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Religious preaching makes these books unfit for use in public schools

William J. Bennetta

When we examine the textbooks that major publishers try to sell to public schools, we sometimes find fraudulent passages that function as instruments of religious indoctrination: Religious myths are depicted as accounts of real people and events, religious superstitions are depicted as matters of fact, and the origins of religious writings are obscured or are wrapped in outright lies.

These passages of religious propaganda have been devised by individuals or groups that seek to use the public schools for spreading their own sectarian doctrines and for recruiting converts. In various cases, publishers evidently have accepted material from religious pressure groups and have put the material into textbooks, even though it is laden with blatant preaching, miracle-mongering and fake "history." I assume that the textbook-publishers have required the pressure groups to pay for this service, but I am not aware of any instance in which a publisher has admitted to collecting a fee for disseminating religious stuff.

Because the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States forbids the erection of any official religion by any agency of government, it is illegal for public schools to deliver instruction that has been "tailored to the principles or prohibitions of any religious sect or dogma." (See the decision issued by the Supreme Court of the United States in Edwards v. Aguillard (1987).) Public-school educators must bear this restriction in mind, not only when they design curricula but also when they adopt textbooks. If a textbook subjects students to sectarian indoctrination, the use of that book in a public school will run afoul of basic constitutional principles and will invite lawsuits.

Here are is a list of some recent and current textbooks in which I have found substantial loads of sectarian propaganda, clearly intended to indoctrinate students. In my judgment, the religious preaching in these books renders them unfit for use in public schools. To learn about the propaganda that appears in any individual book, click on the colored symbol beside the book's title.

Human Heritage: A World History   Glencoe/McGraw-Hill   1995  1999  2001

A Message of Ancient Days   Houghton Mifflin   1999  2003

Across the Centuries   Houghton Mifflin   1994  1999  2003

Heath World History: Perspectives on the Past   McDougal Littell   1997

Ancient World   McGraw-Hill School Division   2000

Making Thirteen Colonies   Oxford University Press   1999
     (Making Thirteen Colonies is Book 2 of Oxford's eleven-book series A History of US.)

World History: Continuity and Change   Holt, Rinehart and Winston   1999

World Cultures: A Global Mosaic   Prentice Hall   2001

Prentice Hall World History: Connections to Today   1997  1999  2001

High-school books


World Cultures: A Global Mosaic   Prentice Hall   2001
(In November 1998 Prentice Hall became an operating unit
of Pearson Education. Pearson Education is a division
of Pearson PLC, a British Corporation based in London.)

Fake "history" of Muhammad and Islam        In the 2001 version of World Cultures: A Global Mosaic, as in all the earlier versions, long passages are devoted to promoting Islam and to winning converts for Allah. Muslim propaganda is disguised as historical information, Muslim superstitions are disguised as facts, and both Muhammad and Islam are whitewashed. For a detailed analysis, see the review "Promoting Islam in American Schoolrooms" in The Textbook Letter, March-April 2000.


Heath World History: Perspectives on the Past   McDougal Littell   1997
(This book was originally published by D.C. Heath and Company.)

Fake "history" of Jesus and Christianity        In chapter 7, the section titled "The Life and Teachings of Jesus" comprises some 860 words of myth-mongering and religious preaching. It has no merit as history, and it serves only to promote the fundamentalist variety of Christianity. The people who composed it have used slippery wording and gross falsehoods to create the impression that New Testament tales are reports of real events, and they have hidden everything that scholars have deduced about Jesus and about the origins of Christian scripture. For some details, see "Fostering Fundamentalism" in The Textbook Letter, March-April 2000.


Prentice Hall World History: Connections to Today   Prentice Hall   1997

Fake "history" of Jesus and Christianity        In chapter 6, the section titled "The Life of Jesus" is simply a gush of religious preaching and abuse. It has no merit as history, and it is rife with word-tricks, falsehoods and confusing statements which obviously are intended to mislead students and to project the impression that New Testament tales are reports about real people and events. The propagandists who produced "The Life of Jesus" for Prentice Hall World History: Connections to Today have mocked the book's title by concealing everything that today's scholars have deduced about Jesus and about the origins of Christian scripture. For some details, see "Fostering Fundamentalism" in The Textbook Letter, March-April 2000.

Fake "history" of Muhammad and Islam        Chapter 11 of Prentice Hall World History: Connections to Today is titled "The Muslim World." In the chapter's introductory material, Prentice Hall tells students that Muslim civilization was "the world's first multiregional civilization" -- as if the Graeco-Roman civilization of the Roman empire had never existed. Then, in a long section called "Rise of Islam," Prentice Hall delivers a load of Muslim woo-woo: The Muslim myth in which Muhammad has a "vision" of the angel Gabriel is presented as fact, and so is the notion that Muhammad received a "call" to become "the messenger of God"; Gabriel's mythical directive to Muhammad ("Proclaim -- in the name of your God, the Creator, . . . .") is presented as if it were a quotation from a historical record; and so forth. (This material resembles the Muslim preaching that I have seen in another Prentice Hall book, World Cultures: A Global Mosaic.)

The "Rise of Islam" section also includes conspicuous efforts to make Islam seem similar to, and compatible with, Judaism and Christianity. (Such efforts are common in Muslim propaganda that has been fashioned for distribution in the United States.) On page 257, for example, Prentice Hall declares that "Like Judaism and Christianity, Islam is based on strict monotheism" -- as if the Christian doctrine of the Trinity had never been formulated. And on page 258, we find the claim that "Muslims believe in the same God as Jews and Christians" and the claim that Jews and Christians "enjoyed religious freedom in early Muslim societies." Both of those claims are false.

I infer that the Muslim propaganda in Prentice Hall World History: Connections to Today has come from the Council on Islamic Education (CIE), since the list of "Content Reviewers" displayed on the book's page iv includes two of the CIE's luminaries -- Shabbir Mansuri and Susan Douglass. The CIE is a Muslim pressure group based in Fountain Valley, California. Shabbir Mansuri is the CIE's founding director, and Susan Douglass is one of its "affiliated scholars." In the list of "Content Reviewers," Mansuri's connection with the CIE is disclosed, but Douglass's connection is not: Mansuri is identified as "Director, Council on Islamic Education, Fountain Valley, California," but Douglass is identified only as "Educational Consultant, Falls Church, Virginia."

Prentice Hall World History: Connections to Today   Prentice Hall   1999

Fake "history" of Jesus and Christianity        In chapter 6 of the 1999 version of Prentice Hall World History: Connections to Today, the section titled "The Life of Jesus" is nearly identical with "The Life of Jesus" that appeared in the 1997 version. Some small changes in wording are evident here and there, and in two cases the revised wording promotes the process of confusing and misleading naive students. The other changes seem to be arbitrary and inane. "The Life of Jesus" in Prentice Hall World History: Connections to Today is still a gush of trickery, an affront to historical scholarship, and an outrage against history itself.

Fake "history" of Muhammad and Islam        In chapter 11 of the 1999 version, the introductory material and the text of the section titled "Rise of Islam" are identical with the corresponding parts of the 1997 version. Prentice Hall hasn't changed a word and hasn't even bothered to correct the misspelling of Muhammad on page 256. Again, the list of "Content Reviewers" on page iv shows "Shabbir Mansuri, Director, Council on Islamic Education, Fountain Valley, California" and "Susan Douglass, Educational Consultant, Falls Church, Virginia."

Prentice Hall World History: Connections to Today   Prentice Hall   2001

The 2001 version of Prentice Hall World History: Connections to Today shows many cosmetic changes, including new lay-outs, new illustrations, new graphic devices, new titles and headings, and some new pedagogic gimmicks. But the narratives in the 2001 version are essentially the same as the narratives that appeared in the 1999 version.

Fake "history" of Jesus and Christianity        In chapter 6 of the 2001 version, the title of the section about Jesus has been changed from "The Life of Jesus" to "Jesus and His Message." Some new headings and some new bits of text have been added, some old bits of text have been reshuffled, and many of the old paragraphs have undergone trivial, often pointless, changes in wording. These alterations haven't affected the section's message or thrust in any way. The entire section is still an effusion of fundamentalist propaganda, still revolves around efforts to mislead and delude students, and still fails to provide any historical perception of Jesus or the origins of Christian scripture. In short, the entire section is still a fraud.

Fake "history" of Muhammad and Islam        In the 2001 version, chapter 11 is again titled "The Muslim World," but the chapter's introductory text has been replaced by illustrations. The section titled "Rise of Islam" is another performance of the Shabbir & Susan Show, with some insignificant modifications: The misspelling of Muhammad has been corrected, a fake "quotation" has been truncated, some headings have been changed, some sentences have been rewritten or relocated, a picture has been eliminated, and three new pictures have been added. These diddlings count for nothing, and the "Rise of Islam" section in Prentice Hall World History: Connections to Today is still nothing but a platform for the dissemination of Muslim woo-woo and Muslim pseudohistory. Once again, the list of "Content Reviewers" at the front of the book includes Shabbir Mansuri and Susan Douglass. Mansuri is now identified as the "Founding Director" (not merely the "Director") of the Council on Islamic Education. Douglass is again identified as "Educational Consultant, Falls Church, Virginia." Prentice Hall has again failed to disclose Douglass's connection with the CIE.


Human Heritage: A World History   Glencoe/McGraw-Hill   1995

Fake "history" of the ancient Hebrews        In chapter 6, the section titled "The Hebrews" begins with several pages of fake "history" fashioned from Bible tales -- complete with Abraham, Moses and other mythical characters. The text is rotten with evasions, ambiguities and fuzzy locutions, obviously devised to confuse students and to trick them into believing that all the stories in the Hebrew Bible are accounts of real persons and real happenings.

At the same time, conspicuous aberrations demonstrate that the material in "The Hebrews" has been derived not from the Hebrew Bible itself but from the Old Testament -- the mutated version of the Hebrew Bible that forms a part of the Christian Bible. On the third page of "The Hebrews," for example, we find this:

After the Hebrews settled in Egypt, they were enslaved. About 600 years later, Moses, the Hebrew leader at the time, appeared before the pharaoh and told him to end Hebrew enslavement and let the Hebrews leave Egypt. The pharaoh at first refused but later agreed. Moses then led the Hebrews out of Egypt. The pharaoh again changed his mind and led his army in pursuit. According to the Bible, Yahweh [the Hebrews' god] parted the Red Sea to allow the Hebrews to cross and they escaped into the Sinai (si' ni) Desert.

Notice how the writers of "The Hebrews" identify the body of water that Yahweh parted as "the Red Sea," even though the Hebrew Bible provides no such identification. The notion that the Hebrews crossed the Red Sea during their mythical exodus is a Christian fancy that arose from a translator's error and was incorporated, some 400 years ago, into an English rendering of the Old Testament. Since then, it has been repeated and disseminated in countless retellings of Christian lore. Without doubt, the people who wrote "The Hebrews" for Human Heritage: A World History got their version of the exodus legend from the Old Testament or from some popular adaptation of Old Testament material, such as Cecil B. DeMille's film The Ten Commandments. In that film -- which was produced in 1956 and is still shown, year after year, on commercial television -- a narrator says explicitly that Moses and his fellow tribesmen passed through "the Red Sea."

Fake "history" of Jesus and Christianity        In chapter 16 of Human Heritage: A World History, the text about Jesus and the beginnings of Christianity consists almost entirely of stories and fake "facts" derived from the gospels of the New Testament. Even the notion that Jesus was born in Bethlehem is presented as if it were a fact! The Jesus of legend is depicted as a real person, the findings of historians and New Testament scholars are completely ignored, fundamentalist fancies are peddled as information, and students are deceived. For some details, see "Fostering Fundamentalism" in The Textbook Letter, March-April 2000.

Human Heritage: A World History   Glencoe/McGraw-Hill   1999

Fake "history" of the ancient Hebrews        In chapter 6 of the 1999 version of Human Heritage: A World History, the text of the section titled "The Hebrews" is identical with the text that appeared in the 1995 version. It is the same fake "history," word for word.

Fake "history" of Jesus and Christianity        In chapter 16 of the 1999 version, the text about Jesus and the beginnings of Christianity is identical with the text that appeared in the 1995 version.

Human Heritage: A World History   Glencoe/McGraw-Hill   2001

Fake "history" of the ancient Hebrews        In chapter 6 of the 2001 version of Human Heritage: A World History, the section titled "The Hebrews" shows two modifications:

  • In the 1995 and the 1999 versions, the first sentence in the text of "The Hebrews" was this: Like the Phoenicians, the Hebrews were a small group among the peoples of the ancient Middle East.  In the 2001 version, the first sentence has been changed to this: Like the Phoenicians, the Hebrews, or Israelites, were a small group among the peoples of the ancient Middle East.  The new sentence is ignorant and wrong because the words "Hebrews" and "Israelites" are not synonyms. In the Hebrew Bible's Book of Genesis, which is the source of both of those words, "Hebrew" is used only in connection with non-Israelite characters. (See chapter VI of Nahum M. Sarna's book Understanding Genesis: The Heritage of Biblical Israel, issued in 1970 by Schocken Books (New York City).)

  • The fourth page of "The Hebrews" has been embellished with a fraudulent sidebar headlined "People in History." The writer of this sidebar has depicted Moses as a real person and has even presented, as "history," the biblical tale in which the infant Moses floats on the Nile, in a little ark made of papyrus, until he is found by a daughter of the pharaoh (Exodus 2:1-10). The sidebar includes an illustration in which Moses is portrayed (as an adult) with a halo of golden rays around his head. This serves to promote as "history" the biblical claim that "the skin of his face shone" after one of his meetings with Yahweh (Exodus 34:30).

Fake "history" of Jesus and Christianity        In chapter 16 of the 2001 version, the text about Jesus and the beginnings of Christianity is identical with the text that appeared in both the 1995 version and the 1999 version. It has no merit as history, and it can serve only to delude students and to make them embrace fundamentalist doctrines.


World History: Continuity and Change   Holt, Rinehart and Winston   1999

Fake "history" of the ancient Hebrews        In chapter 2, the section titled "The Hebrews" is a splurge of religious preaching and myth-mongering with a Zionist twist. Its only function is to deceive students. For details, see
"Holt's 'Palestine' Stunt" in The Textbook Letter, Volume 12, Number 4.




Middle-school books


A Message of Ancient Days   Houghton Mifflin Company   1999
(This is the first book in a two-book series called Houghton Mifflin
Social Studies.
The series was developed for sale in California.)

Fake "history" of Jesus and Christianity        In chapter 10 of A Message of Ancient Days, students find a message of fundamentalist claptrap. In a long section titled "The Life of Jesus," New Testament stories are presented as if they were items of history, the Jesus of legend is depicted as a real person, the distinction between the Jesus of history and the Jesus of legend is rigorously concealed, and historical scholarship is entirely ignored. The section is a fraud from beginning to end.

Like many other displays of fundamentalist propaganda, Houghton Mifflin's material contains deceitful claims that have been contrived to hide the New Testament's internal contradictions and other absurdities. For example:

Here is another grossly deceitful item from Houghton Mifflin's text: "The Gospels say that after his crucifixion Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to his disciples. This event [sic] is called the Resurrection. It convinced the disciples that Jesus was the Son of God."     And now here are the essential facts that students need to know about the resurrection stories in the gospels of the New Testament: The early Christians had many stories in which Jesus, after his death, visited people who had been his friends during the last years of his life. Such stories existed before the New Testament was assembled. Some Christians took the stories literally, so they concluded that the dead Jesus had experienced a physical resurrection and had become a living man again. Other Christians, however, rejected this literalism and asserted that the resurrection stories were metaphorical, or were products of illusions, or were fictions that reflected theological misconceptions. Those conflicting views engendered a political battle that split the Christian church apart during the 2nd century. The battle was won, eventually, by the literalists. The literalists took control of the church, installed their beliefs as orthodoxies, and proceeded to canonize certain narratives which stated flatly that Jesus had risen from the dead and then had appeared to some of his followers. By the way: The earliest specimens of the Gospel of St. Mark have no stories in which Jesus makes post mortem appearances. The canonical Gospel of St. Mark that we read in the New Testament is a later version, rigged to include episodes in which Jesus makes some post mortem visitations and issues some instructions and prophecies.

Students should also learn that narratives pertaining to Jesus's resurrection appear not only in the four canonical gospels but also in another unit of the New Testament, St. Paul's first letter to the Corinthians. And students should know that the resurrection stories in the canonical gospels are inconsistent with each other and are grossly different from the claims made in Paul's letter.

The fundamentalist preachers who wrote Houghton Mifflin's section about "The Life of Jesus" have continually used distortion, selective omission, weaseling, and outright lying to delude and indoctrinate students. As I have said, the section is a fraud from beginning to end.

A Message of Ancient Days   Houghton Mifflin Company   2003

Fake "history" of Jesus and Christianity        In the 2003 version of A Message of Ancient Days, the section titled "The Life of Jesus" is identical with "The Life of Jesus" that appeared in the 1999 version. It is the same fraud, word for word.


Across the Centuries   Houghton Mifflin Company   1994
(This is the second book in a two-book series called Houghton Mifflin
Social Studies.
The series was developed for sale in California.)

Fake "history" of Muhammad and Islam        Chapter 3 of Across the Centuries is called "The Roots of Islam." The chapter's first lesson, which bears the puzzling title "Desert Bloom -- Caravan Cities," purports to tell about Arabia in AD 500. The second lesson is called "Muhammad and Islam," and it begins thus:

Each year a Meccan trader named Muhammad would spend a month in quiet thought while inside a desert cave. In the year A.D. 610, something extraordinary occurred. The Koran, believed by Muhammad's followers to be the written record of God's words, retells that event.

Muhammad was awakened one night by a thunderous voice that seemed to come from everywhere, . . . .

What Houghton Mifflin's writers are trying to peddle as an "event" is Muslim woo-woo. The tale of how Muhammad met the angel Gabriel in a cave is a Muslim myth, not history, and it doesn't appear in the Koran. These writers haven't looked at the Koran.

As the "Muhammad and Islam" lesson continues, students read more and more pseudohistorical passages that endorse Muslim religious claims -- claims which Houghton Mifflin's writers evidently have found in a handout produced by a Muslim propaganda agency.

Sometimes the writers explicitly present these claims as facts. Here, for example, is what they say about the origins of the Koran: Muhammad's revelations [sic!] occurred from 610 until his death in 632. Although he left no written record of his experiences, his followers remembered his words. In 633, Muhammad's chief clerk began to gather the revelations into one collection, the Koran.   Those statements are Muslim fancies. In truth, the origins of the Koran are unknown. Scholars haven't been able to establish when the Koran's various parts were written, or who wrote them, or how many versions were written and rewritten before the final, canonical Koran was assembled.

In other cases, Houghton Mifflin's writers present religious notions as things that "Muhammad's followers believe" or that "Muslims believe" -- but in no case do they tell whether anything that Muslims believe is or isn't supported by evidence. The writers consistently refuse to distinguish legends from historical knowledge, or to segregate empty claims from historical facts, and it is quite clear that they are seeking to mislead students, to bamboozle them, and to indoctrinate them.

Across the Centuries   Houghton Mifflin Company   1999

Fake "history" of Muhammad and Islam        Though the 1994 version of Across the Centuries contained a lot of Muslim religious propaganda, there was nothing to suggest where the propaganda had originated. The lists of "Authors," "Consultants" and "Teacher Reviewers" at the front of the book didn't show anyone who was connected with a Muslim pressure group.

The 1999 version, too, is loaded with Muslim propaganda, but now the source of the propaganda seems clear. In the 1999 version, the array of "Consultants" listed on page iv includes: "Shabbir Mansuri, Founding Director, Council on Islamic Education, Fountain Valley, California." That item is significant but not surprising. The CIE is a conspicuous Muslim outfit that evidently specializes in inducing schoolbook-writers to sanitize and eulogize Islam, to retail Muslim religious claims as facts, to retail Muslim woo-woo as history, and to depict Islam as an amicable religion that resembles, and is compatible with, Judaism and Christianity. I have seen the CIE's name and Shabbir Mansuri's name in (for example) Prentice Hall World History: Connections to Today, a high-school text that brazenly promotes Islam by disseminating falsehoods, pseudohistorical woo-woo, and gross distortions.

In the 1999 version of Across the Centuries as in the 1994 version, the lesson called "Muhammad and Islam" is a fraud: Again, pivotal features of Islam are falsified, Muslim myths are put forth as accounts of history, and Muslim superstitions are depicted as facts. Even so, some modifications are discernible. The myth of Muhammad in the cave is again presented as history, but it no longer is ascribed to the Koran. The fiction about the origins of the Koran has been revised, so students now read that Muhammad's utterances were collected before, not after, his death. And most importantly, some brand-new lumps of woo-woo, disguised as historical information, have been added to the lesson's text. For example: Students now learn, as a fact, that angelic "revelations" showed Muhammad to be the last messenger "sent by God."

All in all, the 1999 "Muhammad and Islam" lesson displays considerably more falsity and deceit, and delivers more religious indoctrination, than did the 1994 lesson. These advances, I infer, can be attributed to Shabbir Mansuri and the CIE.

For a longer, analytical description of the 1999 lesson, see "Houghton Mifflin's Islamic Connection."

Manifestly, the use of Across the Centuries in a public school would be a violation of the First Amendment to the Constitution.

Across the Centuries   Houghton Mifflin Company   2003

Fake "history" of Muhammad and Islam        In chapter 3 of the 2003 version of Across the Centuries, the lesson titled "Muhammad and Islam" is identical with the lesson that appeared in the 1999 version. Every lie and every distortion has been reprinted, word for word. Houghton Mifflin continues to mock the Constitution and continues to preach Islam to students.


Making Thirteen Colonies   Oxford University Press   1999

Making Thirteen Colonies is Book 2 of A History of US -- a series of eleven small books, published by Oxford University Press, that purport to describe American history. Oxford promotes and sells them as schoolbooks, for use in the higher elementary-school grades and in middle schools. In each of the first ten books, the author shown on the title page is Joy Hakim. The eleventh book is anonymous.

On pages 9 and 10 of Making Thirteen Colonies, Hakim inflicts upon students a long passage in which she tells, and depicts as matters of historical fact, stories that involve Abraham, Moses and other biblical characters. None of the stories has any historical respectability or validity, and some of the stories have been directly discredited by the findings of historians and biblical scholars.

Hakim's stunt is especially brazen because tales about Abraham and Moses don't have anything to do with the history of America -- nor does Hakim try to demonstrate any justification for including such tales in her book. She has simply decided to use Making Thirteen Colonies as a platform for promoting her personal religious beliefs.

Most of the beliefs that she promotes are obviously based on stories in the Book of Genesis and the Book of Exodus, but she has misread (or misremembered) some of those stories and has botched them badly. She also has conflated some of the stories with extrabiblical inventions -- i.e., with notions that involve biblical figures but cannot be derived directly from any biblical text.

For a detailed analysis of Hakim's religious preaching, see Earl Hautala's article "Textbook-Writers Promote Religious Tales as 'History' " in The Textbook Letter, March-April 2000. As Hautala remarks at the end of his analysis, there is no place for Making Thirteen Colonies in any public school.


Ancient World   McGraw-Hill School Division   1999

Fake "history" of Jesus and Christianity        In chapter 15 of Ancient World, the lesson titled "The Beginnings of Christianity" is a pseudohistorical hoax: McGraw-Hill's writers falsify the early history of Christianity, depict the Jesus of the New Testament as a real person, and falsify the origins, the nature, and the content of Christian scripture. The hoax has two tiers. One tier consists of religious fictions and religious propaganda derived from stories in the New Testament's gospels. The second tier comprises fictions which the McGraw-Hill writers themselves have invented -- fictions which directly contradict the gospels but (presumably) can help to promote sales of Ancient World. For example: The writers have spurned all the gospel narratives in which Jesus is arrested, tried and condemned to death, and they have substituted their own ridiculous account of Jesus's end. They even have stuck into Jesus's mouth a set of dying words that (presumably) have more pizazz and more commercial appeal than the dying words that are ascribed to Jesus in Matthew, Mark, Luke or John! As the writers hop back and forth between promoting gospel tales as history and then scorning the gospels outright, they remind us that, in the schoolbook industry, nothing is sacred but the almighty buck. For a detailed analysis, see "Nothing Is Sacred but the Almighty Buck" in The Textbook Letter, March-April 2000.


This page was updated in May 2003 to include information about
Holt, Rinehart and Winston's World History: Continuity and Change.


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 often about the propagation of quackery, false "science" and false "history" in schoolbooks.

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