“BE careful about reading health books,” Mark Twain joked. “You may die of a misprint.” But Twain never heard of Filipino kids handcuffed to error-studded textbooks.

German national Helmut Haas teaches English in Cebu. In 1997, Haas denounced such flawed texts. Rep. Raul del Mar led a congressional inquiry. Thirteen years later, Haas discovered multiple errors persisting, Sun.Star reported.

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Read samples sifted by Haas from his Grade 6 son’s book for music, arts and physical education. “Astronomers used their naked eyes to observe heavenly bodies.” Or: “dribble the ball while walking with one hand in different directions.”

“By law, writers of this book should be taken out and hung for the cold-blooded murder of the English tongue,” Haas snapped. That’s from Henry Higgins in the Broadway play “My Fair Lady.”

Antonio Calipjo Go wages the same uphill battle in Manila. For 15 years, the Miriam School supervisor has been harassed for tilting against the lucrative trade of flawed books.

Go skewered “English For You and Me,” a text for Grade III kids. Page 11: “Let the pupils do the action as what they think the characters will do.” Page 25: “Ants have long hairs on their front legs. They use their hair like a brush.”

Recently, Go strafed errors in “Biology” for second year high school students. The National Institute for Science and Mathematics Education Development first published the book 20 years ago.

Four editions later, it hasn’t been updated. It cites UN data on world population in year 2000 at 6.4 billion, for instance. The world’s population now stands at 6.822 billion. Thus, the difference is 442 million.

The book contains many factual errors. Page 328: “Two endemic orchid species, kapa-kapa (Medinilla magnifica) and waling-waling (Vanda sanderiana) are endangered.” Even unschooled plant gatherers from Mt. Banahaw know that medinillas, by their very form and structure, are not orchids but shrubs,” Go wrote.

The errors go on and on, from anteaters of Australia to octopuses. "But the real tragedy is…two windows of opportunity were opened to replace this book after 20 years by a better one. Those prospects were frittered away.”

In 2008, the Department of Education spent P1.77 billion for books. For all that, no new textbook in high school science from first to fourth year has been published. “What we see are new reprints of old textbooks…So, “where did all the money go?” Go asked.

Falsification of history is another problem. Joel Sarmenta and Melvin Yabut of University of Asia and the Pacific documented how some textbooks paper over militarization of Philippine society and human rights violation under martial law.

These books, funded by taxpayers, denigrate dissidents. Massive corruption is ignored. They regurgitate the dictatorship’s claim that martial law was “the only way to save democracy.”

“It should not surprise us to see that young people today are so apathetic about the struggle for democracy,” historian Ambeth Ocampo has written. “Martial law textbooks continue to miseducate."

In “Ten Ways to Fix Philippine Basic Education,” President Benigno Aquino III stressed: “Poor quality textbooks have no place in our schools. I will not tolerate poor textbook quality. Textbooks will be judged by three criteria: quality, better quality, and more quality.”

”Books are the carriers of civilization,” historian Barbara Tuchman insisted. “Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation silenced.”