:32 AM

אָרַח

This message is a reply to:
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Zhimbo
Member (Idle past 6098 days)
Posts: 571
From: New Hampshire, USA
Joined: 07-28-2001


Message 11 of 14 (261519)
11-20-2005 10:20 AM
Reply to: Message 3 by Adminnemooseus
11-20-2005 12:13 AM


Who writes the text books?: "No one."
If this thread hinges on people looking at their books on hand, this is not going to go very well...
First of all, I doubt many of us keep grade school or even high-school level textbooks around, and College-level texts and grade school/high school level texts are very different beasts.
The lower level texts, by and large, aren't really "written" by anyone, and the names that appear on the book are often nearly irrelevant:
Full article here.
SOME YEARS AGO, I signed on as an editor at a major publisher of elementary and high school textbooks, filled with the idealistic belief that I’d be working with equally idealistic authors to create books that would excite teachers and fill young minds with Big Ideas.
Not so.
I got a hint of things to come when I overheard my boss lamenting, “The books are done and we still don’t have an author! I must sign someone today!”
Every time a friend with kids in school tells me textbooks are too generic, I think back to that moment. “Who writes these things?” people ask me. I have to tell them, without a hint of irony, “No one.” It’s symptomatic of the whole muddled mess that is the $4.3 billion textbook business."
It's an interesting read.

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 Message 3 by Adminnemooseus, posted 11-20-2005 12:13 AM Adminnemooseus has replied

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Modulous
Member
Posts: 7801
From: Manchester, UK
Joined: 05-01-2005


Message 12 of 14 (261521)
11-20-2005 10:29 AM
Reply to: Message 11 by Zhimbo
11-20-2005 10:20 AM


Re: Who writes the text books?: "No one."
Yeah - and what's more a goog search for 'high school biology text books' returns the following:
All four studies found serious weaknesses in the science and mathematics textbooks evaluated, the most widely used science and mathematics textbooks in American schools. These are sobering findings given the extent to which teachers use textbooks to guide instruction and determine curriculum content (Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 1997).
High School Biology Textbooks Do Not Meet National Standards. ERIC Digest.
Hearkens back to the old Haeckel debate don't it?

This message is a reply to:
 Message 11 by Zhimbo, posted 11-20-2005 10:20 AM Zhimbo has not replied

  
Adminnemooseus
Administrator
Posts: 3977
Joined: 09-26-2002


Message 13 of 14 (261531)
11-20-2005 10:57 AM
Reply to: Message 11 by Zhimbo
11-20-2005 10:20 AM


Have texts?
If this thread hinges on people looking at their books on hand, this is not going to go very well...
First of all, I doubt many of us keep grade school or even high-school level textbooks around, and College-level texts and grade school/high school level texts are very different beasts.
I presumed that some younger members are still in school and have the textbooks, and that some older members would have children having the textbooks. No, I did not expect that the older members would have their pre-college textbooks.
College texts / pre-college texts would be a point of comparison.
Adminnemooseus

This message is a reply to:
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nator
Member (Idle past 2256 days)
Posts: 12961
From: Ann Arbor
Joined: 12-09-2001


Message 14 of 14 (261847)
11-21-2005 9:22 AM
Reply to: Message 8 by randman
11-20-2005 4:30 AM


Re: here is one author, you tell me
OK, there's one actual scientist who is an author of a high school science textbook.
Do you know if he actually wrote the parts he is said to have authored?

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