NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Sloppy And Erroneous Textbooks

October 20, 2000

Some of the most prestigious U.S. school-textbook publishers are turning out instructional materials aimed at elementary-, middle- and high-school students that are rife with inaccuracies, educators charge.

  • Texts sometimes contain 30 errors within 100 pages -- errors of fact, of interpretation and of concept.
  • The Space Director at NASA's Ames Research Center reviewed Prentice Hall's "Exploring the Universe" text, for example, and termed it "horrible."
  • In the intensely lobbied textbook selection process in states like California, intellectual content reportedly takes a back seat to salesmanship, political correctness, encouraging students' self-esteem and dumbing down lessons in order to capture a large market.
  • Noted education analyst Diane Ravitch characterizes texts designed to hold the attention of children accustomed to MTV as "more like a comic book" and notes that the packaging "overwhelms the content."

There have been cases of texts written by esteemed scholars which -- after being fiddled with in the editing process after they had left the authors' hands -- emerged chock full of errors.

In another instance, the publisher Scott Foresman claimed to have enlisted the help of a highly-acclaimed biologist in putting together a text. Problem was the biologist never had anything to do with the project, had never reviewed the material -- and, in fact, had never even seen it.

Source: David McClintick, "The Great American Textbook," Forbes, October 30, 2000.


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