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from The Textbook Letter, November-December 1997

Reviewing a middle-school book in American history

America's Past and Promise
1998. 801 pages + appendix. ISBN of the student's edition: 0-395-86707-X.
McDougal Littell Inc., P.O. Box 1667, Evanston, Illinois 60204.
(McDougal Littell is owned by Houghton Mifflin.)

It Seems Merely to Be the Old Book with a New Date

William J. Bennetta

When a publisher recycles a textbook and tries to pass it off as something new, the publisher typically makes some minor, ceremonial changes in the book's text and, perhaps, a few changes in the illustrations. McDougal Littell, however, apparently chose to ignore that ceremony when producing the 1998 version of America's Past and Promise. This book has a new copyright date and a new ISBN, but it seems to be identical to the 1997 version in every other respect.

Two long reviews of the 1997 version of America's Past and Promise appeared in the September-October issue of The Textbook Letter, under these headlines: "A Dumbed-Down Book, Ruled by Leftist Ideology" and "McDougal Littell's Baadassss Song." I have examined a random sample of 80 pages in the 1998 version (beginning on page 3 and ending on page 795), and I have seen that each of those 80 pages is identical to the like-numbered page in the 1997 version. I also have found that the 1998 book retains, without any change at all, every item that was cited in our reviews of the 1997.


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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