One reason to keep an eye on what is in textbooks used by students in California’s public schools is that what is passed on by the state’s education authorities to a large degree determines what can go in courses in the rest of the country. That could also be a cause of alarm.
Publishers find it difficult to move texts that don’t sell in the two largest states—Texas and California—but once that hurdle is cleared the market is effectively cornered. The researchers at the Texas-based Educational Research Analysts have been reviewing textbooks in the Lone Star State for decades but when they branched out to look at class readers in the Golden State they found that they really had their work cut out for them.
“We found in California textbooks a higher factual-error rate than in Texas,” the researchers at the Mel Gabler’s Educational Research Analysts Newsletter report. “In 2002 we reviewed four Texas high school U. S. History books whose total page count about equaled these five California 8th grade U. S. History texts.”
“In the Texas books we found 249 factual errors; in California’s, 427.” The analysts posit an intriguing reason for the ratio: “Had publishers sold Texas books with 427 factual errors, a Texas rule levies fines of up to $5,000 per error, or over $2 million.”
The five publishing houses that produced the California texts, in turn, are quite prestigious—Glencoe, Holt, McDougal, Prentice and Oxford. “One text said Daniel Boone contributed to the Constitutional Convention (in fact, he had absolutely nothing to do with it),” the analysts report. Even the producers of the television series on the frontiersman got that one Right; McDougal did not.
“Another said Congress established the Supreme Court (in fact, the Constitution did this),” the analysts go on to note. That’s rather an easy one to check: Article III, Section 1 of that document states that “The judicial power of the United States shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.”
Surely, the researchers at Glencoe had access to this source. It is available online at archives.gov.
Additionally, in the texts they rebut, the analysts at the Gabler newsletter reveal that:
• “A third [text] said legislatures interpret laws (in fact, the Judiciary does that).” The fact checkers at Holt should have suspected that that was why they call it judicial review.
• “A fourth said the Missouri Compromise admitted Texas to the Union (in fact, it admitted Missouri).” The name alone should have clued in the brainiacs at Oxford.
• “A fifth said the 1689 English Bill of Rights helped inspire the 1620 Mayflower Compact (in fact, this was an obvious chronological impossibility).” Credit the chronologically challenged editors at Prentice with that one.
Malcolm A. Kline is the executive director of Accuracy in Academia.