Textbook plagiarism


Ouch! One of the major textbook publishers has a minor embarrassment over a case of self-plagiarism. According to the once-formidable, now reduced United Press International:

Textbook similarities an ‘aberration’

UPPER SADDLE RIVER, N.J., July 13 (UPI) — The makers of two textbooks published by Pearson Prentice Hall of Upper Saddle River, N.J., have said near-identical passages in the books are accidental.

A spokeswoman for the company, Wendy Spiegel, said the similarities between “A History of the United States” and “America: Pathways to the Present” are “absolutely an aberration,” The New York Times reported Thursday.

Spiegel said the relevant passages, dealing with the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the war in Afghanistan, and the Iraq War, were added hurriedly by editors and outside writers after the events occurred.

No serious issue, except that the addition of the passages smokes out another problem with history texts: Sometimes what the book contains is not material the authors listed on the cover wrote, or even approve of.

“They were not my words,” said “Pathways” co-author Allan Winkler, a historian at Miami University of Ohio. “It’s embarrassing. It’s inexcusable.”

Former Librarian of Congress Daniel Boorstin is the chief author listed for A History of the United States.

Worse for the publisher: The problems were caught by a major critic of the teaching of history in public schools.

The similarities were discovered by James Loewen, author of “Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong,” while researching an update of his book.

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