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This item was published in the "Editor's File" in
The Textbook Letter, September-October 1996.

The Sandman Cometh

William J. Bennetta

Here is the full text of a problem presented in the student's edition of Prentice Hall Exploring Physical Science, a middle-school book dated in 1995:

A barge filled to overflowing with sand approaches a bridge over the river and cannot quite pass under it. Should sand be added to or removed from the barge?

And here is the answer given in the teacher's edition of the same book:

Sand should be added to the barge, causing it to become less buoyant in the water.

Now all that the teacher must do is to figure out how sand can be added to a barge that already is "filled to overflowing."


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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