Lawmaker Wants Publishers Held Accountable For Bad Textbooks

6:38 PM, Jan 3, 2011   |    comments
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ALEXANDRIA, Va. (WUSA) - "I think probably that should be thrown in the trash," said history teacher Gregory Ransom as he read a glaring error in a school textbook. "Our Virginia Past and Present" states that "in all, twelve states joined the Confederacy." It was 11.

"That is mind boggling that that could make it past any type of edit," said Ransom who teaches at Alexandria's George Washington Middle School. Alexandria Public Schools did not chose "Our Virginia" but Fairfax, Loudoun and Arlington Counties all did.

Loudoun County schools stopped using the book after the first error was found. The book wrongly asserts that thousands of blacks fought in the Confederacy under Stonewall Jackson.

"Our Virginia" and "Our America to 1865" are both published by Five Ponds Press. State-appointed scholars found to have dozens of factual errors in the two books.

"As a teacher, I think it's incredibly troubling for me to think that textbooks are being circulated, and students are being exposed to errors," said Ransom.

Under a bill proposed by Alexandria delegate David Englin, publishers would have to be certified by the state board of education before their books are used in public schools. And they'd be held accountable for errors.

"In effect, if you're selling a textbook in Virginia that makes egregious claims like what we see here, this legislation will say 'You're selling us a defective product, and you need to be responsible for correcting that," said Englin.

And school systems won't be stuck with books they can't use. After the first error was found, Loudoun County public schools stopped using "Our Virginia." Fairfax schools had planned to just use the publishers quick fix tape-over, but now that more errors have been found, Fairfax wants a new cleaned up version.

Historians who reviewed those two books reportedly submitted a list of errors that ran several pages long.

State officials plan to review those concerns next week. The publisher says it plans to include the historians' critiques in their next editions.

Written by Peggy Fox

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