Remember that Virginia history textbook that had us all in a tizzy last year, the one written by a non-historian who used SCV websites as a source? The new edition is out, and it’s slightly less inaccurate than the old one. High fives all around!
They’ve evidently whittled down the errors in Our Virginia and a similar textbook on general U.S. history to a manageable hodgepodge of “dubious quotations, misleading images and maps depicting inaccurate borders,” sort of like when McDonald’s decided to cut down the trans fat in its fries while leaving all that lip-smacking overall fat and salt content in place. Virginia’s Board of Education has put the two books back on the list of approved texts for use in elementary classrooms.
Oh, and earlier this year, the Old Dominion changed the textbook vetting process. “Under the new rules, publishers must certify that their textbooks have been checked for accuracy by subject-matter experts,” according to the above-linked article. “They also have to agree to fix mistakes discovered in their texts.”
This seems to suggest that getting qualified authorities to check the books before printing them has not been a standard procedure for textbook publishers. I’m visualizing this scenario where a manuscript for a new history textbook has just arrived by FedEx at a publishing office, and the editorial staff are passing it around a conference table. One of them finally says, “Sooooo, should we, like, get an actual historian to look at this, or should we just start cranking out a few thousand copies and let the chips fall where they may?”