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from The Textbook Letter, Volume 12, Number 4

Reviewing a middle-school book in life science

Glencoe Science: Life Science
2005. 906 pages. ISBN of the student's edition: 0-07-861702-2.
Glencoe/McGraw-Hill, 8787 Orion Place, Columbus, Ohio 43240.
(Glencoe/McGraw-Hill is a unit of The McGraw-Hill Companies.)

Many Meaningless Alterations,
with Small Shifts in Pagination

William J. Bennetta

The 2002 version of Glencoe Science: Life Science was analyzed in two reviews that ran in The Textbook Letter, Vol. 12, No. 2. Michael Ghiselin wrote the first review, which carried the headline "This Textbook Is a Slick Package of Misinformation and Mediocrity," and I wrote the second, headlined "This Book Is the Worst."

I began that second review with an account of how Glencoe's life-science book had expanded over the years, from 714 pages (in the 1993 version) to 745 pages (in the 1995 version) to 837 pages (in the 1999 version) and then to 926 pages (in the 2002 version). I have been surprised, therefore, to see that Glencoe now has made the book slightly smaller: In the 2005 version, the number of pages has been reduced from 926 to 906.

This loss of twenty pages has been accompanied by many other modifications: I see a greatly expanded table of contents; I see a new page devoted to the claim that this 2005 version reflects the efforts of a "Teacher Advisory Board" and a "Student Advisory Board"; I see new typography, new graphic devices and new color schemes; I see new gimmicks headlined "HOW TO . . . Use Your Science Book" and "Scavenger HUNT," which together occupy five pages at the front of the book; I see various new gimmicks in the body of the book; and I see old gimmicks that have been ornamented with new colors and new titles.

Most importantly, I see the same product that I saw last time, for this 2005 book is just the 2002 version with countless alterations that don't matter at all. The only significant changes have been effected at the back of the book: Glencoe's editors have eliminated a splurge of gaudy "Field Guide" gimmicks that appeared on pages 812 through 831 of the 2002 version, and they have overhauled and shortened the "Science Skill Handbook."

The five units that constitute the body of the 2005 book are practically interchangeable with the five units in the 2002 version, though each unit has now been shortened by two pages. This hasn't had much effect on the book's content, but it has produced small shifts in pagination. If you take these shifts into account, you can learn about the content of the 2005 version by reading the reviews that Michael Ghiselin and I wrote after we examined the 2002 version. Here a few notes that will help you to keep track of how the two versions differ in their pagination:

Michael Ghiselin concluded his review of the 2002 version by saying that Glencoe Science: Life Science was "a slick, commercial product, created for a market that prizes misinformation and mediocrity." Though Glencoe has expended a lot of money to make innumerable cosmetic changes in the 2005 version, Ghiselin's appraisal still applies.


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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