As part of a story about the larger “textbook trauma” in Macedonia, there was this interesting tidbit:
Widespread mistakes in Macedonian textbooks came to light last year when journalists wrote about an error-riddled sociology text for fifth-graders. The scandal resulted in the recall of that book and a massive, ongoing review of all of the country’s textbooks. Corrections and new books have still not been released, and in the meantime teachers and parents are essentially on their own to police the existing books…
In the case of the sociology textbook that started the controversy, the government spent 1 million denars ($22,000) to withdraw and replace a reported 15,400 copies. Among its shortcomings: listing popular entertainers alongside venerated names as lights of Macedonian culture; two visual depictions of the prophet Muhammad; no listing of Catholicism among the country’s faiths; contradictory estimates on the percentage of the population that is Muslim; and mistaken depictions of the flags of Macedonia and Kosovo.
The Education Ministry has sued the book’s panel of reviewers for the cost of pulping and replacing it.
The sociology book that took its place states, mistakenly, that Greece has a coastline along the Adriatic Sea.
The fact that textbooks contain errors is not surprising: sociologist James Louwen pointed some key American examples in Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong. But these errors seem quite problematic for an area of the world where there is a (tenuous?) blend of cultures and countries.
What is more interesting to me is that fifth-graders in Macedonia have sociology textbooks. Perhaps these books are similar to geography or history books but having sociology in the schools at younger ages sounds great. Students should learn about their own culture and society as well as think about how it differs from other societies. Perhaps they don’t need sociological theory at that point (Weber and Durkheim for fifth-graders?) but this could be a good start.