By George Archibald, The Washington Times 4/28/04
Forwarded by MGen J. Milnor Roberts, USA (Ret.), WWII Veterans Committee

Social studies textbooks used in elementary and secondary schools are mostly a disgrace that, in the name of political correctness and multiculturalism, fail to give students an honest account of American history, say academic historians and education advocates.

“Secondary and college students, and indeed most of the rest of us, have only a feeble grasp of politics and a vague awareness of history - especially the political history of the United States and the world,” says Paul Gagnon, emeritus professor of history at the University of Massachusetts.

Most textbooks produced by a handful of giant commercial publishers, are exposing generations of children to cultural and history amnesia that threatens the very base of American free institutions and liberties, warn leading historians who are calling for better-defined, more rigorous state teaching standards.

Just 11 percent of eighth-graders show proficient knowledge of U.S. history on standardized tests - down from 17 percent in 2001, Mr. Gagnon noted in a recent study for the American Federation of Teachers.

“Less than half knew the Supreme Court could decide a law’s constitutionality,” he said in the Albert Shanker Institute study titled, Standards to Ensure a Civic Corps. “Only a third knew what the Progressive Era was and most were not sure whom we fought in WWII.

Publishers acknowledge having buckled since the early 1980s to so-called multicultural “bias guidelines” demanded by interest groups and elected state boards of education that require censorship of textbook content to accommodate feminist, homosexual and racial demands.

The California State Board of Education was the first to adopt such guidelines in 1982, according to New York University research professor Diane Ravitch in her latest book, The Language Police. The California guidelines instruct textbook publishers and teachers: “Do not cast adverse reflection on any gender, race, ethnicity, religion or cultural group.” The board had informal “social-content standards” going back to the 1970s. Publishers followed with their own anti-bias guidelines, which banned words, phrases, images and depiction of people deemed unacceptable - such as “man,” “mankind,” “manpower” and “men,” said to be sexist. Also banned are “able-bodied,” “aged,” “babe,” “backward,” “chick,” “fairy,” “geezer,” “idiot,” “imbecile,” “Redskin,” “sissy,” suffragette” and “waitress.”

Who’s Responsible?

A handful of commercial publishers produce most elementary and secondary school textbooks which costs the nation’s taxpayers about $250 million per subject. These include:

  • Glencoe, a subsidiary McGraw-Hill
  • Reinhart & Winston, owned by Harcourt, Inc., U.S. Division of the Dutch publishing conglomerate Reed Elsevier Group
  • McDougal Littell, owned by Houghton Mifflin
  • Prentice Hall, a subsidiary of British-owned Pearson Education Inc., which also owns Scott Foresman, Addison Wesley, Silver Burdett, Ginn, and other school-textbook imprints.

All companies have developed their own internal checklists that dictate writing, graphics, photos and other textbook content.

A team of 16 academic reviewers in Texas, the second largest state market for textbooks behind California, last year found 533 factual and interpretive errors in 28 social studies texts submitted for adoption by the state board of education. The books were for sixth-grade world culture, seventh-grade Texas history, eighth-grade and high school American history, U.S. government and economics, and high school world history.

“For 351 of the 533 errors identified, publishers agreed to either revise statements to correct factual inaccuracies or to add clarifying statements to rectify ambiguity,” said Chris Patterson, research director for the Texas Public Policy Foundation in Austin, which commissioned the review.

For 35 percent of the noted errors, “publishers denied that the information was incorrect and stated that the reviewers misunderstood the textbook,” Mrs. Patterson said. “”However, in these cases publishers did not modify the text to ensure students would not fall victim to the same misunderstanding suffered by scholars and teachers who reviewed the texts.”

She said many textbook errors cited by the foundation involved “clear bias” - opinions presented as fact, content “not sufficiently objective or distortion through lack of substantive facts.