[Plant-education] Re: American Association for the Advancement of.... Stupidity

David R. Hershey via plant-ed%40net.bio.net (by dh321 At excite.com)
Thu Nov 2 17:57:10 EST 2006

Factual errors about plants are widespread in the science teaching
literature (Hershey 2004a, 2005b) including biology textbooks, the
National Science Education Standards (Hershey 2005a) and refereed
science education journals such as American Biology Teacher (ABT).
Especially error-filled ABT articles were those by Smith & Avery
(1999), DeGolier (2002) and Allchin (2005) and several of the Biology
Today columns on plants, particularly Flannery (2002). Some of these
were discussed previously in this group or elsewhere (Hershey 1999,
2004b, 2005c).

Scientific organizations often do not seem concerned about correcting
factual errors about plants. A few years ago, I contacted the
Smithsonian Institution about their Bee-free Barbecue webpage, which
stated that bee pollination was required to produce sugar, potatoes,
vanilla, cucumbers and several other crops that actually did not
require bee pollination. Commercially, potatoes and sugar cane are
asexually-propagated and the edible part is a stem, not a fruit or
seed. Commercial vanilla is hand-pollinated. Seedless cucumbers are
produced by preventing bee pollination. The Smithsonian representative
told me they would make corrections but never did. The Bee-free
barbecue page is another good one for a botany exam question, "What is
wrong with the following statement?"

I have also submitted numerous emails to a variety of educational
websites politely pointing out factual errors about plants. In most
cases, I never even receive a reply.

For several years, I submitted letters to American Biology Teacher
pointing out factual errors about plants in ABT articles, and almost
all were published. But last year after submitting a few letters, the
ABT publisher refused to publish my corrections, banned me from
submitting any items to ABT for over a year and imposed lifetime
restrictions on what I could publish in ABT. He also threatened me with
"legal sanctions" if I did not remove PDF files of the ABT articles I
authored from my website, despite the ABT policy that "Authors are
granted unlimited noncommercial use." Those are strong disincentives to
correct factual errors about plants.

Perhaps the Botanical Society of America or American Society of Plant
Biologists could start a "Bad Botany" webpage to bring attention to the
many glaring plant errors in websites and publications of prestigious
organizations such as AAAS, NASA, Smithsonian Institution, BBC, PBS,
Library of Congress, etc.

David R. Hershey


Allchin, D. 2005. Genes 'r' us. American Biology Teacher 67: 244-246.

DeGolier, T. 2002. Cold war: Flora's undercover agents, a campus winter
field trip to illustrate that plants do indeed thermoregulate. American
Biology Teacher 64: 45-51.

Flannery, M.C. 2002. Do plants have to be intelligent? American Biology
Teacher 64: 628-633.

Hershey, D.R. 1999. Supermarket botany article. Bionet.plants.education

Hershey, D.R. 2004a. Avoid misconceptions when teaching about plants.

Hershey, D.R. 2004b. Another inaccurate botany teaching article.
Bionet.plants.education [August]

Hershey, D.R. 2005a. Plant content in the National Science Education
Standards [February]

Hershey, D.R. 2005b. More misconceptions to avoid when teaching about
plants. [October]

Hershey, D.R. 2005c. Plants are indeed intelligent. Plant Science
Bulletin 51: 75-77.

Bee-free Barbecue

Smith, D.G. and Avery, D.F. 1999. Supermarket botany. American Biology
Teacher 61: 128-131.

monique wrote:
> I've got a AAAS (S supposedly = "Science") book in hand called "The
> Evolution Dialogues:  Science, Christianity, and the Quest for
> Understanding"
> I'd expect better from the AAAS, but right here on page 141 is this
> statement:  "The evolution of seeds enabled plants to spread rapidly and
> diversify into ferns, mosses, horsetails, cycads, and, later, conifers."
> I think that would make a good botany exam question:  "What is wrong
> with the following statment?"
> On the previous page, the book is off on the time of the rise of
> flowering plants by about 10 million years.
> Doesn't *anyone* employ a fact-checker for publications anymore???
> Monique Reed
> Biology Department
> Texas A&M

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