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Education Reporter

Errors and Censorship 
U.S. textbooks tell distorted story

For years, the textbooks used by most American children have been riddled with errors. A few brave reviewers, including the Gablers' Educational Research Analysts of Longview, Texas, have tried to alert parents and educators about the problem. Recent publicity has once again brought to light the issue of factually incorrect yet politically-correct textbooks.

Mistaken History 
The Gablers' November 2002 newsletter disclosed a sampling of the errors they found in high school U.S. History textbooks submitted for approval last year in Texas. Textbooks adopted by the states of Texas and California often end up in schools throughout the country.

It was the first time in 11 years that publishers had submitted U.S. History textbooks for review in Texas. In 1991, the Gablers found 231 undetected factual errors in six high school history books after the state review process had certified them error-free. When they completed their review process in 2002, they found 249 uncorrected factual errors in four U.S. History textbooks. This, they say, "is despite publishers' claims to have beefed up their fact-checking, despite Texas Education Agency emphasis on verifying accuracy to the State Textbook Review Panel, and despite an $80,000 Texas Tech review panel backing them up."

A few of the errors include:

  • "Columbus first reached North America in 1492." Columbus never reached North America. He explored Caribbean islands and the northern coast of South America.

  • "James Monroe was the last president to have fought in the Revolutionary War." Andrew Jackson, not James Monroe, was the last president to have fought in the American Revolution.

  • "The Fourteenth Amendment extended the right to vote to all 21-year-old males, including former slaves." It was the Fifteenth Amendment that gave blacks the right to vote.

  • "Before the Civil War, greenbacks were redeemable for either gold or silver coins." There were no greenbacks before the Civil War. They originated during the war with the 1862 Legal Tender Act.

Of the U.S. History textbooks they reviewed, the Gablers recommend The American Republic Since 1877 (Glencoe, 2003). It contains: (1) a more positive view of multicultural consensus and unity, with less negative politically-correct emphasis on race conflict and ethnic alienation; (2) exceptional inclusion of Jeffersonian-Jacksonian limited government perspectives on U.S. Constitutional issues; and (3) exemplary presentation of recent interpretations of industrialization, big business, and supply-side economics.

Bad Science Books 
Last year, physics professor John Hubisz reviewed middle school physical science textbooks with a grant from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. According to CNN, Hubisz reported finding scores of errors. Among them:

  • A map showing the equator running through Texas and Florida, although the equator is about 1,500 miles south of the southern United States.

  • A discussion of sound that claims humans cannot hear below 400 hertz, but 47 notes on the piano are below 400 hertz.

  • A description of the Statue of Liberty explaining her "bronze outer structure." The statue is copper.

  • A compass with east and west reversed.

  • Simplified chemistry formulas and physics laws that are completely wrong.

  • Pictures of prisms bending light the wrong way.

Hubisz also discovered that political correctness complicates the problem of factual errors. His report stated: "Publishers now employ more people to censor books for content that might offend any organized lobbying group than they do to check the correctness of facts."

Michigan State University statistics professor William Schmidt told CNN that part of the reason U.S. students score low on math and science tests compared to students in other countries is that its "mile-wide" and "inch deep" curriculum, where you have coverage of lots of topics but very shallow coverage of each one."

In attempts to remedy the situation, Hubisz now has a website www.science-house.org/middleschool/ where textbook errors can be posted, and Schmidt is working to streamline information in textbooks.

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