Skip to comments.Schoolbooks are flubbing facts - Texts filled with errors and political correctness
Posted on 12/22/2002 6:27:27 AM PST by Sub-Driver
Schoolbooks are flubbing facts By ALISON GENDAR and DOUGLAS FEIDEN DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITERS Saturday, December 21st, 2002
Ever wonder what your children might be learning when they hit the books in the New York City public schools? A kinder, gentler definition of jihad. It really means "to do one's best to resist temptation and overcome evil."
An error-filled version of global geography. The equator actually passes through Florida, Texas and Arizona.
A saga of a swashbuckling hero of today who can be compared to ancient historical heroes dating to the Trojan War: Indiana Jones.
The world of 21st century textbook education is a learning laboratory in which agendas, ideologies and errors all too often trump balance, accuracy and fairness.
"It's a reign of distortion and censorship," said Diane Ravitch, an education historian at New York University and former assistant education secretary in the first Bush administration. "It's an environment in which words and images are routinely banned." And that's just the textbooks.
On the shelves of school libraries is a biography for young readers of the Rev. Al Sharpton, who is said to hail from the "long tradition of activist ministers like Martin Luther King Jr."
But the book might offend some with its own stereotypes, like this line in a chapter on Crown Heights: "Poor blacks in the cities often found themselves at the mercy of Jewish shopkeepers and landlords, who decided when and when not to advance credit to their customers."
There is also a whitewash of Louis Farrakhan, described as a "black American of achievement" who bears a "message no American can ignore." The Nation of Islam leader also shows a "willingness to forgive," the book claims.
Neither the city nor the state has a centralized textbook-approval system. Procurement is done district-by-district even school-by-school with the city ordering from a list of 120,000 books that are approved but not mandated.
The Daily News examined scores of textbooks that appear in the city Education Department's voluminous online catalogue books given the green light by the now-defunct Board of Education for use in teaching the city's 1.1 million students. The titles analyzed include those used in class today, 2003 editions due to arrive in schools early next year and other approved texts available for purchase by the system's 40 superintendents, 1,100 principals, 4,700 department heads and an unspecified number of teachers vested with buying authority.
Asked about The News' findings, City Hall said it would examine how textbooks are reviewed, ordered, tracked and replaced as part of "Children First," the sweeping blueprint for reform that Schools Chancellor Joel Klein is set to unveil next month. But officials vigorously defended the quality and diversity of the city's overall inventory.
"The norm is that you will find accurate information in the New York City textbooks," said Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott. "With 120,000 approved titles in the system, there will always be those that can be updated, upgraded or modified for accuracy." Consider, for example, the science texts.
"They are, in a word, atrocious," said John Hubisz, a North Carolina State University physics professor who found more than 100 mistakes in each of at least seven middle school science textbooks approved for use in city schools. "What I saw was horrifying."
Sept. 11 excuses
Some parents might be horrified, too, when they discover how Sept. 11 is soon to be taught to their children.
At least three schools have bought copies of "The American Vision," a 2003 high school history textbook, published by Glencoe McGraw-Hill, that was one of the first to write about the terror attacks. In a seven-page lesson on the massacre of 3,000 innocents, students are asked:
"What are the three main reasons certain Muslims became angry with the United States?"
"Why does American foreign policy anger Islamic fundamentalists in the Middle East?"
"The events of 9/11 were unjustified and inexcusable, but they didn't take place in a historical vacuum," said April Hattori, a McGraw-Hill spokeswoman. "It's important to explain what caused Muslim extremists to want to attack America."
The News' review also found dozens of textbooks that are riddled with the most blatant errors.
Prentice Hall's "Exploring Physical Science," a middle school science book used in Queens, confuses Newton (1643-1727) with Galileo (1564-1642). It also pictures the Statue of Liberty bearing the torch in her left hand and calls her skin bronze; actually, it's copper with a green patina, and she holds the lamp in her right hand. Corrections were made in a 1999 version, said spokeswoman Wendy Spiegel. But errors remain in thousands of 1997 editions still in circulation.
McGraw-Hill's "Human Heritage: A World History," a high school social studies text used in Brooklyn, incorrectly identifies Gerry Adams as "a Protestant leader." Actually, he's the Catholic firebrand who heads Sinn Fein, the Irish Republican Army's political wing.
Houghton Mifflin's "America: The Glorious Republic," a high school history text, copyright 1990, teaches students in Manhattan and Staten Island about the most recent terrorist massacre the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983. It ends with the inauguration of President Bush the first President Bush, that is.
"Here we are about to go to war for a second time with Iraq and I can't even read about the first time we went to war with Iraq," said Martin Quiles, a 17-year-old senior at Martin Luther King High School on the upper West Side.
"You have to laugh," he said. "I was born in 1985, and most of the textbooks I get are older than I am."
Deliberately altered or censored to create false or misleading representations.
The cover of "Economics," a high school textbook due to enter city schools next year, sports a doctored photo of the New York Stock Exchange's landmark exterior.
With a pair of loincloths strategically inserted into the picture, publisher Holt, Rinehart and Winston draped the private parts of the two heroic male figures Agriculture and Science, by name.
"The nudity was inappropriate for kids at this level," said Holt spokesman Rick Blake.
Stripped of relevant passages to avoid giving the slightest offense to anyone. Gail Stein, a French teacher at Long Island City High School in Queens, is the author of several popular French textbooks that deal with Gallic staples perfume, Champagne, chocolate mousse.
Then her publisher started getting complaints: Perfume was deemed sexist; not all women use it. A line about "bubbles in a glass of Champagne" might foster underage drinking. So out went the bubbly and all other offending references.
When "French is Fun" was released, one woman complained that using cognac in mousse would encourage drunkenness. So Stein's editors at Amsco School Publications asked her to change the next edition. Out went the cognac, out went the authenticity.
"Who would ever get drunk on chocolate mousse?" asked Stein, who has taught at city schools for 32 years.
Said Walcott, "We have to make sure that our textbooks are age-relevant and age-appropriate but we shouldn't become so politically correct that we water down history or lose sight of accuracy, either."
Tampered photos & falsified captions
The famous 1896 picture of husband-and-wife scientists Marie and Pierre Curie experimenting with radioactivity in their Paris lab was reproduced in Holt's "SciencePlus: Technology and Society." But it was radically cropped to purge Pierre, who shared a 1903 Nobel Prize with his wife.
Holt's Blake said Marie "was a famous scientist in her own right" and that "some of her most important work took place after her husband died."
"When Pierre Curie vanished from the pictures, truth and history vanished, too," said William Bennetta, who heads The Textbook League, a California-based watchdog group that researches textbook inaccuracies.
History also was fictionalized in McDougal Littell's "America's Past and Promise," taught to middle school students in Brooklyn. It prints a 1915 photo of men linking hands around the world's most massive tree, the General Sherman sequoia in California, with a caption that reads, "Conservationists link hands around a tree to stop loggers from cutting it down."
The sequoia was never threatened by loggers. The men were simply demonstrating its enormous girth.
The bogus caption was "a misunderstanding," explained spokesman Collin Earnst. "Once the error was brought to our attention, a correction was made."
But the inaccurate 1997 version is still used to teach New York students.
Brazenly ignoring who they profess to teach
Key Curriculum Press' "Interactive Mathematics Program," a high school math text used in at least five Bronx schools, teaches literature. And history. It contains essays on the "nonfamily" and the "minimal family."
The 515-page textbook contains only 25 pages of equations, estimated Alan Siegel, a computer science professor at NYU who is researching "fuzzy math" programs for the Brookings Institution.
"It doesn't prepare students for college programs requiring math," he said. "They never learn simple computations."
The book's authors say their goal is "to reform the way high school mathematics is taught," presenting it in a manner that reflects how it's used in the real world. Yet one 20-day teaching exercise is built around the Edgar Allan Poe short story "The Pit and the Pendulum," about a prisoner in a torture chamber who escapes a lethal blade attached to a swinging pendulum.
Students must conduct classroom experiments designed to answer the question, "Does the story's hero really have time to carry out his escape plan?"
Watered-down definitions of jihad
The word means "holy war." It refers to armed warfare against infidels to extend Islam's realm, and most Americans know it as what Osama Bin Laden declared on the U.S. before killing its citizens en masse.
Houghton Mifflin's "Across the Centuries," a 2003 social studies textbook used in Queens and Staten Island, sees it differently.
"An Islamic term that is often misunderstood is jihad," it says on page 64. "The term means 'to struggle,' to do one's best to resist temptation and overcome evil." The struggle "may require action," and the Koran allows "self-defense and participation in military conflict, but restricts it to the right to defend against aggression and persecution."
Said Bennetta, "They make jihadists sound like innocents doing their best to resist a second serving of ice cream."
A Houghton spokesman said the book was reviewed for the publisher by a "multicultural, multiethnic, multifaith panel" that found no problems with it. "Despite how terrorists abuse it, that is the classic definition of jihad," he added.
Infested with brand names
McGraw-Hill's "Mathematics: Applications and Connections," a middle school math book used in Brooklyn, touts Nike, McDonald's and Gatorade. It informs students that the Oreo is the "best-selling packaged cookie in the world" and has them calculate the surface area of a box of Kellogg's Frosted Flakes.
They were removed from the text in 2000 after California passed a law banning product promotions in books. But the 1999 and 1995 editions still in schools contain dozens of brands and logos and they were used to teach the son of state Sen. Velmanette Montgomery (D-Brooklyn) at Park Place Middle School in Crown Heights.
Montgomery was so outraged, she introduced a bill in Albany that would bar school boards from buying books that contain commercial brands, product names or logos.
"Textbooks should be vessels of truth," she said. "Teaching our children to look to commercial products for validation undermines our educational system."
In the meantime, math problems in some classes continue to be formulated like this: "Will is saving his allowance to buy a pair of Nike shoes that cost $68.25. If Will earns $3.25 per week, how many weeks will he need to save?"
Often, the shoddy textbooks penetrate New York City schools by way of Texas.
California, Florida, North Carolina and Texas pick textbooks statewide, giving them enormous clout to shape the books that enter their schools.
In Texas, for example, conservatives can influence selection and sometimes force publishers to alter passages. Books that are shaped and debated in Texas then wind up in New York.
Take the 2003 editions of two social studies textbooks, Glencoe's "Our World Today: People, Places and Issues" and Harcourt's "World Regions." Glencoe wrote of ancient geological events that took place "millions of years ago," like the Ice Age, while Harcourt referred to fossil fuels "formed millions of years ago."
Lone Star State creationists complained that the references conflicted with biblical time lines. So the publishers dropped the phrase "millions of years ago" and substituted language like "in the distant past" and "over time."
The two books, altered in Austin, Tex., have been approved, but not yet bought, for New York City schools.
"To please rednecks in Texas, they're censoring science in New York and all over America," said Bennetta.
Martin, try using a library. They have loads of books there.
There you have it, folks. Even the guy who makes it his job to root out inaccuracy in textbooks thinks that people who believe in the literal truth of the Bible are just a bunch of subhumans, or rednecks or whatever. Remember now, this is the good guy in this story. Home schooling, anyone?
Why doesn't someone edit the Koran and remove all references of violence against the "infidels," i.e. us.
This could then be passed off as the Official version of the Koran.
Maybe this is a way to "tame" Islam.
Why would he do that? Kids aren't supposed to think for themselves.
... Sounds like something right out of Mein Kampf?
There seems to be a proliferation of people of all ages who can't think for themselves. They show no desire to learn something, anything, on their own. I'm beginning to think that there is decline in intellectual curiosity.
I sound like some crabby old codger, don't I? :-)
Liberals and the Democratic Party (otherwise known as the PPV Party -- Professional Perpetual Victim Party) are at a wastershed point in their shame-filled history. In a day of instant news and gratification, where memories are short and the tolerance level for BS is nil, they've run out of tricks . . . one can only use race-baiting and victimization-threatening tactics so long. Although their tactics have served them for fifty years, the internet and the corresponding conservative-activists it has empowered can easily and quickly dispel their socialistic BS.
The only area left to them is public education. The PPV Party likes to train their enslaved victims young and keep them forever entrapped in a dependent state . . . preferably from cradle to grave. But, through posts like this and activists like yourself, us conservatives are going to put a stop to this tactic as well.
But we have to attack. We have to take back our schools. I don't have children, but I perused my nephew's American History book when he was here yesterday. Shocking!!
I won't bore you and list details but will only relate this . . . IMHO achievements of those who the "liberal elites" worship are raised to cult status while anyone who might have a broader appeal are swept aside with quick editorial brushes. For example, Martin Luther King had three times as many pages devoted to his accomplishments as did Abraham Lincoln. MLK is an American hero, I don't argue that. His accomplishments are noteworthy and ALL Americans, not just those of a particular skin color, should acknowledge that. But was he three times as important to the American culture and history than Abe Lincoln.
I don't get it. Perhaps it's just me since I'm one of those Texas rednecks referred to.
If you want an education, the next time you are at a restaurant with a teenager at the register and the bill comes to say $1.52. Give that person two dollars and 2 cents. It really spoils their day.
And if you read my post again you'll see I'm not supporting creationism. If Bennetta had limited his objection to the notion of creationism being taught as science, and pointed out that it flies in the face of the evidence, he would be right on. But instead of sticking with the facts, which are on his side, he made a mean and gratuitous remark about religious folk in the south.
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