from The Textbook Letter, May-June 1999

Reviewing a high-school book in biology

Fearon's Biology
1998. 342 pages. ISBN: 0-835-93557-4. Pearson Education, 1 Lake Street,
Upper Saddle River, New Jersey 07458. (Pearson Education is a part
of Pearson PLC, a corporation headquartered in London.)

Here's Frankenstein Again

William J. Bennetta

The phrase dumbed down is helpful but isn't really adequate for describing Fearon's Biology -- a slapdash collection of hearsay, guesswork and pseudoscientific drivel, all rendered in baby-talk.

A few years ago the Texas State Board of Education adopted the 1994 version of Fearon's Biology as a high-school biology textbook, reminding us that Texas's adoption proceedings often display potent evidence of malfeasance and corruption. My review of that 1994 version ran in The Textbook Letter for July-August 1998 and included an account of my successful hunt for Lucy Jane Bledsoe, the mystery-woman whose name appeared on the book's title page.

The 1998 version is virtually identical with the 1994, and it even retains the notion that Mary Shelley's tale of Frankenstein and his monster illustrates what scientists do in "biology labs." In the few places where the 1998 version shows alterations, the alterations are tiny and sometimes ludicrous. Only three of them are worth describing:

Readers who need more information about Fearon's Biology should consult my review of the 1994 version.

William J. Bennetta is a professional editor, a fellow of the California Academy of Sciences, the president of The Textbook League, and the editor of The Textbook Letter. He writes often about the propagation of quackery, false "science" and false "history" in schoolbooks.


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