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Introduction to the world of the authors
Wrong information, or misleading information
Activities that don't work
Over-complexity of language
A mania for definitions
Over-emphasis upon the history of science
Summing up
The achievement of Oxford University Press

Introduction to the world of the authors

The Framework Science Teachers' Guides may well be the worst books ever published by Oxford University Press. They're littered with factual mistakes, full of futile and deadening activities, so deeply flawed that no amount of revision could realistically resuscitate them. They're completely beyond hope. But see the section 'The achievement of Oxford University Press.'

There are teaching materials for years 7, 8 and 9. Teachers are provided with two massive, heavy volumes for each year, one of the two being the Teacher's Guide. Who are the authors?

Framework Science 7 Teachers' Guide No authors listed on the cover or anywhere else, although the Introduction reassures us that 'The lesson plan authors are all teachers and consultants for the Key Stage 3 Science Strategy. They have used their in-depth knowledge to create a teachers' guide that will enable a department to meet the outcomes of the Science Strategies CPD training related to teaching and learning.'
Framework Science 8 Teachers' Guide by Sarah Jagger and Damien Rowe (I salute the courage of Oxford University Press in daring to print the names of the authors, and the courage of the authors in daring to be named.)
Framework Science 9 Teachers' Guide by Sarah Jagger, Damien Rowe and Samantha Vickers (whose courage I also salute.)

By the way, each of these books is described as a 'Teachers' Guide' on the volume itself, but Oxford University Press is vague about the the placing of the apostrophe. On the Web site of 'Oxford Education,' on the page http://www.oup.com/oxed/secondary/science/fws
the description is 'Teacher's Guide' and 'Teacher's Book.' In the review which appeared in the Times Educational Supplement (30 May 2003), the title is given as 'Teacher Guide.'

First of all, to introduce the world of the authors, and their complete indifference to the important concept of differentiation in education, a couple of questions (and perhaps you could commit yourself to an answer.)

(1) Define the term 'evaluation.'

(2) Define the term 'laterally inverted.' [in the context of light.]

Perhaps you've been able to define these terms straight away, without any problem at all. If so, do try and enter into the mind of a 7th year pupil (age: 12 or so) who is expected by Framework Science to be able to define 'evaluation,' (together with 'input variable,' by the way.) And try and enter into the world of the 8th year pupil (age 13 or so) who is expected to give a definition of 'laterally inverted.' These are homework questions in Framework Science, and for the full ability range - for pupils whose reading age may be years below their chronological age, for pupils who find abstract words difficult, all but the simplest words difficult. The first question comes from the sheet 7I.h.6A (A is for 'all,' for the full ability range) and the second from the sheet 8K.c.3A (again, the A is for 'all.') By the way, the authors don't believe in supplying inverted commas, generally - the inverted commas for 'evaluation' are mine - but now and again, as in sheet 8K.c.3A, they do give them.

The idea of 'differentiation' in education, which involves the notion that questions shouldn't be flung at pupils completely unready or unable to make any sense of them, never seems to enter the heads of the authors, after they've paid obligatory lip service to the theme in their introduction (an inert and deadening piece of prose whose main virtue is that it avoids the forced and completely unconvincing jollity of so much in the main teaching scheme.) It should be obvious to anybody that they have no idea how to enter into the world of a pupil for whom science is a desperately difficult area.

Now an activity. This gem is from Framework Science 8E.e.

Pupils are asked 'to write a poem about either atoms, elements, compounds, mixtures or molecules.' Wait a moment, this isn't a very good use of 'either...or,' is it?

'The first line should have one word and name the scientific idea concerned.
The second line should have two words and describe what the first line means.
The third line should have three words and say what the first line does.
The fourth line should have four words and say how the writer feels about the first line.
The fifth line should rename the first line in a single word.'

If this mystifies you, or the average 12 year old, or an exceptionally gifted 12 year old, then an example of such a 'poem' is helpfully provided. (You see, Oxford University Press abandoned poetry publishing but it still publishes poems - it's just that they're part of other books now! So no need to worry.) As for the poem - wait for it:

Chemical change
Makes new substances
Fizz for frothy foam

If 'Fizz for frothy foam' is how this particular writer 'feels about the first line,' 'Reaction,' then the writer's feelings may perhaps need to be examined very carefully, preferably by someone with professional qualifications.

There are more of these futile exercises scattered around the pages of Framework Science. To give just one more example, pupils have to write a poem about either photosynthesis or biomass. A poem about biomass! And literary people think that didactic poems (like Vergil's poem about bee-keeping) are an obsolete form! A 'poem' of the authors is helpfully provided once more:

Downward force
Acting on me
Is measured in newtons

So 'Changes' is renaming 'Weight.' Even with imaginative licence...no.`

The scientific factual errors in these volumes are shameful enough, but the authors' general knowledge seems just as limited. Framework Science asks pupils to explain why limestone is 'unsuitable' as a building material. This would have been a surprise to the builders of the Cotswold villages, of so many buildings in Bath - and in Oxford itself, where these misbegotten volumes originated. The builders of King's College Cambridge thought it worthwhile to bring limestone from as far away as Yorkshire in the first phase of building and later, limestone from other quarries was used. This 'unsuitable' building material has been used for so many wonderful examples of both vernacular architecture and architecture which is more ambitious, including some of the greatest buildings in the country.

Inaccurate or misleading information

I've already mentioned the authors' claim that limestone is an 'unsuitable' building material. There are so many other mistakes in the books that I'm reminded of 'The Hackenthorpe Book of Lies,' publicized in 'The Brand New Monty Python Bok' and 'a thorough and exhaustive source of misleading and untruthful information.' It contains these 'totally inaccurate facts:'


  • Did you know that the reason why windows steam up in cold weather is because of all the fish in the atmosphere?
  • Did you know that Milton was a woman?
  • Did you know that the highest point in the world is only 8 foot?

Some inaccurate and misleading  information from Framework Science:


(1) In the Framework Science 9th year textbook by Paddy Gannon, the potato is described as the 'root' of the plant. (Page 45.) The potato tuber is a fleshy, underground stem, a modified stem, not a root.


(2) 8K.f.1. Activity on 'Newton and light.'

"Why did Newton think that light consisted of moving particles and not waves, as was traditionally thought?
How was he later proved to be wrong?"

I won't discuss the use of 'proved' here. This isn't the place for a discussion of Popper, the philosopher of science, and falsification (but I'd commend to the authors a close study of Popper's 'The Logic of Scientific Discovery.') How can they have written such rubbish? Some experiments on light can only be explained with a wave model of light, e.g., experiments on diffraction. Other experiments on light can only be explained with a particle model of light, e.g. the photo-electric effect. A single model can't explain observations made in different experiments. This is the Complementarity Principle first put forward by Niels Bohr in 1927.

(3) Overhead transparency 9L.c.1 on 'A hydraulic system' contains more blunders. How can the authors not know that the unit of pressure called the pascal is the newton per square metre, not the newton per square cm? The unit is written as 'Pascals' in 'Framework Science' but all scientific units in the standard SI system should be written with the first letter in lower-case, even if the unit is named after a person (in this case 'Blaise Pascal.') The authors always write 'newton,' not 'Newton.' In this case, they actually get it right. Any teacher using Framework Science is vulnerable, is liable to be made to look a fool. There may be pupils in the class who can detect these blunders and others, and the teacher may well be blamed for having such poor teaching materials.

The authors seem to have a problem with units. 9B.g.2 'What does caffeine do?' is about reaction time. A standard experiment: a ruler is allowed to fall and is caught. The number of centimetres it fell before it was caught is recorded. But then comes the mysterious instruction (No. 4 in the method section): 'Repeat the procedure three times and then calculate your 'mean' reaction time.' What has been measured is a distance. How is the pupil supposed to calculate a time? The sheet offers no help at all. In fact, the pupil has to use an equation of motion which relates s, distance fallen, a, the acceleration due to gravity, and t, the time taken.

And still more: 7H.b.1 and 7H.b.2 seem designed to increase the confusion in so many pupils as to the difference between 'mass' and 'weight.' On the left hand page, 'Rock salt challenge' we have the loose, not-to-be-imitated use of 'weight:' 'Take your weighed sample of rock salt...' and 'weigh an evaporating basin' and 'Re-weigh the evaporating basin.' On the right hand page, 'Class record sheet' we have the correct 'Mass of crucible,' 'Mass of crucible + salt' and 'Mass of salt.' The authors who wrote this scheme don't seem to have talked to each other as often as they should.


What are we to make of the suggestion in 7H.b that students should perhaps 'email the report [about separating salt from rock] to you as an attachment?' This has all the hallmarks of a self-consciously 'creative' idea. But teachers should never give out an email address to students. Teaching unions make that quite clear.

(4) Activity 7A.a.1. The nucleus in a diagram of a cell is correctly labelled (the authors do get some things right) but the nucleus is described as the 'brain' of the cell. Later, the unfortunates who study Framework Science will be sitting SATS exams and GCSE exams, and they'll find that if they describe the nucleus as the 'brain' of the cell they won't get a mark. 'The nucleus controls the activities of the cell' does get a mark, and it's almost as easy to remember.

(5) 7B.a.2, a sheet on animal reproduction. "Squirrels belong to the mammal family" This should make any Biologist wince. The groups used in the classification of living things - the 'ranks' - are: species, genus, family, order, class, phylum, kingdom, and, most recently added, domain. The mammals aren't a 'family' of the phylum 'chordata' but a 'class.' The phrase 'Squirrels belong to the class mammals' or 'Squirrels belong to the group mammals' would have been just as easy to understand and would have been accurate.

(6) 7F.c.4M Homework sheet on reacting acids with carbonates: 'The fact that marble, chalk and limestone all contain calcium carbonate is a problem. Explain why and give examples.' A question that would mystify the average 12 year old (or the average adult.) There are countless other examples in Framework Science. Of course, it's not true that marble, chalk and limestone contain calcium carbonate - they're all forms of calcium carbonate.

(7) 7I.g.2A, a homework sheet: 'Why are we very unlikely to ever use geothermal energy in this country?' As a matter of fact, geothermal energy has been used in this country for a considerable time, even if not on a large scale.

(8) The confusion between 'number of...' and 'rate' or 'frequency.' 9B.i.1. This is a so-called 'Teacher statement.' The teacher is expected to announce (point No. 8) that 'The number of people suffering from heart disease has greatly increased since the 1920's.' Wait one moment - hasn't the population increased since then? Even if there hadn't been any increase at all in the rate of heart disease per 100 000 people, the number of people suffering from heart disease would have increased.

Similarly, the nutritional information on sheet 8A.d.2, which tells us that apples contain '200kJ of energy, 0.5g of protein' and the rest, is meaningless unless the vital information is also given (and it isn't given in the scheme): these are per 100g. Apples contain protein but to claim that they contain energy is misleading.

(9) 7G.d.1 'In a solid the particles...are tightly packed in a regular way.' Not true of amorphous solids. 'In a gas the particles are a lot further apart [than in a liquid] and move quickly in any direction. There are no forces of attraction between them.' This statement is also untrue. There are forces of attraction between the particles but their high kinetic energy overcomes these forces.

(10) The teacher should be able to rely upon the accuracy of the answers in the Assessment Packs to the test questions. Don't rely on it. The Level 5 Question in the 'Acids and Alkalis' test asks, 'A solution turns Universal Indicator purple. What is the probable pH of the solution? The answer given is D, pH 4. The correct answer is C, pH9.

(11) And mistakes which aren't scientifically momentous, but which show the carelessness of the authors (and their editors) for example, 9E.e.1, 'Nitric acid has the formulae...' instead of 'Nitric acid has the formula...' Time after time, teachers will find that pupils give the spelling 'dependant' instead of 'dependent,' as in 'dependent variables.'

'Framework Science' likewise! 9I,d.1, 'Planning webs 1,' makes the same mistake, a mistake repeated in 'Planning webs 2.' Both are in large text sizes, in very prominent positions.

(12) Yet more carelessness in the Introduction Section 'Ideas and evidence' 8th year and 9th year books (Page xiii): 'The National Curriculum for science at Key Stage 3 states that pupils should be taught about the interplay between imperial evidence and scientific experimentation, using historical and contemporary examples.' For 'imperial' presumably read 'empirical.'

(13) 8.bF.a.2 would have us believe that methane is a 'smelly gas used by Bunsen burners.' In fact, methane is an odourless gas. The natural gas used by Bunsen burners is 90% methane. The smell is provided by a different compound.

(14) Sheet 8D.a.5 on the work of Linnaeus is hopeless. Within the space of a few lines, we're told that 'He called the smallest group a genus' and that 'Species are the smallest unit in Carl Linnaeus' system.'

(15) When the authors do give the pupils information about the history of science, the information is as unreliable as anything else in this scheme. So, in 9J.e.2, 'Copernicus's model.' We're informed that 'Copernicus believed that the Sun is at the centre of the solar system. Other scientists didn't believe him. His work was banned and he was arrested.'

The authors tend to use 'believe,' as if important new scientific theories are a matter of 'belief' at all. (Another example is 8E.c.2 'Other scientists began to believe Mendeleev's work when the element germanium was discovered.') Like their misuse of the word 'prove,' this is evidence that their view of science is radically misguided.

Copernicus's work proposing the heliocentric (sun-centred) solar system was published in 1543. Copernicus died in the same year - before he could be arrested at all.  I doubt if the authors are confusing Copernicus with one of his followers, the Carmelite father Paolo Antonio Foscarini, who was  arrested. I presume that the authors are confusing Copernicus with Galileo.

In 1633, Galileo was ordered to stand trial for heresy. He was found guilty and sentenced to imprisonment. The sentence was commuted to house arrest, which lasted for the remainder of his life.

Activities that don't work

(1) The teacher is asked to show Overhead Transparency '8B.b.1' to the class and to use it 'to explain how respiration takes place in cells.' 'Also explain that respiration with oxygen is called aerobic respiration.' And what do we find on sheet 8B.b.1? Something just a little bit unexpected. The words 'Menstrual cycle' in massive bold print, arranged in a circle! Underneath it, a cartoon of a parachutist, with the word 'Gravity,' also in massive bold print. That's it! Of all the unlikely linkages, the linkage between 'aerobic respiration' on the one hand and the 'Menstrual Cycle' and 'Gravity' on the other must be amongst the most unlikely. The authors and their editors, then, saw the conjunction of the 'Menstrual Cycle' and 'Gravity' on one and the same sheet, in a section on 'Respiration' - and didn't find anything amiss.

And more: this sheet is described at the lower right hand side as '8B.b.2,' although it's described at top left as '8B.b.1.' '8B.b.2' is correct, since the previous sheet, which shows transfer of substances into and out of a cell, is described as '8B.b.1,' (and at both the top and bottom of the sheet.)

(2) 7B.a 'Give students a piece of paper and ask them to write down 20 'cheeky words' ... These are the words they know for parts of the anatomy. Collect in the words and read out a few carefully chosen ones. Explain that these are not the scientific words and that from now on they are not to use them in class; they should use the scientific words that you are going to teach them.' This activity is allotted 20 minutes of precious teaching time.

The teacher may have a class of well brought up young things who would find it difficult to summon up the courage to write down 'bum,' let alone more risky words. If so, parents may well be on the phone to complain about the lesson the next day. Alternatively, the teacher may have pupils who are amazed that they've actually been given the chance to use in class the words they hear and use so often - and who'll keep repeating the words in future lessons, making the teacher's life hell. In short, to use a cliché: this activity is a recipe for disaster.

(3) 7A.d.2. Filling in a results table to described specialized cells: five columns to be filled in, with five rows. Each of the 25 spaces measures just 4.5cm x 2.7cm - much too small for the average pupil's handwriting, which is often large and ungainly. Two of the columns ask for identical information: the second column, 'Structure (what does it look like?)' and the fifth, 'What does it look like?' The authors and their editors don't seem to have realized this.

(4) 9C.e.4. 'What is in plant products?' 'For each of the plant products ...decide which food substances it contains.' The columns are headed 'contains cellulose, contains fats, contains proteins, contains starches, contains sugars.' The plant products are 'cotton, rice, potatoes, splints, perfume, corn oil, textured vegetable protein, paper.' That word 'decide.' It's fundamental that scientific problems aren't decided by thinking about them, but by carrying out observations or experiments. Nearly all pupils (and perhaps nearly all teachers - but I hope not) are likely to 'decide' that potatoes contain starch but not protein and it seems very, very likely that this is what the authors believe too. If so, they're making a mistake. W. G. Burton's academic book 'The Potato' (Third Edition, Page 371-375) gives full information about the protein content of potatoes. "The daily requirement [for protein] of a 70kg adult would be met, on average, by the consumption of some 2kg potatoes." The pupil is in no position to fill in the table at all, and filling in the table is a non-scientific, an anti-scientific activity.

(5) 7E.d.1, 'True or false?' is a similar activity. 'Ask students to identify whether they think the statements are true or false by putting their thumbs up for true and down for false. They should put their thumbs up/down straight away, not wait to see what others do. After each question ask one student to explain their reasoning before confirming the correct answer.' Straight away? That means with no time for thought? Not that thought is the way to decide the answer. When the teacher reads out No. 4. 'Bleach is alkaline' then, given the fact that pupils haven't been given the chance to test the pH of bleach and that bleach hasn't been mentioned in the teaching scheme until now, then any pupils who called out 'How should we be expected to know?' should be rewarded for their insight into scientific method. Statement 17, 'Lemon juice contains citric acid' is another case where the proper answer is 'How should we be expected to know?' 7E.a mentions in passing that oranges contain citric acid but to remember this information, to make the inference that if oranges contain citric acid lemons do too (and we don't decide scientific questions by making these inferences) and then to put the thumb up or down - to do all this more or less instantly is asking quite a lot. What about statement 18? 'A common acid is sodium hydroxide. It has the formula NaOH.' This is partly true and partly false. The formula is correct but sodium hydroxide isn't an acid. This is going to cause no end of confusion. This is the polite way of putting it. There are far less polite ways of reacting to such a basic, elementary error. The pupils are even expected to know a lot about the history of brewing as well as the history of the pH scale. Statement 15 is 'The pH scale was designed to control beer manufacture.' Not the slightest information about such things anywhere in the scheme.

(6) Activity 9B.i.4, 9B.i.5, 'Diamond rank cards.' 'Pupils have to rank the cards from the most important to the least important and explain the reasons for their decisions. The cards include Lister (development of antiseptics), Pasteur (multiple contributions to science), Jenner (vaccination), Fleming (antibiotics). Not so much a difficult as an impossible task, or at least an unrealistic task. Explaining the reasons...this constant, impossible demand that pupils should have a very sophisticated grasp of language. A scientist could make a major discovery and yet find it very difficult to explain how this discovery compares with other discoveries. Great scientists may be supremely gifted in their own field, amazingly inarticulate, surprisingly limited outside it, such as the field of verbal explanations.

(7) A snappy starter makes the mistake of testing the knowledge of pupils in the first lesson of a topic, before they've been taught anything about the topic at all! (A mistake which is often repeated.) The pupils are given cards with terms and cards with definitions and they have to match them up. They have to define, amongst other things, 'porous,' 'non-porous,' 'interlocking,' 'sedimentation.'

(8) The authors often prefer paper-based activities to experiments. In the whole of section 8E, 'Atoms and elements,' a section which lends itself to a wealth of interesting experiments, there's only one class experiment, 8E.e.3, 'Investigating iron and sulphur,' apart from a dull experiment on heating copper, which takes only a few minutes. Truly, pupils in the fifties (or forties, or thirties...) of the last century were given a more interesting time than pupils who have to study this section of 'Framework Science.' The teacher can make the topic come alive, but with no thanks to 'Framework Science,' and it will need a lot of extra work.

Over-complexity of language

8D.b.2 This sheet on 'Classifying plants' informs the youngster that conifers, ferns and flowering plants 'have a vascular system,' something which isn't explained.

7B.g.3A and 7B.g.3B are overhead projector transparencies, which show curves that would tax the understanding of a good 11th year pupil, and have headings which include the words 'stature-for-age and weight-for-age percentiles.'

7E.b.7A. This homework sheet is yet more bad news for the poor downtrodden 7th year who's not a star in the academic firmament. Yet again, it's designed (although 'designed' may not be the best word to use) for all pupils, not just the most able: 'In 1995, a survey revealed that 42% of UK trees were healthy, 45% were slightly defoliated...' 'Slightly defoliated!' Why not 'had lost some of their leaves?' The bemused or bored or alienated pupil is also told that 'Freshwater acidification is a serious problem in susceptible parts of the UK.'

8H.a.4. Teacher's statement sheet. Let's be realistic. Not every class is perfectly behaved. Not every class is perfectly quiet. Now, try to imagine the teacher reading out each of these statements, in such circumstances (a selection from the ten statements in the scheme) and asking whether the statement is true or false. The pupils are given 'a few seconds thinking time.' (My emphasis.) Not quite long enough, I'd say:

'1. There are ten types of weathering. (If pupils call out, after 'a few seconds thinking time,' that they can only think of nine, then the teacher doesn't have the more demanding kind of class mentioned above.)
5. Fossil fuels are never found in sedimentary rocks.
7. Sedimentary rocks are impervious.
8. Each layer of sedimentary rock can be made up of a different combination of minerals.
9. Compaction is the movement of sediment by water.'

Commit yourself to an answer for each of these: true or false? Only a few seconds thinking time allowed! Well, true or false? The answers: 1 is false, 5 is false, 7 is false, 8 is true, 9 is false. Oh, I forgot to stress the fact that this exercise comes in the first lesson of the topic 'The Rock Cycle,' before the teacher has had the chance to give very much in the way of explanation.

Throughout the 8th and 9th year scheme, there are sections called 'Pupil-speak.' For some reason, these sections for the younger 7th year pupils are called 'Student-speak.' Each of these is supposed to be 'a pupil-friendly statement that clearly outlines the teacher's expectations.' So how do pupils (or students) speak, according to the authors? 7K.b has explaining 'the effect of matter on the weight of an object.' 7K.c has explaining 'the effect of force on elastic materials.' Pupil-speak 9F.g has the task 'to identify how you measure reactivity quantitatively [!] and which variables need to be controlled.' Pupil-speak for 9H.b demands the ability 'to explain how the relative positions of metals in the reactivity series affect the amount of energy produced when they react.'

The authors seem to have strange ideas about how pupils speak and what they speak about. The 'Expectations' section of 9K.b has the expectation that 'some pupils will be able to use the definition of speed in calculations and conversation.' (My italics and emphasis.)

Even the making of a simple poster is fraught with difficulties for the mystified/puzzled/understandably worried/even understandably hostile pupil. In activity 9D.g, 'Reviewing work' [on 'Plants for food'] pupils have to produce posters and then the posters are judged using no less than six. 'class-agreed success criteria.' Posters have to be given a mark out of ten against each 'success criterion.' This being Foundation Science, the marks are also accompanied by 'Reasons for Judgments.' Pity the poor underachieving boy or girl who is struggling in Foundation Science, who completely fails to understand the impenetrable language of Foundation Science, but who makes a real attempt to produce a nice poster, who puts a lot of work into the colouring, who does give useful information in the poster - and then the poster gets low marks for the 'success criteria.' This activity is liable to lead to such a crushing of confidence, or hostility to the pupils who drew up the success criteria, that it can't be criticized too severely.

Perhaps it's not appropriate to include here the many sheets of 'Jumbled words' and 'Anagrams,' but I will. Most of the jumbled words have a strange look, as if written in some ancient version of Finnish. So, sheet 7B.f.1, in the section on growth charts, has 'vanooluit, trainstemuno, tearsiniolitf, pillanofa bute, canpatel, tinicami liduf.' Can you decipher these? Do you think you could have done when you were twelve years old?

A mania for definitions

Asking for definitions is the subject of countless homework questions. For example:

7J.b.6M Question 1: Write definitions for the following words:

filament bulb

After asking for a definition once, the authors may go on to ask for it all over again. Take 9I.b.5A, Question 4, 'Define voltage.' The authors seem anxious that there should be no doubt at all that the pupil knows how to define 'voltage.' A short time later, in the homework question sheet 9I.d.3A we have (Question 1), 'Define the following:

a energy transfers
b voltage [yet again]
c voltmeter
d current'

8C.a.5A, Question 1. Define the following terms:

7H.a.3A. For each of the following words write a definition:

separation techniques

This is the homework for all pupils of all abilities for the first lesson of this topic! For pupils who may have a reading age of 7 or 8! In this first lesson, these kids will have been gathered around the front and presented 'with a selection of liquids, e.g. distilled water or deionized water, seawater, a suspension of chalk in water, ethanol...copper sulphate solution...' and then set a challenge. Yes, the word 'challenge' is apt enough. They're asked 'to devise techniques, e.g. filtration, evaporation to dryness, etc., to find out whether one of the samples is a mixture or not.'

And another example of this mechanical exercise (8L.g.2A). Question 1. Define the following words:

This is followed almost immediately by the deeply mysterious Question 3 (wording exactly as in the original, question mark as in the original): 'Explain in as much detail as possible why battle scenes in space on films are often scientifically incorrect?'

And more: 7I.a.3A Define the word fuel. And still more: 7K.h.4A Define the word speed. (Lack of inverted commas as in the original.) What do the authors want for 'speed?' 'A scalar measure of the rate of movement of a body expressed either as the distance travelled divide by the time taken (average speed) or the rate of change of position with respect to time at a particular point (instantaneous speed)?' With thanks to Collins English Dictionary.

The mania extends to classroom activities, too. Again and again, the use of cards with 'key words and definitions,' as in 9C.a.1 and the 'game' called 'Pelmanism,' which involves finding out 'if the cards are a match (key word and definition.)' 'As you can see, the key to this activity is remembering where the revealed and replaced cards are placed.' This involves a needless layer of complexity. Attention has to be given to remembering where the cards are placed, not just to the content. If any of the cards are lost or mislaid, the 'game' becomes difficult. All these activities don't lead to any work in the pupil's exercise book.

And nor does the tedious game of 'Splat,' which occurs often throughout the Scheme: it's played by pupils at the board, and again (yet again!) involves giving definitions. 'Ask two volunteers to stand facing each other next to the words. Now invite another pupil to define one of the key words on the board (without using it. The first volunteer to splat the correct word with their hand continues into the next round.' Again, the emphasis upon a sophisticated command of language. As with so much else in the Scheme, the sense of the authors' ingenuity and creativity is palpable - but that's how they see it. The rest of us are likely to see only an idea which may have seemed promising enough at the time but which should have been quietly shelved.

Definitions aren't central to science. In general, pupils should be able to demonstrate that they can use concepts, in the context of scientific method. To define concepts calls upon sophisticated verbal skills and is far less important at this level. Popper, almost certainly the twentieth century's most influential philosopher of science, gives a 'table of ideas,' in 'Unended Quest' (Page 19 of the Routledge Edition) and places 'definitions' on the left-hand side, the 'philosophically unimportant' side. The place of definitions in science is peripheral rather than central.

Over-emphasis upon the history of science

Realism isn't a strong point of the authors. Given the present emphasis upon test and exam results, it's unlikely, very unlikely, overwhelmingly unlikely that most teachers will give a great deal of time to the historical interludes of the authors. The teacher is aware that this historical material isn't asked about in the end of topic tests.

Thirty minutes (!) are allotted by the authors to a discussion of the obsolete phlogiston theory. We're told (worksheet 9H.g.1) that 'until 1772, scientists believed that all materials contained phlogiston,' that Priestley called oxygen 'dephlogisticated air' and that 'Priestley didn't expect to see any change because he thought the phlogiston had already escaped from the calx.' Pupils are asked to 'sequence' the cards with this and other information - but it's naive to suppose that very many teachers will ever have their classes do such a thing. I've a strong interest in the history of science, but I recognize harsh realities when I see them. The authors of the scheme, though, are irrepressible. In Homework sheet 8B.c.5M, they set the open-ended question 'Briefly explain how developments have led us to our current understanding of the circulatory system.' (This is just one question out of six on the sheet.) This question alone is a substantial undertaking - the authors provide comprehensive information about Claudius Galen (although the date of death, 216 AD, doesn't correspond to current estimates), Andreas Vesalius and William Harvey.

Summing up

I've shown, I would hope, that any school that values the well-being of its staff and students should avoid this scheme. If they've been unwise enough to spend good money on it (did the department actually read the thing for longer than half an hour before they made this momentous and - I think - bitterly regretted decision?) then they should take it to a charity shop (although it may well refuse the gift) or compost it. Even taking it to a landfill site, where it will release methane for some time to come, is preferable to inflicting it upon young people. Spend money which should have been spent properly the first time round on one of the less pretentious but far superior schemes available for this age group.

This is an extract from the judgment of the Court of Appeal, in the case of Andrew Malcolm, whose book 'Making Names' was rejected by the Oxford University Press: "...all new titles published from Oxford have to obtain the approval of the Delegates. They are particularly concerned to maintain the high academic reputation of the scholarly and pedagogical books published in the name of the University." As for 'Framework Science,' these particular 'pedagogical' books don't exactly meet these exalted standards. Instead, the editors and Delegates of Oxford University Press have allowed the publication of books that would disgrace a vanity press.

The Delegates are senior academics of Oxford University. In their Annual Report for 2003/2004 there's the claim that Framework Science 'was critically acclaimed by science consultants and helped us gain market share.' Who are these 'consultants?'

The achievement of Oxford University Press

Of course, the strengths of the Oxford University Press vastly outweigh the weaknesses.My own gratitude for what the Press achieves is immeasurable. On this site, I give my appreciation for just a few of the books published by the Press, the superb books of Richard J Evans and VAC Gatrell. And the superb 'Oxford Book of Aphorisms' edited by John Gross. I give an extract from his introduction on the page Aphorisms. On the page parerga I quote Ian Chilvers on Francis Bacon, from his very fine 'Oxford Dictionary of 20th-Century Art, which is also the source of the other quotations in the section, apart from the one by Razia Iqbal. I'm buying more books published by the Press than ever - recently, 'The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Mathematics and Science' edited by Stewart Shapiro and 'The Philosophy of Mathematics,' edited by W. D. Hart, both of them wonderfully accomplished and interesting. Most recently, the newest edition of 'Physical Chemistry' by Peter Atkins and Julio de Paula to replace my old edition.

I'm not and have never been an academic, but I regard scholarship and scholars as vastly undervalued. The giving of satisfying, interesting, significant detail, complexity and richness, a scrupulous regard for fact and evidence, are pitted against the inertia, laziness, superficiality and grossness of so much of life - in the past, as in the present. (There was never a golden age.) The Press's services to scholarship are also services to intensely important values and are cause for gratitude. As a general publisher too, the Oxford University Press is beyond praise.