True or false: President Truman settled the Korean War by dropping the atomic bomb. Or how about: Sputnik was an intercontinental ballistic missile with a nuclear warhead. The correct answer to both statements, of course, is false. But not according to information found in textbooks that were almost adopted in Texas last year.

Thanks largely to the efforts of a tiny, Christian watchdog group, those and thousands of other mistakes were caught and corrected before the texts made their way into Texas schools. But, says Mel Gabler of the Texas-based Educational Research Analysts, those same textbooks, which were shipped to Texas schools this fall, contain over 500 more uncorrected factual errors.

The organization presented its latest list of mistakes to a State Board of Education Committee last month. Among the 512 outstanding mistakes: Hawaii forms part of America’s Pacific Rim (Hawaii is in the Pacific); in 1974 the U.S. House of Representatives voted to impeach President Richard Nixon (the House never voted to impeach Nixon; the House Judiciary Committee voted to recommend articles of impeachment to the full House).

In the past, Christian watchdog groups associated with the Religious Right have been ridiculed for what some call a narrow-minded critique of the nation’s educational system and its textbook publishers. But even their harshest critics have had to give Mel and Norma Gabler some credit for holding publishers to a high standard of accuracy.

People for the American Way, a nonprofit constitutional-liberties organization, has historically opposed the Gablers’ philosophical and ideological scrutiny of textbooks. But Mike Hudson, general counsel for People for the American Way, voiced support for the Gablers’ criticism of factual errors. “We do have to acknowledge that some good may come from this approach,” he told CT. The Gablers’ group began distinguishing between errors of fact and more subjective, philosophical “errors” in 1988.

Felton West, a Houston Post columnist who has long-standing philosophical disagreements with the Gablers, also has publicly praised their efforts.

A Trail Of Errors

Before last November, the books’ five publishers had already corrected more than 2,000 errors.

But following the Gablers’ disclosure of over 200 additional mistakes, the Texas Board of Education delayed approval for a month, ordering outside accuracy reviews.

Those reviewers and the Gablers turned up thousands more errors, bringing the tally to 5,200 and prompting further reviews.

In February, following yet another round of error disclosures and corrections, the Texas Board of Education approved the textbooks but stipulated that any further errors were to be corrected before the books could be distributed in classrooms this fall.

By this fall, the board had instituted new screening procedures and fined the publishers a total of $1.5 million, and publishers had shipped their purportedly corrected texts to schools.

Education board chairperson Carolyn Crawford said the Texas Education Agency would impose more fines if the Gablers’ recent findings are found to be correct.

By Thomas S. Giles.

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