Clearing hurdles in education reform
One example comes in a new research article from the American School Boards Journal titled "Is science education failing students?" (hat tip to JoanneJacobs.com). According to author Susan Black, one barrier to effective science education is the lack of accurate information in science textbooks. She writes:
William Beaty, an engineer who designed an electricity exhibit for the Boston Museum of Science, discovered “a morass of misconceptions, mistakes, and misinformation” in grade school science textbooks. In fact, he couldn’t find a single book that explained basic electricity correctly.
North Carolina State University physics professor John Hubisz found similar problems in a two-year study of middle-school science textbooks. All told, he compiled 500 pages of errors in 12 textbooks, including mix-ups between fission and fusion, incorrect definitions of absolute zero, and a map showing the equator running through the southern states.
Reporting on the ways science textbooks are developed and sold to schools, Forbes writer David McClintick says many companies “churn out rubbish” with countless errors. One widely adopted text, for instance, claims the earth rotates around the sun, when it actually revolves around the sun and rotates on its axis.
But textbook companies are reluctant to change blatant errors, even when renowned scientists submit long lists of corrections. Astrophysicist and schoolteacher Leonard Tramiel, testifying before California’s Curriculum Commission, an 18-member panel that approves textbooks, reported finding 30 errors in the first 100 pages of one science book. The company corrected only three mistakes, leaving a book rife with errors that, if approved, could be used for six years or more in California classrooms and in other states.
Businesses can do a lot to improve public education: they can bring new resources to the table, lobby for effective change, help set desirable learning outcomes, initiate research and pilot projects to identify best practices, and contribute in dozens of other ways.
But will any of that matter if the materials that form the foundation of the learning process (87% of K-12 science teachers use textbooks to some extent in instruction) are factually wrong? To put it another way - if we give kids the wrong information, does it really matter how well we give it to them?