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This article was published in the "Editor's File" in
The Textbook Letter, November-December 1995.

It's Still the Same Travesty

William J. Bennetta

Do you recall Heath's middle-school textbook Physical Science: The Challenge of Discovery? This was the book, dated in 1991, that confused potential energy with electric potential, confused heat capacity with thermal conductivity, and confused a compressor with a condenser. This was the book written by people who thought that charcoal was a form of coal, who said that an automobile engine was cooled by heat, and who evidently believed that the phrase "waste heat" meant that somebody was being careless. This was the book that showed an absurd "periodic table" in which half of the groups were misplaced.

When Lawrence S. Lerner reviewed Heath's book, in our issue of July-August 1991, he called it a "travesty" and said that educators should make sure that it would not get into classrooms. He also called on Heath to stop selling it: "If Heath has a sense of responsibility to students and to teachers," Lerner wrote, "the company will withdraw Physical Science from sale."

More than four years later, Heath is still marketing Physical Science, and Physical Science is still the same travesty. In November I obtained a new copy from Heath, checked it against the version that Lerner had examined in 1991, and found no changes at all -- even though the promotional brochure that had arrived with the book said that Physical Science was "ALL NEW." The hope that Heath might have a sense of responsibility has not been fulfilled.


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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