Hundreds of millions of new elementary textbooks across Mexico have the kinds of errors that they are supposed to be learning not to make — words written with a "c'' instead of an "s," too many commas, not enough accents and at least one city located in the wrong state.
The foul-up is becoming a national embarrassment in the midst of a planned government overhaul of Mexico's much criticized school system. Teachers are being given a list of the errors so they can try to manually correct at least 117 mistakes that the Education Department has acknowledged it found only after 235 million elementary textbooks were being printed.
"It's unfortunate these things happen with the children's textbooks," said Consuelo Mendoza, president of the national parent teachers association. "We are talking about the education of millions of children."
Education Secretary Emilio Chuayffet has called the errors "unforgivable," but he blames Mexico's previous administration for the stumble. He says he was faced with the predicament of choosing between stopping the printing of flawed textbooks so they could be corrected and making sure the country's 26 million school children had textbooks at the start of classes.
Earlier this month, Chuayffet pledged to investigate to find out who was responsible. He also gave the Mexican Academy of Language the task of reviewing textbooks so future editions won't have such errors.
"How are we going to nurture minds with grammatical mistakes?" he said when he signed an agreement with the academy.
While Chuayffet has called the slipups inexcusable, his department has been less than transparent about the problem, failing to release the list of the errors to the public or even to the language academy members.
The news blog Animal Politico did an independent review and found that words are misspelled in the Spanish textbook and accents forgotten or misplaced. A geography text wrongly puts the Caribbean resort city of Tulum in the state of Yucatan instead of Quintana Roo, it said.
Freelance editors who get paid less than $250 a month missed the errors in the new texts, commission head Joaquin Diez-Canedo said.