Who is publishing our public schools’ textbooks?

20 Oct

You’ve probably heard by now about the infamous textbook distributed to fourth graders in Virginia. The history book, written by Joy Masoff, states a highly controversial claim — that thousands of African Americans fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War — as hard fact.

She said she used the Internet to do her research, relying on biased sites such as that of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, a group that has been propagating this untruth for years.

If the revelation of her sources isn’t disturbing enough, taking a look at at the textbook’s publisher, Five Ponds Press, should settle any last doubts about the legitimacy of the book. The publisher’s scant Web site reveals that it in fact only publishes history and social science textbooks for Virginia schools.

Why does this company, located in Connecticut, publish only textbooks for Virginia? Is it naive or elitist of me to think that our nation’s textbooks should be published by legitimate, nationally-recognized publishing houses with standards for quality — both of the research and of the author conducting it? And is it not unreasonable to think that publishers focusing on only one state lack the resources for comparison and cross-checking that come when publishing houses engage a broader base of research and ideas in order to produce a wider range of content?

But then again, is broader, peer-reviewed research what many state governments want in their school systems?

I know it’s not what FOX News wants; when I interned in the history division of an evidently “liberal” textbook publisher, they frequently called querying which states constituted our largest sales.

It’s one thing to wage culture wars, but when children’s minds are captured like POWs by one side or another, something has clearly gone deeply awry.

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