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Context and balance often found lacking

The Washington Times (03/28/2004)
By George Archibald

The latest editions of the most widely used social studies textbooks across the country are full of errors and politically correct bias, reviews show.

Publisher McDougal Littell's high school "World History: Patterns of Interaction" blames explorer Christopher Columbus for "the beginnings of an era of widespread cruelty and bloodshed" in the Americas, but fails to mention Aztec, Mayan and Toltec Indian practices of forced labor and cutting out hearts of opponents while they were still alive.

Publisher Glencoe-McGraw-Hill's eighth-grade "The American Republic, Vol. 1" states: "On May 26, 1637, English soldiers and their Narraganset allies burned the main Pequot [Indian] village, killing hundreds."

But reviewer Paul Davis, professor at St. Mary's University in San Antonio, noted: "What is not mentioned is that Pequots attacked a Colonial settlement the previous month, slaughtering the town's cattle, killing some of the villagers, and kidnapping two young women."

The text did not explain the raid was part of an effort to free the kidnapped women — and that warriors of other Indian tribes, also victims of Pequot terrorism, had joined British colonists in the raid.

Such errors are part of a pattern of "clear bias" in textbooks covering almost every period of history, said Chris Patterson, research director for the Texas Public Policy Foundation that commissioned the reviews.

The free-enterprise system and Christian religion are frequent textbook victims.

McDougal Littell's high school "World History: Patterns of Interaction" devotes 13 paragraphs to perils of industrialization, but just four paragraphs listing its benefits.

The text glorifies socialism, saying it "grew out of an optimistic view of human nature, a belief in progress, and a concern for social justice." No mention that socialism is based on a belief that man must be forced by government to support others, said San Antonio history teacher Scott K. Harris.

The McDougal text and Holt's "Holt Economics" also emphasize the importance of government and weaknesses of the free-market system.

Prentice Hall's "World History: Connections to Today" gives Christianity and Judaism less space than Buddhism and Islam in a section on world religions. McDougal's world history text and sixth-grade "World Cultures and Geography" are similarly slanted.

Glencoe's high school "World History" devotes two pages to the American War for Independence, five paragraphs to the U.S. Constitution, and three paragraphs to the Bill of Rights, but 16 pages to the French Revolution and fully prints the French Declaration of the Rights of Man.

The text devotes 47 pages to communism, 18 pages to socialism, but just four pages to capitalism.

Prentice Hall's sixth-grade "World Explorer: People Places & Culture" incorrectly states Greek philosopher Plato's classic, The Republic, "set out ideas for how to organize a democracy, which means 'government by the people.' "

"Obviously, the author has not read 'The Republic,' " said Robert Gorman, Southwest Texas State University humanities and political science professor.

" Plato disliked democracy and in his 'Republic' lays out a scheme for establishing benign rule by a philosopher king, definitely not a democratic system."P

rentice Hall agreed to correct the mistake.