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from The Textbook Letter, January-February 1999

Keeping an Eye on the Scams, Shams and Swindles

William J. Bennetta

We've said it before, but it bears repeating: Some of the scams staged by schoolbook companies are so crude and blatant that the companies seem to be mocking their own prospective customers. One can almost hear the companies laughing and saying, "You teachers are so dumb and gullible that you'll fall for any trick that we try, and you'll buy any trash that we send your way."

Which brings us to Addison Wesley Longman's high-school textbook Scott Foresman - Addison Wesley Environmental Science and to AWL's blatantly absurd claims about who this book's "Authors" are.

The book's cover and spine display the label "Third Edition," even though Scott Foresman - Addison Wesley Environmental Science is a new title, and there have been no earlier editions. The book's copyright page shows the date "1999," with no indication that nearly all the material in Scott Foresman - Addison Wesley Environmental Science has been copied from an older book titled Addison-Wesley Environmental Science: Ecology and Human Impact, issued by the Addison-Wesley Publishing Company. If I ignore trivial differences in color schemes and graphic devices, I find that some 95% of the material in Scott Foresman - Addison Wesley Environmental Science has been taken right from Ecology and Human Impact, and the two books are almost interchangeable. But look! -- they have entirely different sets of "Authors"!

Ecology and Human Impact was introduced in 1995 (before Addison-Wesley merged with Longman Publishers to form AWL), and its list of "Authors" showed three names: Leonard Bernstein (identified as the "coordinator of science" for "Community School District 12, Bronx, NY"), Alan Winkler (an unaffiliated "science teacher and resource specialist" from Brooklyn), and Linda Zierdt-Warshaw (a "science writer and private tutor" from Boothwyn, Pennsylvania). Now those three have vanished, and Scott Foresman - Addison Wesley Environmental Science has four "Authors" that seem more impressive: Denis DuBay (who allegedly works for North Carolina's Department of Environment, Health, and Natural Resources), Anne Tweed (identified as an "environmental science teacher" at a school in Aurora, Colorado), Robert M. Schoch (an associate professor of science and mathematics at Boston University) and Andrew H. Lapinski (allegedly a "professor" at a community college in Reading, Pennsylvania).

If teachers are really dumb, I suppose, they will believe that -- by some supernatural coincidence -- DuBay & Company have written a book which is virtually the same as Ecology and Human Impact, and which has hundreds of passages and pages that are literally identical with ones that Bernstein & Company produced several years ago.

During the past few years Glencoe/McGraw-Hill has issued a number of schoolbooks that prominently display the name and logo of the National Geographic Society. Glencoe even claims that the NGS is the principal author of some of these books, such as the 1997 version of Glencoe World Geography and both the 1996 and the 1998 versions of Geography: The World and Its People. The NGS, however, has refused to confirm those claims.

Readers of The Textbook Letter will remember that the NGS's director of education products, David Beacom, did not answer when I asked him, in writing, whether the NGS had had anything to do with Glencoe World Geography. (See "Geographic Society Refuses to Tell Why Its Name Appears on a Trashy Text" in TTL for May-June 1998.)

I now report that Beacom has also refused to reply to a letter in which I asked whether the NGS had played any part in the generation of Geography: The World and Its People.

I sent the letter on 18 April 1998, by certified mail. In my opening statements I pointed out to Beacom that the 1996 and 1998 versions of Geography: The World and Its People both show "National Geographic Society" as their principal author, and that both versions exhibit the Society's logo on their title pages and their covers. Then I asked Beacom nine questions, the first eight of which dealt with authorship. For example:

Is the National Geographic Society the principal author of the 1996 version? . . . Does the National Geographic Society accept responsibility for the 1996 version's content? . . . As far as you are aware, did any employee of the National Geographic Society, functioning as a representative of the Society, contribute to the 1996 version? . . . Is the National Geographic Society the principal author of the 1998 version? . . . Does the National Geographic Society accept responsibility for the 1998 version's content? . . . As far as you are aware, did any employee of the National Geographic Society, functioning as a representative of the Society, contribute to the 1996 version?

And so forth. My ninth question dealt with a sales-promotion gimmick that I had seen in the 1998 book. I said to Beacom:

If [the Society really is the principal author of the 1998 version], I ask that you help me to understand the discrepancy between the content of the 1998 student's edition and some promotional material in the 1998 teacher's edition:

The teacher's edition of the 1998 version includes promotional material (on pages T16 - T18) that ostensibly tries to link Geography: The World and Its People with "National goals and standards in geography, published under the title Geography for Life (1994)." Yet the content of the 1998 Geography: The World and Its People is conspicuously keyed not to the Geography for Life standards but to the old five-theme guidelines that were in use for years before the Geography for Life standards were issued. I find this noteworthy because the National Geographic Society is one of the organizations that purportedly were involved in creating the Geography for Life document. If [the principal author of the 1998 Geography: The World and Its People is the National Geographic Society], and if the National Geographic Society endorses the six-element scheme set forth in the Geography for Life standards, then why does the 1998 book retain and emphasize the old five-theme scheme instead of the newer scheme espoused in Geography for Life?

When Beacom failed to reply by 15 May, I sent him a certified letter in which I reminded him of my April inquiry and expressed my hope that he soon would send his answers to my questions. He has never sent any kind of response.

In my view, this matter speaks for itself. I can't think of any reason to believe that the NGS has played any significant role in the genesis of any Glencoe textbook -- except, perhaps, as a supplier of photographs -- and I don't believe Glencoe's representations about the authorship of Glencoe World Geography or Geography: The World and Its People. I infer that Glencoe has merely bought permission to use the NGS's name and logo as sales-promotion devices, and that Glencoe's claims about authorship are false.


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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