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Review Finds Va. History Textbooks 'Filled With Errors


Was the city of New Orleans a bustling U.S. harbor in the early 1800s? Did the U.S. Confederacy have 12 states? And did the United States really enter World War I in 1916?

No on all accounts -- New Orleans was under Spanish control in the early 19th Century, the Confederacy was made up of just 11 states and the U.S. entered World War I in 1917, not 1916. But these so-called history "facts" are being taught in some Virginia classrooms, according to a new state-ordered review of textbooks, the Washington Post reports.

"Our Virginia: Past and Present," the textbook including that claim, has many other inaccuracies, according to historians who reviewed it. Similar problems, historians said, were found in another book by Five Ponds Press, "Our America: To 1865." A reviewer has found errors in social studies textbooks by other publishers as well, underscoring the limits of a textbook-approval process once regarded as among the nation's most stringent.

"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. He reviewed "Our Virginia: Past and Present."

In his recommendation to the state, Heinemann wrote, "This book should be withdrawn from the classroom immediately, or at least by the end of the year." ...

The unusual review process involved five professional scholars. The results, said three of those involved in the process, proved disturbing. Some submitted lists of errors that ran several pages long. State officials plan to meet Jan. 10 to review the historians' concerns.

"The findings of these historians have certainly underscored and added urgency to the need to address the weaknesses in our system so we don't have glaring historical errors in our books," said Charles Pyle, a spokesman for Virginia's Department of Education.

Five Ponds Press, based in Weston, Conn., has come under fire in the past for making claims about the number of African Americans who fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War.  Though the publisher does not dispute that its books have errors, it promised to incorporate historians' recent critiques into future revised editions of their books.

The Post notes that Five Ponds Press provides books mainly to the Virginia Department of Education in accordance with the state's "Standards of Learning."  Textbooks are only approved after panels of reviewers verify that the books meet the state's criteria.

Could you pass the test? Click here to see if you can correct the errors in the Virginia textbook.

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