A Weber State University official and two student broadcasters are helping spur an effort to bring millions of western English textbooks into Lithuania.
Marie Kotter, student services vice president, said a fourth-grade English text being used in Lithuania is an example of distorted information that Lithuanians have been getting about America.The book, published in 1981, contains one passage that describes an American black boy named "Sam" as someone who lives in a box in a park and is not allowed to go to school.
Meanwhile, his Soviet counterpart, a schoolgirl named Laima, is shown living in a big house with a big yard and garden and with a room of her own.
Kotter and two WSU broadcasting students, Gary Toyn and Brad Wilson, were given the book during a visit to Lithuania last month.
"The book came from a family they stayed with and was one of the textbooks their young son had used," Kotter said.
The Lithuanian trip by the WSU representatives was sparked by Toyn's interest in providing textbooks to former Soviet-bloc countries.
Toward that goal, he made a trip in August to Europe and put together a video presentation on the need for unbiased textbooks.
When he returned home, he showed the video to textbook publishers and asked them to donate unpurchased new publishings. He also got other schools involved through the National Association of College Broadcasters.
"So far, some 4 million textbooks have been pledged . . . and a first shipment of 500,000 has gone out," Toyn said.
During his efforts, Toyn came into contact with Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas, Lithuania. The school is the only private educational institution in the Soviet Union, he said.
Weber State now is in the process of becoming a sister university to the Lithuanian institute.
Kotter, Toyn and Brad Wilson, manager of the college's radio station, visited the school in December, taking with them a computer and a huge greeting card from WSU students.
The computer, which WSU students put together from spare parts at the school, is "pure gold to them. It's equivalent in value to three years of salary for Vytautas' president," Toyn said.