Faulty textbooks

Marketing textbooks seldom contain substantive research findings, let alone new research.

Popular marketing/management books written to sell to managers are even worse but that’s another story.

My good colleague, Wharton Professor Scott Armstrong completed an analysis of popular marketing textbooks looking for managerially useful and research supported principles – he concluded that “marketing principles texts contain no principles!”. Click here for a copy of his article.

But before we chide our discipline for its sloppy texts it seems we are not alone – a survey has shown that 12 of the most popular science textbooks used at middle schools throughout the USA are riddled with errors (http://www.edu-cyberpg.com/Teachers/sciencebookerror.html):

A recent survey of science textbooks used in the USA compiled 500 pages of errors, ranging from maps depicting the equator passing through the southern United States to a photo of singer Linda Ronstadt labeled as a silicon crystal.

None of the 12 textbooks has an acceptable level of accuracy, said John Hubisz, a North Carolina State University physics professor who led the two-year survey, released earlier this month. “These are terrible books, and they’re probably a strong component of why we do so poorly in science,” he said. Hubisz estimated about 85 percent of children in the United States use the textbooks examined. “The books have a very large number of errors, many irrelevant photographs, complicated illustrations, experiments that could not possibly work, and drawings that represented impossible situations”.

A team of researchers, including middle school teachers and college professors, reviewed the 12 textbooks for factual errors. “These are basic errors,” Hubisz said “It’s stuff that anyone who had taken a science class would be able to catch”. One textbook even misstates Newton’s first law of physics, a staple of physical science for centuries. Errors in the multi-volume Prentice Hall “Science” series included an incorrect depiction of what happens to light when it passes through a prism and the Ronstadt photo.

The study’s reviewers tried to contact textbook authors with questions, Hubisz said, but in many cases the people listed said they didn’t write the book, and some didn’t even know their names had been listed. Some of the authors of a physical science book, for example, were biologists.

Hubisz said educators need to pressure publishers to get “real authors” for textbooks. “They get people to check for political correctness … they try to get in as much cultural diversity as possible,” he said. “They just don’t seem to understand what science is about.” Hubisz said the researchers contacted publishers, who for the most part either dismissed the panel’s findings or promised corrections in subsequent editions. Reviews of later editions turned up more errors than corrections, the report said.


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