10 Outrageous Textbook Blunders


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As the Internet opens up new ways to shop, work and talk to friends, education is also making use of the possibilities presented by cyberspace. Online classes and degrees are cropping up, offering new kinds of learning experiences and a scheduling fluidity that would be impossible on a traditional campus. As classes and discussions no longer need to take place in real time, students have more flexibility to study when it suits them, and some learners even fit their course around a full-time job. Another advantage is that students can take time out during a forum-based discussion if they want to read up on something – or perhaps even take a walk while they align their thoughts.

Some people are beginning to wonder just how necessary hard copies of textbooks are, since so much information and so many tools are available at our fingertips thanks to the Internet. While we explore current concerns about the pricing of textbooks and their place in education, we’ll also take a look at 10 blunders and faux pas that should probably have been left out of their pages.

10. Click Here


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It looks as if this textbook secretly wanted to be published in cyberspace, not on paper –but when printed in ink, naturally it loses any interactive capabilities it might have had online.

Funny as this is, in view of how much college students have to pay for their reading materials, some might say that mistakes like the one above simply add insult to injury. It’s estimated that the typical college student will fork out around $655 on textbooks annually; indeed, a single volume can cost an eye-watering $300.

9. Hidden Hand


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It looks like the illustrator of this math problem had a sense of humor. Why else would they put a random hand in the garbage? Maybe it was placed there to provide avid studiers with a bit of comic relief. But late at night, with a coffee buzz just wearing off, it could just give students the creeps. Soon, the eerie hand will be popping up everywhere they go, and they might start having nightmares about Prob. 8–8. That is, if the price of the textbook didn’t already achieve this.

8. Archery


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In the image above, the potential mistake is in the positioning of the archer and the boy on the trampoline. They’re unfortunately close, and the aim of the arrow definitely seems a little ominous.

While errors in college textbooks are said to be generally few and far between, this isn’t necessarily the case with high school and middle school books. Physics professor John Hubisz carried out a study with the aim of evaluating the factual accuracy of science textbooks in middle schools. What he found was astonishing. Published errors ranged from The Equator being placed 1,500 miles away from its true position on a map, to the claim that humans can’t hear below 400 hertz (when we can actually hear down to 20).

7. Blasphemous Boys


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According to one source, a reason why some errors occur in textbooks is because writers and editors are afraid of offending certain religious, ethnic or special interest groups. Instead of risking any backlashes from those arenas, they leave out crucial factual information. For example, one high school textbook didn’t say who the terrorists behind 9/11 were and what motivated them, and it also made inadequate claims about the roots of the French Revolution.

The book above seems to have the opposite problem: the mnemonic “Blasphemous Boys Rape Our Young Girls But Violet Gives Willingly” is potentially hugely offensive.

6. Zzz


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While this tongue-in-cheek addition to what seems to be a statistics textbook is harmless, the same cannot be said for all textbook mistakes. Fearon’s Biology, Heath Physics and Our Virginia: Past and Present are just three textbooks that have been flagged for making patently false or misleading claims within their pages.

Fearon’s Biology made out that Frankenstein was a real scientist and neglected to mention that the story is a work of fiction by Mary Shelley; Heath Physics perverted laws of physics; and Our Virginia: Past and Present suggested that black soldiers were allowed to fight in the Confederate army before the end of the Civil War. However, some teachers and academics argue that textbook reviewing procedures are inadequate, especially where the length of volumes makes it difficult to spot every little mistake.

5. “E” Backward


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Maybe we’re lacking some special tongue-twisting faculties, but as far as we know, there is no way to pronounce “E” backwards. This could all be cleared up quickly if the book explained how one goes about it; then any able student could soon pronounce each letter of the entire alphabet in reverse.

This may be similar to the kind of issue the Texas State Board of Education discovered when reviewing math textbooks for usage in the 2008 school year. The board ultimately found that there were 109,263 mistakes included. Even people who aren’t good at math can tell that’s a heck of a lot.

4. Alzheimer’s


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It looks as though the author here needed a break, but was this joke really supposed to make it into the printed edition? Maybe we’ll never know.

The problem of textbook mistakes and inaccuracies has been addressed in a number of ways. After conducting his study into textbook errors, John Hubisz created the website science-house.org, which provides middle school teachers with resources and reviews on various science texts. Others, such as educator Debbie Morrison, think it is time teachers reconsidered their approach by potentially looking beyond textbooks as a means to instruct students.

3. Dark Alley


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Morrison clearly states that college textbooks, including their online versions, shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand. However, with so many online resources available to both students and lecturers, textbooks may not always be the optimal instructional tools they once were – even if they provide such imaginative examples as that pictured above!

Individuals and organizations are beginning to shrug off what some call the “broken market” of the textbook industry. Used textbooks and rental programs can bring prices down; while other options and initiatives include a move towards open textbooks, which are freely available online – and are already being made use of by MIT and Harvard. Non-profit organizations, such as the Khan Academy, even offer free educational resources across the board.

2. Color Blindness


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Of course, some people may want to stick with textbooks simply because they enjoy catching the occasional gaffe in what is supposed to be an accurate volume. The outright mistake pictured above could cause a student major panic, especially if they have dreams of joining the Air Force. The text reads, “If you see the number 15 in the dot pattern, your color vision is probably normal.” You’d have to have a pretty vivid imagination to see the number 15, as the picture actually shows the number 29, whether you’re color blind or not.

1. No Photos


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“To view this image, please go to page 380 of the Art History Fourth Edition by Marilyn Stokstad ebook,” reads the text in the bottom left box. According to the person who posted this picture online, their university couldn’t secure rights for the photos. The result is a laughing stock: a 700-page art history book with missing pictures. Worse still, it cost CAD$200 (US$195), and it probably has little resale value because the links to the online picture database were due to expire at the end of the year.

American Enterprise Institute scholar Mark Perry expects open/free educational resources to eventually crush the textbook “cartel.” Hopefully, this will lead to more accountability, accuracy and, of course, availability, rather than less. Given the way in which online degree courses are changing how one may receive a college education – with textbooks just one of the options available to aid learning – it appears that cyberspace is the new ground for pioneer students and educators.