My current project is editing an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink manuscript, one of those things where they want us to review all of high school science.
Every state has slightly different standards for these things. Mostly, that's not a big deal: North Carolina wants a lot more on hydrology and rivers than most other states, and Texas has more on oil. Sometimes it's utterly maddening--there are states whose standards require the students to learn things that are objectively false. (Not every planet has a circular orbit--this isn't just that none is a perfect circle, this is how eccentric Mercury is--and tongue-curling is a really horrible example to use in Mendelian genetics, because it fails the identical-twin test.) And sometimes it's interesting, because we get to sit there and try to figure out exactly what they want, and why the author didn't look at the standard before reusing existing material.
I spent much of the day cutting irrelevancies, and writing sections to fill in what the author didn't realize was needed. Some is minor--for the section on predicting natural disasters and minimizing risk, the state wants landslides, and I decided that blizzards would fit well. Some is just weird--I think the author is either really fond of seismographs, or just learned about them, but the details she provided are way beyond the scope of a brief description of earthquake prediction. And some is weird and interesting because, well, what would you do with a standard that expects students, given a description of an organism, to predict its ecological niche? What I did included a brief discussion of wolves having teeth, legs, and digestive tract suitable for a predator, and the statement that knowing what wolves eat, you would predict that coyotes are predators, not grazers. (That gives an easy lesson review question on dingoes.) Then I talked about honeybees, mentioning that they live with a lot of close relatives and share their food supply. So you might reasonably expect another organism that digs burrows and shares them with hundreds of its very close relatives to also share food. No, not ants: I ntroduced the naked mole-rat. May as well give them something new and weird. (I didn't discuss naked mole-rat breeding, but the analogy holds, and some of the students may decide to look them up.)
I may not finish this manuscript by the original deadline. My supervisor came by this afternoon to ask how it was going, and I explained that it's going well but slowly, because writing takes longer than editing, and that I'll want her to look at the evolution chapter, since I've written about half of it, and even a good writer needs an editor. We agreed that she'll check with me again tomorrow and see how it's going. When she first gave me the book, she told me that she wasn't sure the deadline was realistic, so she's neither surprised nor unhappy with me on this.
This is a lot more interesting than proofreading.