Our kids is learning! or, Arguments for home schooling, part xix

On reason to learn some history is so you don't look like a complete fool, such as this Republican candidate in NJ who identified Dred Scot as the recent Supreme Court case he most opposed.

That is always a great moment, when candidates reveal that they in fact know nothing at all.

Knowledge of recent Supreme Court decisions (or the Constitution more generally) is not considered a qualification for the candidacy for the Grand Old Party. Christine O'Donnell could not even conjure up any case, from any era.

Another important reason to learn some history is so that the kids learning it are not fed lies reflecting current reactionary politics, as they are in Virginia as a matter of official state business.

In this fine state, to which I am compelled to pay taxes to support the schools and to which I send x amount of my students each year to become teachers, the Education department uses a 4th grade history text book called Our Virginia: Past and Present by Joy Masoff. Ms. Masoff isn't a historian. But since the state education standards are writtem by non-historians, why have students use a textbook written by anyone other than a non-historian? It makes perfect sense, of a sort.

The author has also authored Oh Yuck! The Encyclopedia of Everything Nasty and Oh Yikes! History's Grossest Moments and Fire! and Extreme Sports: Snowboard! and Emergency! and Our World Let's Go! and Everest: Reaching For The Sky (which for some reasons does not have the !) and The Boo Boo Book (also sans !) Masoff is quoted in a news story saying "'I am a fairly respected writer.'"

I personally think she should have said "I am a fairly respected writer!"

This book being forced upon a generation of 4th graders. This is an age which I suspect is especially impressionable and open for ripe manipulation by those in power. (isn't this the age of kids pressed into child armies in Africa?) The key with the Big Lie is to tell it early and often enough for it to become received wisdom (see "creationism, textbook presentation of" ).

Masoff's book claims that large numbers of black confederates fought for the Confederacy. The research this information was based upon came from the "internet," particularly from the site maintained by the Sons of Confederate Veterans. The Washington Post drily notes "Scholars are nearly unanimous in calling these accounts of black Confederate soldiers a misrepresentation of history."

But since the Sons don't believe that slavery was a cause of the war, clearly their standards of historical knowledge are not finely honed.

It does make me wonder why any textbook writer is drawing information from websites of political interest for a 4th grade textbook. She is not even claiming to be using Wikipedia. Or blaming her "cousin" for providing the information. She just took fabricated information from a neo-Confederate group and then folded it into her book where it is effectively a landmine.

The shameful thing is that the Education department claims that it is not responsible for this "'Just because a book is approved doesn't mean the Department of Education endorses every sentence,' said spokesman Charles Pyle." Um, really? If the state of Virginia forces this book upon every student this does in fact imply that it endorses every sentence. Otherwise, why use the book? And if it doesn't endorse it, then why not allow teachers the freedom to choose their own books according to their own educations? (not that that would necessarily be a good idea, let me add).

Ironically, Masoff also wrote We Are All Americans: Understanding Diversity


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