Surely You’re Joking, Mr Feynman
published by Bantam Books
is a chapter
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:
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?
from "Report on a Study of Middle School Physical Science Texts"
by John L. Hubisz
The Physics Teacher, May 2001, pp 304-309