Sunday, August 23, 2020

Judging Books by Their Covers

 Richard Feynman tries to improve school textbooks

In 1964 the Nobel-prize physicist Richard P. Feynman served on the State of California's Curriculum Commission and saw how the Commission chose math textbooks for use in California's public schools. In his acerbic memoir of that experience, titled "Judging Books by Their Covers," Feynman analyzed the Commission's idiotic method of evaluating books, and described some of the tactics employed by schoolbook salesmen who wanted the Commission to adopt their shoddy products. "Judging Books by Their Covers" appeared as a chapter in "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!" – Feynman's autobiographical book that was published in 1985 by W.W. Norton & Company. This essay is reprinted here for your enjoyment. (His title is motivated by the fact that one publisher sent California multiple copies of a "textbook" consisting entirely of blank pages. It was given high marks.)

You may want to compare and contrast evaluating blank text books with arguing about the grades kids got for exams that they didn't take.

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