Preventing errers in textbooks

Bill Tammeus

April 01, 1992|By Bill Tammeus

ERRORS have been creeping into the school history textbooks American children use.

The people who run schools, in response, have been demanding that textbook publishers correct their mistakes.

This is a terrible situation, requiring eternal vigilance as the price of accuracy, and I am prepared to help. After all, I have devoted my journalistic career to the pursuit of accuracy -- or at least to not making up more facts than I have to.

To help you evaluate the veracity of what you find in textbooks, I have drawn up an incomplete but instructive list of information to be suspicious of if you run across it in a book. Burn the book if it says:

Columbus' ships were the Nina, the Pinta and the USS Missouri.

The Constitutional Convention was held in Philadelphia -- at the Holiday Inn.

The War of 1812 began in 1934.

China invented both gun powder and weed whackers.

Harold II of England lost the Battle of Hastings in 1066 but victory was claimed by Saddam Hussein.

The Protestant Reformation began when Martin Luther nailed a copy of his "I Have a Dream" speech to the door of the All Saints Church in Wittenberg.

The North won the Civil War with a lightning-quick ground war after several months of pounding the South from the air.

"You have nothing to fear but Stephen King novels," FDR told the worried American people.

Lee Harvey Oswald, acting alone, assassinated John F. Kennedy.

Fire was invented by a struggling Zippo lighter salesman from Indianapolis.

Most of the menu at the First Thanksgiving was microwaveable.

Thousands of people first came to California as part of the 1849 Gold Futures Rush.

In his farewell speech, Dwight D. Eisenhower warned Americans of the dangers of the "cemetery-industrial complex."

Queen Elizabeth died in 1603 and was replaced on the throne by the King James Version of the Bible.

Africa began to throw off colonial rule in the 1940s and '50s as indigenous peoples began to favor different styles of architecture.

Moses led the people of Israel on a 40-year trip through the wilderness as they waited for the U.S. to guarantee a loan to build enough housing for them.

The Ottoman Empire finally failed in 1913, shortly after it was purchased in a leveraged buyout by Donald Trump.

In 1513, Nunez de Balboa first sighted the Pacific Ocean and exclaimed to reporters with him: "Do you realize that in exactly 400 years Donald Trump will buy the Ottoman Empire?"

The civil war that broke out in England in 1642 ended when Lincoln moved to the New World and became the capital of Nebraska.

What held up the Louisiana Purchase so long in 1803 was trying to figure the sales tax, which finally worked out to $1.29.

In the Industrial Revolution, General Motors beat U.S. Steel 103-101 in double overtime.

It's not the heat, it's the humidity.

Karl Marx got most of his wonky ideas from his brother Groucho.

The Bolshevik Revolution never achieved the kind of TV ratings later reached by the Super Bowlsheviks.

The effete, Eastern, liberal press hounded Richard Nixon out of office.

Dan Quayle ever had a clue.

World Wars I and II as well as the wars in Vietnam, Korea and the Persian Gulf were conspiracies that former New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison is close to cracking.

There are, no doubt, lots of other errors that can and do creep into history textbooks. But I can't be responsible for alerting you to all of them. I'm too busy writing a history book myself: "Abner Doubleday: Inventor of Baseball and Lincoln's Assassin."

Bill Tammeus is a columnist for the Kansas City Star.

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