Educational Research AnalystsExcerpts from our May 1999 newsletter


Textbook Industry Cynicism

Publishers seek cover as Gablers identify 379 factual errors
Publishers thought they had fixed their factual-error problem in the five princi­pal high school World History books they sub­mit­ted for 1999 local Texas adoption. You saw how wrong they were on ABC's 20/20 April 2, when we unrolled an almost 55-foot list of factual errors we found in these books. Now those companies support a proposal that immunizes them from fines for missing fac­tual errors, inviting more of them in the future.

The 379 factual errors we found there in­clud­ed confused chrono­lo­gies, garbled geo­gra­phy, dis­crep­ant dates, false descriptions, wrong narratives, imaginary events, and con­tra­dic­tions in the same book. Publishers could easily have caught most of this, had one his­torian (not mere proof­readers) read their whole text. In 1991 we found only 14 more factual errors in twice as many U.S. History books our first time through them.

Back then, publishers said the U.S. History factual-errors fiasco was a one-time fluke and accepted the fines. This time they want to dodge them. They favor a proposal before Texas' State Board of Education that "penalties should not be assessed for errors that are identified during the adoption pro­cess or even those iden­ti­fied after adop­tion" – a virtual in­sur­ance policy exempt­ing them from iden­ti­fying their own factual errors at all.

Under this license to err, not identi­fy­ing their own factual errors saves publish­ers the cost of correcting them and, if others find them, pub­lish­ers still avoid fines unless they after­ward fail to correct them … as they some­times do. Among pub­lish­ers' excuses in the public record for not making right identi­fied errors they promised to correct are "edi­torial dif­ficul­ties resul­ting from a merger" and "oversight on the part of the publisher."
"The publishers … care deeply about education and about the quality of the instructional mate­rials they produce. … The school-children of Texas, and every other state, deserve no less."
— Nicholas Veliotes, president, Association of American Publishers, Dallas Morning News, January 10, 1993, p. 11-J (italics added)

Publishers, nonplussed at their failed "reforms," want to avoid the conse­quen­ces of repeating their mistakes. Last January a World History textbook editor asked how we found so many errors in his book, which he thought was clean. We said, "If we promise to tell you the truth, do you promise to believe it?" He agreed. We said, "Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior. Each day we ask Him to show us the errors, and He does."

"And technical perfection, even if attainable, is not a sound goal in textbooks."
– Association of American Publishers press release, November 1992, p. 2 (italics added)

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Just a Few of the 379 Factual Errors
in five World History textbooks
"Communists gain control after bloody wars in Korea (1950-1953) and Vietnam (1957-1975) …."
WORLD HISTORY: Patterns of Interaction (McDougal, 1999), p. 873

wrong result

The Korean War did not result in any Communist gains. The map to which this passage refers, admits this.
"The introduction of iron – probably from the Middle East, where it had first been used by the Assyrians …."
— WORLD HISTORY: The Human Odyssey (West, 1999), p. 63

wrong people

The Hittites – not the Assyrians – first used iron in the Middle East. The text itself admits this on p. 44, col. 2, par. 2, lines 3-4.
"… the United States argued with Great Britain over the exact borders of the Oregon Country. In a treaty with Great Britain, the United States gained this vast region."
— WORLD HISTORY: The Human Experience (Glencoe, 1999), p. 662

wrong agreement

The U.S. did not get the whole Oregon Country, which extended from 42°N to 54°40'N. The U.S. got the part up to 49°N but not the part between 49° and 54°40'. This is significant because Polk in 1844 ran for president on the platform of annexing all of Oregon ("54°40' or fight!"), but in 1846 compro­mis­ed with Britain on the 49° boundary to be free to fight the Mexican War.
"By the late 1500s, the Dutch replaced the Portuguese as the major European power in Asia."
— WORLD HISTORY: Connections to Today (Prentice, 1999), p. 446

wrong half-century

Holland replaced Portugal as the major European power in Asia in the first half of the 1600s, not by the late 1500s. The text itself admits this on p. 383, col. 1, par. 3 – par. 4, line 2, and on p. 384, col. 1, par. 1.
"Marco [Polo] traveled to Japan …."
— WORLD HISTORY: The Human Odyssey (West, 1999), p. 485

wrong narrative

Marco Polo never visited Japan. The text itself admits this on p. 293, map.
"722 b.c. … Babylonians conquer Israel"
WORLD HISTORY: Patterns of Interaction (McDougal, 1999), p. 3

wrong nation

Assyria – not Babylon – conquered Israel in 722 b.c. The text itself admits this on p. 76, par. 3, lines 5-7.
Map showing that the Ottomans took Cyprus and Crete between 1454 and 1519
WORLD HISTORY: Continuity and Change (Holt, 1999), p. 333

wrong chronology

The Ottomans took Cyprus in 1571 and Crete in 1669 – not between 1454 and 1519.
"… the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union that began in the 1950s."
— WORLD HISTORY: The Human Odyssey (West, 1999), p. BH-15

wrong decade

The Cold War began in the 1940s, not the 1950s. The text itself admits this on p. 944, col. 1, lines 1-12.
"In 1807, Britain outlawed slavery."
WORLD HISTORY: Patterns of Interaction (McDougal, 1999), p. 693

wrong decade

Britain outlawed slavery in 1833, not 1807. In 1807 it outlawed the slave trade. The text itself admits this on p. 496, par. 5, lines 2-3, and on p. 651, par. 5, lines 3-4.
"In 1974, Donald Johanson found the oldest complete human skeleton in Ethiopia. He named his find 'Lucy' …."
— WORLD HISTORY: Connections to Today (Prentice, 1999), p. 9

wrong description

Johanson's "Lucy" was a partial – not a complete – skeleton; and it was an Australopithecine ("southern ape"), not a human. Its brain was chimpanzee-sized.
Ethiopia was conquered by Italy in 1939 but regained independence in 1945."
WORLD HISTORY: The Human Experience (Glencoe, 1999), p. 929

wrong years

Italy conquered Ethiopia in 1936, not 1939. Ethiopia regained independence in 1941, not 1945.
"One Balkan group that suffered greatly for its independence efforts was the Armenians."
WORLD HISTORY: Patterns of Interaction (McDougal, 1999), p. 745

wrong description

Armenians are not a Balkan group.
Map showing that Spain held Florida from 1763 to 1783
WORLD HISTORY: The Human Odyssey (West, 1999), p. 620

wrong nation

England – not Spain – held Florida from 1763 to 1783. The text itself admits this on p. 612, map, and on p. 626, maps.
"In 1894, Japanese pressure on China led to war. It ended in disaster for China, with Japan gaining Korea … ."
WORLD HISTORY: Connections to Today (Prentice, 1999), p. 651

wrong war

Japan gained Korea after the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05), not the Sino-Japanese War (1894-95). The text itself admits this on p. 662, col. 2, par. 4, lines 8-9.
"c. 100 b.c. Roman empire begins to conquer the Hellenistic world."
WORLD HISTORY: The Human Experience (Glencoe, 1999), p. 140

wrong chronology

Rome's conquest of the Hellenistic world began with its annexation of Macedonia as a Roman province in 146 b.c., not around 100 b.c. The text itself admits (on p. 152, par. 1, lines 4-6, and on p. 165, map) that Rome conquered Greece in the 140s b.c.
After Arab astonomers [sic] improved the astrolabe, sailors in the 1100s could calculate latitude, longitude, and time of day."
WORLD HISTORY: Continuity and Change (Holt, 1999), p. 259

wrong description

12th-century sailors could not calculate longitude with an astrolabe. The text itself admits this on p. 411, right margin, par. 1, TE.
more sample errors from these World History books

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Censorship - Divisiveness - Intolerance

Too bad these high school World History textbook editors were not as careful keeping factual errors out, as they were to get anti-white, anti-male, anti-Christian political correctness in. Our reviews show where all or some of those books …

let race and gender quotas
dictate coverage.
People or events that had more influence for a longer time,
should receive more attention than those with less influence.
use language
to stigmatize or idealize.
Patterns of pejoratives toward Europeans, and superlatives
toward non-Europeans, are editorially suspect.
note conflict between,
but not within, social groups.
Individuals of the same race, class, or gender often disagree more among themselves, than their group disagrees with others.
tell of mistreatment only
of non-whites by whites.
Brutalities to Europeans by people of color are as noteworthy as inhumanities to non-whites by whites.
give less than equal space
to Christianity.
As many student text lines should discuss beliefs and practices of Christianity, as of other major world religions.
judge cultural consciousness
by double standards.
Preservation of Europe's literary, legal, religious, and political culture should be as worthwhile as that of others.
hold different races
to different ethical norms.
If whites should have paid for Indian lands, Indians should have paid
for taking each others' hunting grounds.