December 10, 2014
Ms. Kyle Good
Senior Vice President, Corporate Communications and Media Relations
New York, NY 10012
Dear Ms. Good:
I write on behalf of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), the oldest and one of the largest pro-Israel organizations in the U.S. Much of the ZOA’s work is dedicated to combating anti-Semitism and anti-Israel bias and false propaganda in schools, in textbooks and in the media. We were troubled to learn that Scholastic published and distributed a children’s book called Thea Stilton and the Blue Scarab Hunt, a title in the Geronimo Stilton children’s series. The book, initially published in Italy and translated into English by Scholastic, included a map of modern Egypt and its neighboring countries. But Israel was not depicted on the map; it was completely covered by Jordan.
On November 13th, you posted on the Scholastic blog that the map in this children’s book “inadvertently omits Israel.” You also represented that Scholastic was immediately stopping shipment of this book, revising the map, and reprinting the book with a corrected map.
These are the right steps to take, but we believe more needs to be done, for the sake of the families, teachers and schools around the country who rely on Scholastic for high quality books and educational materials. Indeed, when I headed the Parents’ Association at my children’s school, I decided, with the approval of our school administration, to partner with Scholastic on our annual book fair, because of the company’s reputation for excellence. Scholastic itself appreciates the scope of its influence and the extent to which schools, teachers, parents and students rely on the integrity and accuracy of Scholastic’s products: Your website notes that Scholastic products are in more than 90% of schools in the U.S., and that more than half of the teachers in the U.S. have an active account with Scholastic.
To have translated, published and disseminated a book containing a map of the Middle East that omits the State of Israel is a material error. Even if the omission was unintentional, it unfortunately reflects gross negligence on the part of Scholastic to have published the book without first having discovered the error and correcting it. To restore the public’s confidence in Scholastic’s products, we recommend the following:
- Investigate how the inaccurate map made its way into this children’s book in the first place. Was it the doing of the author of the book? The illustrator? The Italian publisher? Moreover, why was Israel omitted from the map? You posted that the omission was “inadvertent,” but that is frankly difficult to believe. Even if it was inadvertent, the omission reflects unacceptable sloppiness and a lack of attention to critical detail. From the many comments on the Scholastic blog, consumers want answers to how this omission occurred and why, and surely Scholastic wants those answers, too.
- Until the investigation is completed and those responsible for the omission are identified, Scholastic should suspend it relationships with the author of the book, the illustrator and the Italian publisher, and let them know why the suspension decision was made.
- Once the investigation is completed, Scholastic should terminate its relationship with the party or parties responsible for omitting Israel from the map in the book. It does not matter whether the omission was intentional or not. Either the responsible party bore an unacceptable anti-Semitic animus toward Israel, or the party was inexcusably negligent. In either case, the responsible party’s actions should be unacceptable to Scholastic, whose reputation depends on maintaining the trust of schools, teachers and families in the accuracy and quality of Scholastic products.
- Review the competence and experience of the editors and proofreaders employed by Scholastic, and if necessary, replace them with individuals fully capable of picking up errors and omissions in Scholastic materials before they are published and disseminated. We were troubled to learn from media reports (see http://www.timesofisrael.com/scholastic-book-that-erased-israel-edited-by-interns/) that Scholastic’s proofreaders are interns, not full-time staff, and that they lack the background and expertise to verify the accuracy of Scholastic’s materials. It should go without saying that Scholastic must employ editors and proofreaders with knowledge, competence and careful attention to detail. Families, teachers and schools are depending on it.
- Determine where Scholastic sold the book that omitted Israel, inform the purchasers that the book is inaccurate and why, and immediately issue replacement books to those purchasers once the correction is made.
- Conduct a thorough review of other books that have been published by Scholastic – certainly by this same author, illustrator, and Italian publisher – to verify that the books are completely accurate.
- Issue a public statement that the above steps are being taken, together with a public apology. Schools, teachers, students and their families around the U.S. rely on Scholastic as an educational partner. They need to know that Scholastic takes full responsibility for this incident and is committed to fixing it and ensuring that it does not recur.
Thank you. We look forward to your response.
Very truly yours,
Susan B. Tuchman