Daily Archives: September 22, 2011

Virginia textbooks: Now with less horseflop

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?”

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Filed under Teaching History

Maybe it’s time to let this one go

Historical memory combined with small-town politics.  It’s like a perfect storm of petty histrionics!

The tiny Missouri town of Osceola has a simple request.

It wants the University of Kansas to drop its mascot, the Jayhawk.

Oh, and another thing: Get rid of that big K.

“No citizen of the City of Osceola or the alumni of the University of Missouri shall ever capitalize the ‘k’ in ‘kansas’ or ‘kU,’ as neither is a proper name or a proper place,” Osceola’s Board of Aldermen ordered in a resolution passed last week. The resolution marked the upcoming 150th anniversary of a Civil War raid in which an abolitionist Kansas militia — “a group of domestic terrorist(s) referred to as ‘the jayhawkers’” — burned down four of the city’s five buildings and executed several Osceola residents.

The “Sack of Osceola” was the work of anti-slavery Kansans commanded by Senator James Lane who blew into town on September 23, 1861 and proceeded to loot private property, rob the bank, and set the buildings on fire, leaving nine dead citizens in their wake and taking a couple hundred slaves with them. 

I can see how that sort of thing would leave a bad taste in one’s mouth, but to be fair, the Missourians gave as good as they got

Besides, we’re talking about an anthropomorphic bird.  Sheesh.

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Filed under Civil War, History and Memory

Spielberg has found his Confederate VP

Jackie Earle Haley of Watchmen fame will be playing Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens in Spielberg’s Lincoln movie. Let’s do a comparison:

Lincoln knew Stephens from his congressional days, describing the Georgian as “a little slim, pale-faced, consumptive man.”  You can read a letter Stephens sent to Lincoln between the latter’s election and inauguration here, and the text of one of his most famous speeches here.  It seems Stephens never got the memo regarding how the war wasn’t really about slavery.

Both images above are from Wikimedia Commons.

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Filed under Abraham Lincoln, Civil War