How Textbooks Mislead Teachers

Published March 1, 1998

Dr. Michael Sanera gives the following examples of how environmental teaching texts used in university-level courses in Wisconsin provide misleading information to prospective teachers about various environmental issues.

Incomplete on Acid Rain

  • The discussion of acid rain is incomplete in the Prentice Hall textbook, Physical Geography: A Landscape Appreciation, which boldly states that acid rain “is the major culprit in forest diebacks currently taking place on every continent except Antarctica.” No mention is made of the ten-year-long, half-billion-dollar National Acid Precipitation Project, which found little evidence of forest damage from acid rain and concluded that measured levels of acid rain are not a major environmental hazard.

One-Sided on Global Warming

  • A one-sided discussion of global warming is presented in the Wadsworth Publishing Co. textbook, Environmental Science: Working with the Earth, which makes no mention of satellite data that show no warming has taken place since 1979, and that most warming over the past 100 years occurred before WWII. This text also has been criticized by scientists and economists of the Independent Commission of Environmental Education.

Unbalanced on Species Extinction

  • The discussion of species extinction is scientifically unbalanced in the William C. Brown Publishers text, Environmental Science: A Global Concern, where extinction rates are based on disputed research done on islands. The island theory is “useless for explaining and predicting actual cases,” according to Professor L.B. Slobodkin of the State University of New York at Stony Brook, but the text makes no mention of the scientific controversy.