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Why Do We Have to Learn This Stuff?”—A New Genetics for 21st Century Students

  • Rosemary J. Redfield mail

    redfield@zoology.ubc.ca

    Affiliation: Department of Zoology, Life Sciences Institute, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

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  • Published: July 03, 2012
  • DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1001356

Reader Comments (24)

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calling all textbook authors

Posted by rickilewis on 08 Jul 2012 at 13:13 GMT

I agree with Dr. Redfield's suggestions -- we've been discussing them at the American Society of Human Genetics' undergrad education committee for years. I agree that change is needed. But the article mentions instructors, geneticists, students, and publishers -- not the people like me who actually write the textbooks. That is why I think that implementing her suggested changes in textbooks, even given digital options for flexibility, will be much easier said than done. My 30+ years of experience writing life science textbooks tells me this.

Textbook authors make revisions based on instructors' comments. Dozens and dozens of reviewers -- those of you who do this, thank you, your comments always count. But making a change that will please everyone? Impossible. So we develop a sixth sense for comparing and evaluating suggestions to make the changes that will please the most instructors. If I were to take all of Dr. Redfield's suggestions for the next, 11th, edition of my human genetics textbook, I'd please some people, for sure -- but how many would I alienate who are comfortable with the current table of contents?

One way around this is to write a different sort of book, which I have done with "Human Genetics: The Basics" (Routledge Press, 2010). Not enough meat for a course, perhaps, but because it isn't a textbook, I just wrote about interesting topics in a way that a non-scientist could understand.

I'd love to hear feedback on the article. Is a curriculum that works for everyone even possible? I've been debating just what to do with good old Gregor Mendel for many editions now.

Competing interests declared: I am the author of "Human Genetics: Concepts and Applications" (McGraw-Hill Higher Education), "Human Genetics: The Basics" (Routledge Press), and "The Forever Fix: Gene Therapy and the Boy Who Saved It" (St. Martin's Press)