Posted by: Ticktock | February 9, 2009

CAM in Usborne Science Books: Should I care?

An Usborne Publishing sales rep* was at my local YMCA today selling informative non-fiction for children.  I picked up the anatomy book and was really impressed on the quality of information, but upon further browsing, I noticed a chapter on complementary alternative medicine.

That’s right, CAM was on display for all the kids to read. Just after a nice article on vaccines, there was nonsense about homeopathy, acupuncture, and chiropractic.  The CAM page was neutral, as far as I could tell.  It didn’t offer any criticism that these treatments are ineffective placebos, but it was responsible enough to use phrases like, “some people say…” rather than making claims of fact.

You know, I’ve argued against CAM so many times that I’ve practically conditioned myself to be angered by such a page.  What is alternative medicine doing in an otherwise informative children’s picture book?

But, then, I had to remind myself that alternative medicine has even infiltrated colleges, hospitals, the government, and to be fair, my own family.  I, of course, am not comfortable with the degree that complementary medicine has been absorbed into society, but do I need to boycott an otherwise quality science book because it contains some information that is scientifically false?  I don’t know.  It makes me wonder what else they got wrong, but the rest seemed like solid facts.

Sure, given the option, I would prefer a book that errors completely on the side of science, but who am I to censor what my child learns?  Sure, I’m a gatekeeper of sorts, but do I really need to be super skeptic all the time?  Sometimes I think I need to take a chill pill and remind myself that I don’t have to always be Chicken Little on every bit of woo my child encounters.

So, what do you think?  Is it a mountain or a mole hill?

*By the way, it didn’t help that the sales person was explaining to a customer that she prefers to teach her children about astrology rather than astronomy because astronomy has too much complicated physics.  I’m going to assume she meant constellations rather than horoscopes, since she otherwise seemed normal.



  1. Use it as an opportunity to teach your children valuable lessons. It’s good for them to learn that they can’t just believe everything they read, even it’s from a good source. And they can learn that while some information in a book may be false, the other stuff is good. You can teach them to think critically about everything, and also explain to them why people believe things that aren’t supported by evidence. It doesn’t really ‘count’ if your kids believe all the right things only because they’ve never considered an alternative and never had to decide it for themselves.

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