Wed | Dec 12, 2018

Misinformation in social studies workbook

Published:Monday | July 23, 2018 | 12:00 AM


The New Integrated Approach Social Studies Workbook 5 by Powell, Scott and Taylor, published by PST Central Publishers, revised 2017, begins with a focus question on Page 6:

"How do we describe the reasons for the coming of the different ethnic groups to the region?" After the question comes the following misinformation:

"The people who lived in the Caribbean before Christopher Columbus were first called pre-Columbian people. The Incas, Aztecs and Mayas were the first to arrive. Then came the Caribs and the Arawaks. ... Some of the ethnic groups were nomads and so they wandered from one place to another in search of food and water. Others came to the region seeking freedom, work, wealth and on a whole a better way of life."

There is no mention of the Tainos, whom grade five students studied in detail in grade four. No Incas, Aztecs or Mayas came to the Caribbean in pre-Columbian times, while the Arawaks remained on the South American mainland. In the glossary, Tainos are defined as "an indigenous Arawak tribe that lived in the Americas before Columbus arrived".

Research has shown that Tainos were not Arawaks, although the two groups had common ancestry.

Each year of the social studies curriculum for grades four to nine requires children to:

"Recognise the contribution of individuals and groups who have helped to shape Jamaica's development over time."

In grade four, they were asked, "Who were the original inhabitants of Jamaica? (a) The Tainos."

In grade five, the question is: "Why did the Europeans and Africans come to the Caribbean?" Teachers could make sure the children remembered what they had learnt about the Tainos before embarking on the grade-five question.


There is, therefore, absolutely no reason why the workbook should be mentioning pre-Columbian people at all.

One of the goals of the New Standard Curriculum is to encourage students to become critical thinkers as opposed to rote learners. However, fabricating facts to put in a workbook will cause only confusion in the minds of the students.

I have written to the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information to suggest that school principals be alerted to the misinformation and that the publishers correct it. If they do not do so, this book should not be a recommended text for the 2019-20 school year.