Historians Find Myriad Errors In VA History Textbooks

December 30, 2010 3:30 a.m.

Surprise, surprise, historians have found glaring errors in a textbook claiming that African Americans fought in large numbers for the South during the Civil War.

A number of additional errors have been found in other textbooks being used in some Virginia classrooms, since the state ordered a review of the books, the Washington Post reports.

Among the textbooks’ errors are claims that the Confederacy included 12 states and the U.S. entered World War I in 1916. Five professional scholars reviewed the books, with three of them finding “disturbing” results. State officials are scheduled to meet January 10 to review the results.

“I absolutely could not believe the number of mistakes — wrong dates and wrong facts everywhere. How in the world did these books get approved?” said Ronald Heinemann, a former history professor at Hampden-Sydney College who reviewed “Our Virginia: Past and Present.” The other book mentioned in the report was “Our America: To 1865.”Heinemann added that the book “should be withdrawn from the classroom immediately, or at least by the end of the year.”

Five Ponds Press, a small publisher in Connecticut, is responsible for the books in question. The Post reports that the publisher e-mailed to say the “historians’ critiques,” as the Post put it, will be included in the books’ next printing.

The Post first reported the errors back in October. The author, Joy Masoff, defended her work, telling the Post, “As controversial as it is, I stand by what I write. I am a fairly respected writer.” But when it came to one of the Civil War’s most controversial themes — the role of African Americans in the Confederacy — she relied primarily on an Internet search, according to the report. And the results were based on the work of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, a neo-confederate group based in Tennessee.

Masoff’s other literary achievements include “Oh Yuck! The Encyclopedia of Everything Nasty” and “Oh Yikes! History’s Grossest Moments.”

Virginia’s Department of Education requires textbooks to fulfill certain “Standards of Learning” goals, including making sure history standards provide “a basic knowledge of American culture through a chronological survey of major issues, movements, peoples, and events in the United States and Virginia history.”

The state’s Standards of Learning disqualifies many textbooks produced for a national market from being used, leaving Five Ponds Press in a unique position of providing several books for the state. Five Ponds’ books are reportedly less expensive than its competitors, too.

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