Allan Winkler: It's His name on the Cover of the Textbook

Historians in the News

[The writer is a former executive editor in the textbook divisions of Harcourt Brace Jovanovich and Holt, Rinehart & Winston.]

To the Editor:

Re “Schoolbooks Are Given F’s in Originality” (front page, July 13):

Similarities between two history texts are not, as Wendy Spiegel, a spokeswoman for the textbook publisher Pearson Prentice Hall, maintains, “absolutely an aberration” — as a more extensive examination of texts in any field would verify.

Prof. Allan Winkler, a co-author of “America: Pathways to the Present,” says the words in question are not his, and surely they aren’t; they are the words — and probably many of the ideas — of the generic “contributors” who wrote the book and who would have slanted it to meet the market demands and so made it a success.

But it is the professor’s name that appears on the cover; it is the professor who is widely regarded as the author. The same author who accepted responsibility for the words that brought him royalty checks cannot now absolve himself of responsibility for the words that now bring him embarrassment.

Alice M. Sohn
Pensacola, Fla., July 14, 2006

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