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Posted at 9:09 PM ET, 01/ 5/2011

Where the Va. textbook flap is leading

By John Hoven, Silver Spring

Textbook follies” was an apt headline for your Jan. 2 editorial. The “dozens of errors” in a Virginia social studies textbook are factual trivia that only a nincompoop teacher would ask students to learn.

The textbook is being excoriated not for that but for the racially inflammatory claim that thousands of black soldiers fought for the South during the Civil War.

The “remedy” is a tighter state review process that will aggravate the extreme aversion to controversy in social studies textbooks and ensure that students learn even less. The Post should be embarrassed by its coverage of this story.

By John Hoven, Silver Spring  | January 5, 2011; 9:09 PM ET
Categories:  Virginia, education, history, schools  
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The real scandal is not that mistakes get into textbooks, but rather that Gilt-edged Fairfax County would access textbooks on the "Cheap".
I am curious, whether manageably-small though still-pricey Falls Church School District took delivery on this flawed elementary school reference book.
I pay property taxes in Fairfax, and more and more I wonder why.
As a bureaucrat myself, i suggest that Ffx. should return the books, post unpaid to the publisher; and sue for the profit margin on this half-fast product.
The kids could do an equally good job of researching the subject matter, on the Net.

Posted by: johnsonme4 | January 6, 2011 4:33 AM | Report abuse

So facts--and facts in textbooks, no less--are to be labeled as trivia. This, from an adult human being who, presumably, can tie his shoelace.

And we ponder why our educational system is in crisis.

Posted by: tbarksdl | January 6, 2011 5:01 AM | Report abuse

Leaving aside the slur, "nincompoop", the equation of facts with "trivia", misreads the seriousness of the textbook's claims.

The deliberate use of history to justify actions in the present makes claims about black soldiers in the Confederate army dangerous. Far from being loyal "darkies" who wanted to defend their "masters", many black men joined the Union troops. Whole regiments were created that consisted of African-American soldiers. There were indeed black conscripts in the CSA but the majority of these were "slave laborers" and not for any reason given guns.

Virginia's history is America's history in many ways and that makes it so contentious.
Most textbooks gloss over important but poliitically inconvenient facts, such as slave-ownership by Franklin, Washington, Jefferson, Patrick Henry, etc. The clause in the draft of the Declaration berating the Hanoverian King for his role in importing slaves, is also seldom mentioned.

As for the remedy, it's interesting that a states rights advocate would see education and even propaganda in the schools as Virginia's business:

"Virginia can figure out how to solve this problem fairly easily without the undue influence of outsiders who would actually be thrilled to rewrite Virginia's history to be more egregiously incorrect but certainly politically correct."

Virginia is part of the US and people from across statelines, not to mention those who were born further away, are also affected by decisions made by the misguided and willfully ignorant.

Chris Brown in Hamburg

Posted by: chrisbrown12 | January 6, 2011 5:58 AM | Report abuse

Trivia would be whether someone rode his horse at 9am or 10am. Somehow, why the Civil War started and who fought in it does not strike me as 'trivia'.

Posted by: AMviennaVA | January 6, 2011 8:05 AM | Report abuse

Dates are not trivia. I've taught kids who couldn't place Washington, Lincoln and FDR in sequence and had no idea of the significance of 1776.

Posted by: Philly33 | January 6, 2011 9:07 AM | Report abuse

What happened, Philly33, after you taught them? Did they go out and vote for Obama?

Posted by: quiensabe | January 6, 2011 10:13 AM | Report abuse

Thanks, quiensabe. I was wondering if people like you would make this letter about Obama. I should have known.

Posted by: wmwilliams14 | January 6, 2011 10:40 AM | Report abuse

John Hoven, Silver Spring is a nincompoop

The issue is an amateur non-historian internet peruser wrote a history text book and apparently no one competent read it before the State approved its use in the classroom.

Posted by: malcolmyoung1 | January 6, 2011 10:43 AM | Report abuse

You're welcome, wmwilliams14.

Posted by: quiensabe | January 6, 2011 11:10 AM | Report abuse

What happened, Philly33, after you taught them? Did they go out and vote for Obama?
Posted by: quiensabe
congratulations - most asinine post today

Posted by: overed | January 6, 2011 3:30 PM | Report abuse

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