from The Textbook Letter, January-February 1996

Reviewing a middle-school book in life science

Science Insights: Exploring Living Things.
1996. 654 pages. ISBN of the student's edition: 0-201-44618-9.
Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Inc., 2725 Sand Hill Road,
Menlo Park, California 94025.

Ugly Once,
Ugly Again

William J. Bennetta

Garbage in, garbage out -- and in the case of Addison-Wesley's Exploring Living Things, the garbage that has come out is scarcely distinguishable from the garbage that went in.

Although the 1996 version of Exploring Living Things has the label "NEW EDITION" on its cover and its spine, it is not a new edition in any meaningful way. It is merely the 1994 version with a few trivial alterations and some decorative touch-ups. The content of Exploring Living Things hasn't been changed, and this 1996 version -- like its predecessor -- is shot through with superstition, pseudoscience and anachronistic nonsense.

To begin my appraisal of the 1996 book, I randomly chose 69 of its text pages (starting with page 3 and ending with page 622), and I compared each of these with the like-numbered page in the 1994 version. Here is what those comparisons have shown:

Besides examining a random sample of pages, I've looked through the 1996 book to see whether it shows any changes in its basic content or organization. It does not. Nor have Addison-Wesley's functionaries removed any of the bogus "science" and anti-intellectual trash that I cited specifically in my review of the 1994 book. The 1996 version retains all that stuff, from the phony taxonomy and the endorsement of "nature's ladder" to the promotion of vitalism, the peddling of Oriental quackery, and the lurid glorification of ignorance.

To summarize: Addison-Wesley is still shoveling garbage. The shovel may look a little shinier, but the garbage still looks ugly and still stinks.

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.


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