The quality of science textbooks has been decried by researchers for decades. Even with SER focused on narrowly incremental improvements, on the easily deployable, textbooks often don't reflect it. Incentives are poorly aligned, authorial resources too limited, and scope constraints too severe. Further, attempts at less incremental, more foundational improvements, are very rare (eg, integrated life-sciences curriculums). What support might allow OER to achieve better?
OpenStax "View online"'s nice text search allowed quickly finding such common misconceptions. And OpenStax supports open errata databases. The database of a past version of a textbook could be reached by URL editing. One misconception was pointed out twice, and WONTFIXed "Our reviewers determined the textbook meets scope, sequence, and accuracy requirements as is. No change will be made." Perhaps if the errata database had a discussion mechanism, like github issues, the problem might have been clarified and the new version of the textbook fixed? (Disclaimer: It's a misconception I commonly check for, and one of the two comments might be mine.)
Problems this pervasive are structural. How might OER creation be restructured to work better? Ideally much much better? For instance, support for easily combining patch-sets might allow an ecology of "ok, I fixed/improved this bit", avoiding multi-year gatekeeping delays.
A decade or two back, NSF almost funded a national science education wikipedia... but didn't. Each common misconception might have had pages of literature overview, discussion, remedies. Is there an alternate timeline where science education content has dramatically improved?
I think bringing in some of the tools and workflows from open source software development could go a long way. Many OER authors already publish their books on github, and use github issues to receive feedback (and sometimes even PRs).
Unfortunately, many of the teachers (and students) are not technically proficient (at least not enough to know about git, github, and PRs) so that is probably the current limiting factor. I've thought a lot about this, and one of my best ideas for a possible solution was to create a simplified-git where the command names match the domain terminology (save, share, publish, suggestedits, etc.). You can see a sketch of that idea here: https://minireference.com/blog/git-for-authors/
I totally agree in general, if there were tools around OER creation and updates, the OER books will be able to improve much faster than any commercial textbook, and with print-on-demand students would be getting the latest edition with all the fixes each year for something like $20-$30 in print, and free eBooks online.
The Wikiversity project could easily host that kind of stuff. It's a bit of a "catchall" partner project to Wikipedia for all kinds of educational content (in a broad sense) other than simple media files (that's what Wikimedia Commons is for) and newly-written textbooks (that's Wikibooks).
It is amazing how much better English textbooks tend to be compared to the textbooks in my country as well.
There's some textbooks that have more personality. But the OpenStax books are pretty much the same as any other mainstream book (the kind that are assigned to most classes).
Maybe the calculus class was just boring? The textbook is there as a baseline to cover the derivations, example problems, and how to do them. I can think of plenty of reasons why a calculus class is just boring (too hard, too easy, or it's taught in a boring way).
> People often use the words "female" and "male" to describe two different concepts: our sense of gender identity, and our biological sex as determined by our X/Y chromosomes, hormones, sex organs, and other physical characteristics. For some people, gender identity is different from biological sex or their sex assigned at birth. In this chapter and the next chapter, "female" and "male" refer to sex only, and the typical reproductive anatomy of XX and XY individuals is discussed.
Anyway, science has always been political, and will continue to be for as long as it’s carried out by humans. (The least charged [hah!] example that immediately comes to mind is Millikan’s measurements of the electron.) Comparing this to Lysenko seems a bit of a stretch, though; this is more akin to the euphemism treadmill, where scientists find that they must select their words very carefully to tiptoe through a thicket of popular opinion.
The problem is that, because gender has become a hot-button political issue, textbook authors have to take the Standard Scientific Asterisk (“things are complicated, boundaries are fuzzy, this is a simplification”) and write it out in excruciating detail to prevent their textbook from being cited as ‘proof’ by biological essentialists using it to further their agenda.
Eventually the march of progress will (hopefully) relegate all this to a footnote again, but for the moment it’s visible as a lump in the text: a metaphorical callous developed from constant prodding.
At any rate, I was using “march of progress” in the colloquial sense: I intended that “(hopefully)” to indicate that I don’t view it as inevitable; but the scientific method has, historically, tended to converge on reality, albeit often in fits and starts.
> We must proceed with care and for great respect for the reality that is.
Indeed, which is why the textbooks have become encrusted with such scar tissue: the authors are trying to preclude the present wave of reactionary activism which is impetuously twisting things to fit their conclusion.