Linzel of No More Walls is a Canadian high school science teacher. The latest posting is Provincial Curricula - Always behind the Times?. It begins with,
I've always found textbooks to be behind the times. Because of the amount of time it takes to write, edit, publish and distribute textbooks, by the time teachers and students have them they are years out of date. Not to mention the number of years they remain in circulation. I'm not suggesting we move entirely towards the most current thoughts on subject material. Quite often the most recent science research is plain wrong. Fact is students could not comprehend the level of writing and knowledge required.This criticism is directed at high school textbooks and not university textbooks. On another occasion we can discuss whether it applies to my book but for now let's look at the high school textbooks. I think Linzel has misidentified the problem. It's not the fact that textbooks are four or five years old by the time many students are reading them. Basic scientific principles and concepts just don't change quickly enough to make this a problem at the high school level. What we're concerned about is material that's ten or twenty years out-of-date.
The fact is though that the material is on the net and is available to be updated immediately. Old webpages can be identified and steered away from. Old textbooks tend to be handed off to other districts and hang around like a bad disease. [Thats overly harsh but it sounded good]
There are only two Grade 12 biology textbooks that have been approved by the Province of Ontario [Trillium List]. They are McGraw-Hill Ryerson Biology 12 (2002) published by McGraw-Hill Ryerson, and Nelson Biology 12 (Student Book) (2003) published by Nelson Education Ltd.
Let's look at the first one in order to illustrate the problem. If we check the website [Biology 12] we can find the list of authors. Here they are ...
Leesa BlakeI think we've identified the problem. How can you have an up-to-date biology textbook if it's not written by biologists? Now, don't get me wrong. I agree that you need to have high school teachers involved in order to make sure the curriculum is being followed, but surely there's more to writing a good biology textbook that just hiring a bunch of high school teachers and professional writers?
Malvern Collegiate Institute
University College of the Cariboo
Kamloops, British Columbia
Science and Education Writer
Tofino, British Columbia
Dr. E.P. Scarlett Senior High School
L'Amoreaux Collegiate Institute
Tofino, British Columbia
Toronto District School Board
Judging by the Table of Contents there's nothing wrong with the material that's covered. There are three chapters on evolution, for example. However, from my experience with university textbooks I can appreciate the complaint voiced by Linzel. It often takes years for modern concepts to reach the second tier of textbooks and the second tier unfortunately includes typical high school textbooks.
There are two obvious solutions.
- Get more university professors on the textbook writing team, especially those who are teaching introductory university courses.
- Offer upgrade courses for high school teachers so they can stay on top of the latest principles and concepts. Some people in my department are thinking about this. We'd like to run summer courses for high school teachers.