A very serious problem:
(obvious, yet unobserved)
Surely You’re Joking, Mr Feynman
published by Bantam Books

is a chapter
“Judging Books by Their Covers.”
pp 262-276

The physicist who worked "theoretical magic," Richard Feynman, was asked by the California State Curriculum Commission to help evaluate all the science textbooks submitted to the Commission for possible K-12 use in the schools of California.  Those texts occupied 17 feet of bookshelf space.  Feynman was the only evaluator diligent enough to discover that one of the textbooks had all blank pages between the covers.

Feynman was not only diligent enough to actually read the books, he was also blessed with some of the clearest perceptions of the simple but subtle concepts of science.  As he read through the books, his wife complained that he repeatedly burst into shouts, "erupting like a volcano."  He reported a hidden disaster in progress.  “Everything was written by someone who didn’t know what the hell he was talking about, … They were teaching something they didn’t understand, and which was in fact useless…”  All of those books were, "a little bit wrong, always!...Perpetual absurdity...UNIVERSALLY LOUSY!" 

Those books have been the source of learned science for almost everyone in California...and probably almost everywhere else, too.  The authors of those textbooks are the teachers of our teachers.  Teachers and learners alike are learning science, but that learning is hollow.  Essential, but subtle, aspects are being pervasively and persistently missed. 

It isn’t useful knowledge. 

That hidden disaster is still progressing.  (An article in the May, 2001 issue of The Physics Teacher found that while high-school level science texts had improved accuracy—but with lowered level of language—middle-school texts remain as bad as those perused by Feynman.) Science and mathematics remains, for too many people, mysterious, unreachable, unreal, and useless.  The concepts are not, in fact, what they seem at first glance.  What they really are is too seldom examined.

Peruse the problem; one important concept:

Energy is one of the most important things in the world to human life.  But just what is energy? 

What do we know?  What do we believe? What do we understand?

What has science discovered?  What has science taught us?  What did we not understand?

What is energy?


In colloquial use, a theory is a guess, a stab in the dark, a very low grade of knowledge.  In science, theory is  knowledge of the highest level.  Scientific theory is constructed from the best of extensive observation (“theory” has the same root as “theater,” a place for observation).  That knowledge is then organized into a logical structure that can be used to solve new problems...and in ways not available to those who do not understand the theory.


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"We had hoped to set up an onging interaction with publishers of the texts being reviewed, wanting to increase the possibility of effecting a change.  We wrote letters asking for a company liaison with whom we could communicate during the project, and asked for copies of the publishers' middle school texts.  No publisher responded..."

from "Report on a Study of Middle School Physical Science Texts"
by John L. Hubisz
The Physics Teacher, May 2001, pp 304-309