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Inaccurate stories removed from textbook

By Zhao Xinying | China Daily | Updated: 2017-03-23 07:18

Controversial parts of a textbook for primary school students, including a story about Thomas Edison saving his mother, will be removed from a new edition for the autumn semester, according to its publishers.

A Chinese-language textbook for Grade 2 students includes a story that Edison's mother needed surgery for appendicitis, but light in the operating room was too dim, so the inventor - only 7 years old at the time - came up with the idea of placing mirrors near an oil lamp to better illuminate the room.

Some teachers complained that the text is incorrect, as the world's first appendectomy is widely believed to have been carried out in 1886, while Edison would have been 7 in 1854.

Zhang Min, the principal of Hangzhou Foreign Language Experimental School, said he was "astonished to see the text" and called for a revision.

Inaccurate stories removed from textbook

The Edison story is not an isolated case. Another piece in the same book tells the story of a young George Washington, the first president of the United States, cutting down a cherry tree, despite archaeological evidence showing there were no cherry trees near the house Washington lived in as a child.

People's Education Press, which publishes a series of school textbooks, told China News Service on Wednesday that these sections had been removed for a new edition that will be used in classrooms from September.

Wang Xuming, director of the Language and Culture Press, another major publisher, said some basic criteria - for example, respecting the truth of history and accuracy - should be followed when selecting content for textbooks.

"In the meantime, I think students could be encouraged to challenge the content of textbooks," he said.

People's Education Press said earlier in an online statement that the Edison story first appeared in Chinese publications in the 1980s and was chosen as a text for primary school textbooks in 2002.

"People at that time already questioned it. We inquired with some experts, but their views were divided," the statement said. "Due to the recent controversy, we are asking more experts for suggestions."

The publisher also said the Ministry of Education paid great attention to school textbooks and had organized a group of prominent experts to compile new Chinese-language textbooks since 2012.

The current textbooks will gradually be replaced, it said, adding, "We will be more attentive and will invite experts to help double-check the content to prevent mistakes."

(China Daily 03/23/2017 page4)

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