from The Textbook Letter, September-October 1997

Editor's File

William J. Bennetta

Catching Up with Glencoe
and the Flashback Quacks

In Missouri in 1992 a church counselor helped Beth Rutherford to remember during therapy that her father, a clergyman, had regularly raped her between the ages of seven and 14 and that her mother sometimes helped him by holding her down. Under her therapist's guidance, Rutherford developed memories of her father twice impregnating her and forcing her to abort the fetus herself with a coat hanger. The father had to resign from his post as a clergyman when the allegations were made public. Later medical examination of the daughter revealed, however, that she was still a virgin at age 22 and had never been pregnant.

-- from Elizabeth A. Loftus's article "Creating False Memories,"
in Scientific American, September 1997

"Recovered memory" quackery, invented about a decade ago, has done vast damage to many individuals and families. Its practitioners typically claim that they can examine adolescents or adults, can uncover signs that these people suffered sexual abuse during childhood, and can help the people retrieve "repressed memories" of the abuse itself. This retrieval process, which allegedly causes the repressed memories to return as "flashbacks," is said to serve as "therapy." The quacks' victims usually are women, and the women typically "remember" that they were abused by their fathers or by other male relatives.

The entire business is a vicious pseudoscientific scam. The quacks have adduced no evidence to support their claims, and the "flashbacks" that their victims perceive are mental images induced by the quacks themselves: images of events that never happened. In various cases, quacks have used hypnosis or drugs to promote "flashbacks" -- and in some instances, the "flashbacks" have been used to initiate civil lawsuits or criminal prosecutions for child abuse. These legal actions have been much like trials for witchcraft, typified by the absence of any evidence and by the destruction of innocent defendants.

None of this, however, has discouraged Glencoe/McGraw-Hill from promoting "recovered memory" quackery to students. In the 1993 version of Glencoe Health, a high-school book, Glencoe provided a full-page article that heartily endorsed the quacks' claims, explicitly depicted "flashbacks" as recollections of real events, and led students to believe that experiencing "flashbacks" was therapeutic. The article even taught that if a backflashing woman said that a man had abused her, then the man must be guilty -- even if there was no evidence to support the accusation. [See "How a Glencoe 'Health' Textbook Promotes Psycho-Quackery" in The Textbook Letter, January-February 1995. To learn how Glencoe Health promoted other kinds of quackery, including homeopathy, chiropractic and acupuncture, see the reviews in TTL, March-April 1995.]

Three years later, when Glencoe cooked up the next version of Glencoe Health, "recovered memory" quackery had been indicted repeatedly and publicly by knowledgeable analysts; its poisonous effects on victims and their families were becoming well known, and the techniques employed by the quacks were being exposed. Evidently, however, none of this mattered to Glencoe. In the new Glencoe Health, dated in 1996, Glencoe's full-page endorsement of "recovered memory" claptrap was reprinted word-for-word.

Glencoe is still promoting and selling that 1996 book today, and is still disseminating the quacks' claims to students, though the "recovered memory" racket has now been discredited thoroughly. Even for Glencoe, this is a particularly repugnant performance.

Educators who want to enlighten students about "recovered memory" quackery will find valuable information in:

In 1986 Nadean Cool, a nurse's aide in Wisconsin, sought therapy from a psychiatrist to help her cope with her reaction to a traumatic event experienced by her daughter. During therapy, the psychiatrist used hypnosis and other suggestive techniques to dig out buried memories of abuse that Cool herself allegedly had experienced. In the process, Cool became convinced that she had repressed memories of having been in a Satanic cult, of eating babies, of being raped, of having sex with animals and of being forced to watch the murder of her eight-year-old friend. She came to believe that she had more than 120 personalities -- children, adults, angels and even a duck -- all because, Cool was told, she had experienced severe childhood sexual and physical abuse. The psychiatrist also performed exorcisms on her, one of which lasted for five hours and included the sprinkling of holy water and screams for Satan to leave Cool's body.

When Cool finally realized that false memories had been planted, she sued the psychiatrist for malpractice. In March 1997, after five weeks of trial, her case was settled out of court for $2.4 million.

Some company, that Glencoe!

Globe Fearon's "Up-to-Date" Fake

In 1993 the Globe Book Company published a fake textbook titled Concepts in Modern Biology. Produced by writers who were so ignorant that they didn't know what mammals were, the book was riddled with pseudoscientific nonsense and startlingly stupid statements -- none of which was more startling than the writers' declaration that "the cause of AIDS is unknown"! For sheer charlatanry and irresponsibility, Concepts in Modern Biology was hard to beat.

The Globe Book Company no longer exists as such, for it has been absorbed into Globe Fearon Educational Publisher. Concepts in Modern Biology is still in print, however, and it now is being promoted to educators by Globe Fearon. It is shown on page 98 of Globe Fearon's 1998 catalogue, accompanied by promotional claims that include this one: "With Concepts in Modern Biology, you get an easy-to-use text that's been hailed both for its clarity and comprehensive, up-to-date content." There is no explanation that being "up-to-date" means teaching students that the cause of AIDS in unknown. I infer that when Globe Fearon absorbed the Globe Book Company, it absorbed that company's duplicity in full measure.

Readers who would like to see how Concepts in Modern Biology was "hailed" in The Textbook Letter will find reviews in our issue of May-June 1994.

Fonius Balonius

The bogus "history" keeps coming. Here is a passage from the high-school book Addison-Wesley Biology:

Finally, in the mid-1700s, Swedish biologist Carl von Linné established a simple system for classifying and naming organisms. His system, with some changes, is still being used today.

Linné established a system of groups called taxa (singular, taxon). Each taxon is a category into which related organisms are placed. For example, each species is a taxon. Linné used Latin for the names of taxa, . . . . Linné was so enthusiastic about his new system that he changed his own name to a Latin version. Carl von Linné has gone down in history as Carolus Linnaeus (lih-NAY-us), the father of modern taxonomy.

Now here is the truth: By the time when Linné promulgated his new system, educated Europeans had already been Latinizing their names for centuries. (Recall, for example, that Mikolaj Kopernik (1473-1543) had called himself Nicolaus Copernicus.) In Linné's own land, two kings had ruled under the name Gustavus instead of Gustaf -- and throughout northern Europe, Latinate names had become so popular among Lutheran clergymen that nearly every church had its Carolus, Engelbertus, Wilhelmus or Jacobus.

If one were to believe the tale told in Addison-Wesley Biology, one would have to imagine that all those people had shared -- in advance, through some sort of magical precognition -- Linné's enthusiasm for names ending in -us. Addison-Wesley's tale is nonsense, though, and merits no heed. Linné called himself Linnaeus not because he was "so enthusiastic about his new system" but because he was an educated man who followed the scholarly customs of his day: He wrote his learned works in Latin (Systema Naturae appeared in 1735), and he adopted a Latinate name.

Addison-Wesley Biology has other bits of fake "history" as well, some so silly that they rival the stuff about Linnaeus. One of my favorites is the illustration which shows an old, torn, yellowed page bearing a message that purportedly was written by the Roman poet Virgil. The message is in English.

William J. Bennetta is a professional editor, a fellow of the California Academy of Sciences, the president of The Textbook League, and the editor of The Textbook Letter. He writes frequently about the propagation of quackery, false "science" and false "history" in schoolbooks.


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