This article appeared in the "Editor's File"
in The Textbook Letter, Volume 12, Number 2.

Teaching Fake "Science" to Teachers

William J. Bennetta

David R. Stronck, of the Department of Teacher Education at California State University, East Bay, calls our attention to some nonsense in the 2005 version of Methods for Teaching Science as Inquiry, a book that Pearson Education markets to science teachers. On page 184, Pearson's writers introduce a classroom demonstration in which a boy holds a sheet of paper to his lips, in a roughly horizontal attitude, and blows across its upper surface. The writers say that "Unexpectedly, the paper moves up rather than down" -- and then, on page 185, they tell teachers how to explain this:

The relevant principle for this event is called
Bernoulli's principle:
     When air flows rapidly across a surface,
     the air pressure on the surface is reduced.
This is the basic principle of flight.

Wrong! The flight of a balloon depends on the principle of buoyancy, and the flight of an insect, a bird, a bat or an airplane depends on the principle of action-and-reaction -- i.e., on Newton's third law. Pearson's writers have merely parroted a bogus notion that has appeared in schoolbooks for decades. (See "On Wings of Ignorance" in The Textbook Letter, Vol. 10, No. 5.)

The cover of Methods for Teaching Science as Inquiry has a picture of a dragonfly, and the same picture recurs in the body of the book. Have Pearson's writers ever seen a dragonfly in flight? If so, have these "inquiry" experts ever asked themselves why a dragonfly must beat its wings to stay aloft?

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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