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History textbook inaccuracies

9:46 PM, Dec 29, 2010   |    comments
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CNN -- It's a textbook case of getting it wrong. A Virginia elementary school textbook will soon be history after a college professor and parent, caught more than one mistake in it.

Turns out the errors she spotted were not the only ones. Some of the glaring errors had to do with African-Americans and the Civil War.

"The United States entered World War I in 1916." Wrong - it was 1917.

"There were 12 confederate states." Also wrong - actually, there were 11.

"In 1800, New Orleans was a U.S. port." Wrong yet again - the port of New Orleans was still under Spanish control at the time.

These and dozens of other errors can be found in the textbook handed out to thousands of Virginia fourth graders. Problems with the book 'Our Virginia: Past and Present', published by Five Ponds Press, first surfaced last October, as reported by the Washington Post, when the mother of one student, a college history professor, spotted several lines on page 122.

"It was particularly jarring when I got to this one passage that was so at odds with what historians have been saying about who participated in the Civil War," said William & Mary Professor Carol Sheriff, a parent of one student.

The book says thousands of southern blacks fought in the confederate ranks, something not supported by mainstream Civil War scholarship. But it's the next line that's just plain wrong: "including two black battalions under the command of Stonewall Jackson." The textbook actually, does note that it wasn't 'til 1865 that African-Americans could legally serve in the confederate army. It also tells children that Stonewall Jackson died in 1863.

The error about blacks serving in the confederate army was outrageous to many in academia.

"It is the equivalent of Holocaust denial being taught in the public schools. But worse, it's also equivalent to saying the Jews helped the Holocaust," Sheriff said.

The textbook's author, who is not a historian, said she found the information while researching on line. The publisher defended the author saying she used real books as well.

"I don't think the author could necessarily be accused of being stupid and doing Internet-only research," said Jeremy Mayer, George Mason University.

Due to the outcry, the Virginia Board of Education hired five historians to review the textbook in November. They were the ones who found the dozens more mistakes or misrepresentations, leading one to ask, "How in the world did these books get approved?" He recommended they be pulled from the classroom immediately.

As to who selected the books in the first place, that is actually done by the individual school districts in Virginia that are now using the books. To fix that problem of the wrong information regarding blacks serving in the confederacy the publisher came up with this idea: stickers. Meaning the right information would be placed over the wrong information.

The problem is now there are so many errors in the textbook everyone agrees that they don't have enough stickers. The publisher says the second edition of the book will correct everything. But those school districts with the first edition, they are going to be meeting after the first of the year to determine what to do.

CNN

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