With sincere respect to all of you in the fields of microbiology, genetics, and 
other laboratory-based disciplines of the life sciences, I contend the 
"Campbell Essential Biology" approach is exactly what is wrong with biology 
education today.

Nearly all undergraduate and high school introductory biology courses are 
written as if EVERY student is going on to med school, nursing, or a career in 
a lab-based science. I agree it's important for an undergrad course to make 
mention of cytology, DNA, photosynthesis, etc., but I question the real value 
to students of any non-major textbook in which 12 chapters deal with cell-DNA 
and ecology, ecosystems, and the biosphere are relegated to the last three 

My guess is that 95% or more of non-majors will never have any really practical 
use for information about cell-DNA. It's complicated stuff that their 
physicians and pharmacists need to know, but what would be of infinitely 
greater value is for everyone to be familiar with basic principles of ecology, 
plant-animal interactions, pollination biology, and the like. Knowing about 
these things will enable students in general to understand how humans fit into 
and affect the world around them, and such understanding will help them make 
informed decisions about such things as overfishing, watersheds and wetlands, 
use of household pesticides and fertilizers--to say nothing of current 
controversial topics like global climate change, fracking, etc.

We all teach what we know, of course, and the vast majority of high school 
biology teachers know what they learned in an undergrad biology courses taught 
from the "pre-med" perspective. I know from 25-plus years in the classroom and 
lab that for kids not going off to med-school the "pre-med" approach is often a 
turn-off to science, while a course that emphasizes ecology, the environment, 
field work, etc., is a turn-on. I also taught undergrad biology and know such 
is the case with many college students.



On May 27, 2012, at 10:48 AM, Helena Puche wrote:

> David,
> I used "Campbell Essential Biology" by E.J. Simon, J.B.Reece and J.L. Dickey. 
> It is a book for non-biology  majors that has 20 chapters, all of them with a 
> focus on evolution and examples, and nice drawings and pictures. Twelve of 
> the 20 chapters are geared toward cell-DNA, then three chapters on taxonomy 
> and systematics. The last three include populations & ecology, communities & 
> ecosystems, and the biosphere. Therefore, you will have to add extra material 
> to recreate those last topics. 
> I created  several evolution labs using beans or the web pages below, 
> designed a ppt to introduce Darwin's liand thoughts, and added many lab 
> activities to learn about mark-recapture techniques, estimating population 
> growth rate & size, population growth models, climate change, and identifying 
> biomes. 
> Evolution links to check are:
> http://video.pbs.org/video/1300397304/
> http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/article/0_0_0/devitt_02 
> I used those as base for the lab activities.
> Hope this helps.
> Helena
> Helena Puche, Ph. D. 
> Adjunct Assistant Professor
> University of Illinois at Chicago
> Biological Sciences, 3464 SES, MC
> 066
> 845 West Taylor Street 
> Chicago, IL 60607hpu...@uic.edu
> --- On Fri, 5/25/12, Johnson, David R <drjohns...@utep.edu> wrote:
> From: Johnson, David R <drjohns...@utep.edu>
> Subject: [ECOLOG-L] Non-Majors Biology
> Date: Friday, May 25, 2012, 2:49 PM
> Greetings,
> I am teaching a "contemporary biology" course for non-science majors in the 
> fall and for the first time I am fortunate to be able to organize the course 
> at my discretion. Effectively, I can present any material I wish as long as I 
> hit broad themes such as Cell Theory and Evolution. While this is certainly 
> doable, I am struggling deciding exactly what content to present. The course 
> is meant to present the science of contemporary issues that may be important 
> and/or interesting to the non-science student rather than a broad survey 
> course encompassing all of biology. There is another such survey course with 
> a set syllabus that I am not teaching, and there are two other sections of 
> contemporary biology that are focusing on genetics. I would like to focus on 
> the many ecological issues that both affect and are affected by humans. My 
> struggle involves the fact that this may be the only (or last) biology these 
> students get before we cast them out into the world.
> So I want to be sure and cover all my bases. 
> I am writing Ecolog with two questions. First, what is the relative merit of 
> including as much biology as possible as opposed to focusing on fewer but 
> perhaps more directly relevant ecological topics? These students will most 
> likely not become scientists, and certainly won't need to memorize the 
> structure of all the amino acids, for example. On the other hand, would I be 
> cheating them somehow by not providing enough information to them for making 
> informed decisions on topics outside of my direct area of expertise, such as 
> developmental biology and stem cells?
> The other question I have involves textbooks. Is anyone aware of a text (or 
> perhaps pop-science books) designed for the non-science major that focuses on 
> ecology, in particular the involvement of humans in ecological systems? I 
> haven't been able to find something I like and am looking for recommendations.
> Thanks and I'll circulate a summary response if/when the discussion runs its 
> course.
> Cheers,
> David
> David R. Johnson PhD.
> Postdoctoral Research Associate
> Systems Ecology Lab
> University of Texas at El Paso
> drjohns...@utep.edu

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