A textbook case of overstatement For the record

August 09, 1998|By Michael Ollove

In its weekly feature, "This Week's Sign That the Apocalypse Is Upon Us," Sports Illustrated magazine uses Baltimore demigod Cal Ripken Jr. as the cudgel to batter the publisher of a children's textbook.

In its Aug. 3 issue, SI harrumphs that in an American history text for fifth graders, Houghton Mifflin devotes two full pages to the Orioles' Ironman while dispensing with the Depression and the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in a meager 33 lines.

Hey, Roosevelt was president for only 12 years. Ripken is in his 18th season.

OK, OK, we get the point. There's a chance there are more important things in the world than baseball. But really, can't SI find someone to pick on besides the publisher of children's texts? (Albert Belle comes to mind.) Anyway, according to Robin Reed, a Houghton Mifflin spokeswoman, SI didn't tell the whole story.

She points out that Roosevelt and the Depression are given short shift in the fifth-grade text because the emphasis in that school year is not the 20th century but earlier time periods.

And, she says, Ripken gets that much ink only as a way of engaging students in a particular assignment. Kids are asked to read the story about Ripken and then to go out and write similar articles based on their own interviews.

Why Ripken? "We get a lot of requests from teachers to include material that is going to be interesting to the kids," says Reed. "We're talking about 10-year-olds here. Who are you going to give them, Thomas Paine?"

The Ripken story in the textbook, by the way, wasn't written by Houghton Mifflin, but originated in another notable publication: Sports Illustrated for Kids.

Pub Date: 8/09/98

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