This item appeared in the "Editor's File"
in The Textbook Letter, May-June 1996.

New Books for Old

William J. Bennetta

An official of the Millcreek Township School District (in Erie, Pennsylvania) reports that Prentice Hall has offered compensation for hundreds of copies of a defective, error-laden text that the district bought from Prentice Hall two years ago. According to Alan Zito, Millcreek's supervisor of secondary education, the company intends to furnish the district with revised books that supposedly will carry fewer factual errors, pedagogic mistakes and other faults.

The defective text is the 1995 version of Prentice Hall Exploring Physical Science, which Prentice Hall sells for use in middle schools. The Millcreek district bought nearly 600 copies of it in 1994, and the district's teachers soon recognized that it contained many serious flaws. With help from Howard P. Lyon, a local parent, the district eventually published a partial list of the book's deficiencies, plus pertinent corrections; and Prentice Hall paid $2,050 to the district to offset some of the costs involved in printing the list and distributing it to students. (See the March-April issue of TTL, page 10.)

Now Prentice Hall wants to replace the defective books outright, Alan Zito told me during a recent telephone interview: The company has proposed to deliver to the district, at no charge, some 600 copies of a new, cleaned-up version of Prentice Hall Exploring Physical Science, Zito said. The new version presumably will be printed later in this year and will show 1997 as its copyright date.

After my conversation with Zito, I attempted to get more information about this matter from Jane Antoun, who is an executive of Prentice Hall's parent company, Simon & Schuster. Antoun had sent a letter to the Millcreek district, on 5 June, proclaiming that Simon & Schuster would be pleased to "resolve the issue" surrounding Prentice Hall Exploring Physical Science, though she didn't explicitly say what the issue was, or what the resolution might be. I hoped that she would tell me what her letter meant, and that she would confirm or clarify the account that I had received from Zito. I also wanted to ask her this: Will Simon & Schuster offer revised books to other school districts that bought the 1995 version of Prentice Hall Exploring Physical Science?

Antoun didn't return my telephone calls.

Educators who are using the 1995 version may want to try their own luck at contacting Antoun, to find out whether they can expect to receive replacements. Her address is: Jane Antoun, president, secondary education, Simon & Schuster Education Group, 1 Lake Street, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey 07458. Her telephone number is 201-236-5401.

William J. Bennetta is a professional editor, a fellow of the California Academy of Sciences, the president of The Textbook League, and the editor of The Textbook Letter. He writes often about the propagation of quackery, false "science" and false "history" in schoolbooks.


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