Erroneous history textbook 'Our Virginia' to be pulled from Fairfax schools

By Kevin Sieff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 7, 2011; 5:21 PM

Fairfax school officials have decided to pull a textbook in which historians have found dozens of errors.

Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Jack D. Dale said that fourth-grade history will be taught using supplemental materials until errors in "Our Virginia, Past and Present" are corrected in a subsequent edition.

The Washington Post reported in October that the textbook included a controversial assertion that thousands of African American soldiers fought for the South during the Civil War. The assertion is often made by Confederate heritage groups but is rejected by most historians.

A state-appointed panel of historians in December found dozens of additional errors in "Our Virginia" and "Our America to 1865," both of which were published by Connecticut-based Five Ponds Press.

Fairfax teachers will use online materials to teach fourth-graders, eventually including a corrected electronic version of "Our Virginia" in the curriculum. "It's a forced experiment in the online teaching of fourth-grade history," said Fairfax schools spokesman Paul Regnier. Teachers will meet early in February to further discuss their plans.

Since the errors were discovered in both Five Ponds Press books, the Virginia Department of Education has announced plans to amend its textbook adoption process, and Del. David L. Englin (D-Alexandria) introduced legislation that would require publishers to vet their textbooks with independent experts before submitting them to the state.

On Friday, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Patricia I. Wright sent an e-mail to Virginia school divisions about the reviewers' comments.

"The reviewers' comments note inaccuracies, inconsistencies, omissions, questionable interpretations, and spelling and grammatical errors in certain books that were reviewed," Wright wrote. "Their comments should be useful in helping teachers provide accurate historical information to their students, and in some cases, to provide further elaboration related to certain people and events."

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