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McDonnell orders review of Virginia textbook adoption process

Rosalind Helderman

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) said Tuesday that he has ordered a full review of the state's textbook adoption process, in the wake of the discovery that a three-teacher state panel approved a history book for fourth-graders that includes a claim that thousands of African-Americans fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War.

Professional historians have said the claim--which the author of "Our Virginia: Past and Present" has said she found using Internet resources largely written by the Sons of Confederate Veterans--is not accurate.

In his first public comments on the textbook situation, McDonnell said on WTOP's Ask the Governor radio program that he was "very disappointed" to learn of the situation. He called the claim an "error" that is "outside the historical mainstream."

McDonnell's comments are particularly notable because he was the subject of national scrutiny after issuing a proclamation in honor of Confederate History Month in April that failed to mention slavery. McDonnell quickly apologized and amended the proclamation to refer to the abomination of slavery. This fall, he delivered an impassioned speech calling for racial reconciliation and promised that next April he will issue a broader Civil War commemoration proclamation instead of one honoring the Confederacy.

He noted that the textbook publisher has distributed stickers to teachers to cover up the inaccurate section of the book. He said teachers have said they like the remainder of the book but that the text should not have been approved for use in Virginia classrooms given the passage.

Now, he said, the Virginia Department of Education is doing a comprehensive review of its textbook adoption process. He said he was concerned that the book was reviewed by just three elementary school teachers, indicating more input may be needed in the process.

"I've directed my secretary of education to find out how that happened," he said. "I'm looking at not only what happened here, but also the entire process. I'm very disappointed that this error occurred. We fixed that one right away, and now we're looking at whether the process should be improved."

By Rosalind Helderman  | October 26, 2010; 11:15 AM ET
Categories:  Robert F. McDonnell, Rosalind Helderman  
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Comments

Better check the science books, too.

Posted by: nonsensical2001 | October 26, 2010 1:41 PM | Report abuse

If the Gov. of Texas wasn't such a wingnut and took the course of Gov. McDonnell, they'd have to send out a whole sticker kit to fix those "textbooks".

Posted by: ben16 | October 26, 2010 1:58 PM | Report abuse

Cuccinelli must be salivating. Just drooling over the prospects of issuing another subpoena.

Posted by: fmamstyle | October 26, 2010 2:09 PM | Report abuse

hmmm. After tyhe fact review of how we put lies to fourht graders, that expect the truth. In the DMV: Ditrict, maryland, Virgina; this has ben taught for many years. My wife grew up here, and I grew up in Chicago. She lacks any real history background because of these lies put out by local teaching groups. In cjhicago we know the truth and the truth is Washington DC was never in the South for the obvious reasons, and Blacks did not fight to stay in slavery! Any fourth grader knows thyat.

The real question is how many people in the GOP are smarter than a fifth grader?

Posted by: patmatthews | October 26, 2010 2:26 PM | Report abuse

Although I'm not a McDonnell supporter, I am happy with how he is handeling this situation. This also calls into question why history in Virginia, and other states, is taught as a "content" only subject. History will also be controversial. Next to the teaching of evolution, what content should be taught in history is a major part of our cultural divide. Therefore, history should be taught as a skill. Students should understand the importance of cause and effect, chronological time and awareness, multiple perspectives, etc. Let the local district of community members, teachers and administrators decide on the content.

Posted by: smith6 | October 26, 2010 2:49 PM | Report abuse

I generally am not a McDonnell fan, but must admit that he seems to have handled this issue well ... maybe there is hope for some sanity without rigid ideology always trumping common sense ..

Posted by: levantefc | October 26, 2010 2:51 PM | Report abuse

I do respect the Governor here for trying...I am not a fan of his, but I must respect his immediate take. Next, he should direct his Educ Dept to replace the texts quickly.

Posted by: fairness3 | October 26, 2010 3:20 PM | Report abuse

Good call. Don't expose Virginia kids to Texasesque books. Education still depends on facts to some people.

Posted by: joshlct | October 26, 2010 3:42 PM | Report abuse

As a Virginia resident for 35 years, I can say that Virginia is just another redneck Southern state like Mississippi or Arkansas - no better, no worse.

Posted by: rmorse12 | October 26, 2010 4:22 PM | Report abuse

The real underlying story is the text procurement process. There is big $$$ made in textbook publications, and quite often it is a tight circle of people who are making the decisions. Often these decisions are made based on personal ties or favors with the authors and publisher. Clearly this textbook author is somebody's friend. How else would such an ameturish book get integrated into the curriculum? I mean, the author used the Internet as her primary source material throughout the book and is quite proudly not a "professional historian". I guess she stayed at a Holiday Inn one night, so that makes here an expert....

Posted by: kschur1 | October 26, 2010 4:43 PM | Report abuse

The first military monument in the US Capitol that honors an African-American soldier is the Confederate monument at Arlington National cemetery. The monument was designed 1914 by Moses Ezekiel, a Jewish Confederate. Who wanted to correctly portray the "racial makeup" in the Confederate Army. A black Confederate soldier is depicted marching in step with white Confederate soldiers. Also shown is one "white soldier giving his child to a black woman for protection".- source: Edward Smith, African American professor at the American University, Washington DC.

Posted by: Helpmeunderstand | October 26, 2010 5:10 PM | Report abuse

In 1914, when the Monument referred to by Helpmeunderstand, was dedicated, the black man mentioned was described as a "loyal slave" and NOT a soldier.

Sorry a loyal slave is a slave---one with no rights. One with no rights to fight or defend himself, nor his family---was NOT a soldier.

For reference this piece discusses the very monument that revisionists cite:

http://cwmemory.com/2010/10/25/black-confederates-didnt-exist-in-1914/

Posted by: angelaw859 | October 26, 2010 5:24 PM | Report abuse

Were not these textbooks approved under Gov. Kaine's administration? There was some controversy on several of the history SOL revisions that Gov. Kaine's administration tried to push through, too.
I am glad we have a governor in VA that will respond to these issues in a fair and evenhanded manner.

Posted by: NorwegianAmerican | October 26, 2010 8:42 PM | Report abuse

Were not these textbooks approved under Gov. Kaine's administration? There was some controversy on several of the history SOL revisions that Gov. Kaine's administration tried to push through, too.
I am glad we have a governor in VA that will respond to these issues in a fair and evenhanded manner.

Posted by: NorwegianAmerican | October 26, 2010 8:43 PM | Report abuse

Were not these textbooks approved under Gov. Kaine's administration? There was some controversy on several of the history SOL revisions that Gov. Kaine's administration tried to push through, too.
I am glad we have a governor in VA that will respond to these issues in a fair and evenhanded manner.

Posted by: NorwegianAmerican | October 26, 2010 8:44 PM | Report abuse

This is not the first time this has happened on the Gov's watch, and I suspect he was at least somewhat quicker in responding due to the last embarrassment. I grew up on the West Coast where I, now 60 years old, attended integrated schools. We should not forget that, despite the ethnic diversity in present day Northern Virginia, schools in No. VA only started integrating in the early 1970s, six years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and approximately 16 years after the landmark school integration case Plessy v. Ferguson.

Posted by: bhjr | October 26, 2010 9:47 PM | Report abuse

bhjr, you are mistaken. Northern Virginia schools were integrated in 1960, and they also included a lot of international students--kids of embassy workers and kids of war marriages--in the 1950s. Loudoun and Prince William were still rural conservative counties, and some people there complained, but even they were integrated in the 1960s.

Posted by: memerider | October 27, 2010 2:07 AM | Report abuse

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