Rodolfo Acuña: Cal State Northridge professor caught in Arizona controversy


Source: LAT, 1-13-11

Rodolfo Acuña’s Mexican American history book, first published four decades ago, has become fuel for Arizona politicians targeting ethnic studies programs.

Rodolfo “Rudy” Acuña is an amiable, white-haired professor from Los Angeles who’s having his named dragged through the mud by certain Arizona politicians.

He grew up in South L.A. and East Hollywood in the 1940s and ’50s, and has fond memories of learning Latin at Loyola High School. He went on to make a career of teaching generations of young people from the Southwest some of the salient episodes of their history.

His most famous work is a Mexican American history textbook on which hundreds of future politicos, writers and PhDs cut their intellectual teeth. It’s now in its seventh printing.
But to Arizona’s new attorney general, Tom Horne, who’s accused him of fostering “ethnic chauvinism,” Acuña is a separatist and a danger to the republic.

When he was the state’s top education official, Horne used Acuña’s book, “Occupied America, A History of Chicanos,” as Exhibit A in a successful campaign to have certain Latino studies classes shut down in Arizona schools.

“These people think you’re a separatist if you want to teach and include people,” Acuña told me as we sat this week in his Cal State Northridge office. “I don’t want to be part of Mexico…. That’s a stupid thing to argue.”…READ MORE

Virginia Textbook Controversy: Publisher Will Replace VA Textbooks For Free — Board of Education Withdraws Approval


By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.


See also: History Buzz October 25, 2010: Carol Sheriff & the Virginia Civil War Textbook Controversy

Va. Board Of Ed Wants To Improve Book Review Process

Source: WY Daily, 1-15-11


“Our Virginia” includes several errors.

The Virginia Board of Education will review two error-filled textbooks to determine whether they’re fit to be used in the state’s schools.

At its Thursday meeting, the board directed Superintendent of Public Instruction Patricia Wright to come up with a process to help the board decide whether the two books, both published by Connecticut-based Five Ponds Press, should be included on a list of approved books. The board adopted the directives as a motion made by board member David Foster of Arlington.

The board also asked Wright to ask experts to review all Five Ponds textbooks included on the approved books list and seek potential remedies from the publisher for school divisions that purchased the books. The books are the fourth-grade textbook, “Our Virginia: Past and Present” and the fifth-grade book, “Our America: To 1865.”…READ MORE

Va. withdraws approval of textbooks

Source: WaPo, 1-13-11

OurVirginiaThe Virginia Board of Education on Thursday withdrew its approval of two elementary school history textbooks, which a panel of historians found to have dozens of errors.

The Washington Post reported in October that “Our Virginia, Past and Present” a fourth-grade 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. In December, a state-appointed panel of historians found dozens of additional errors in both “Our Virginia” and “Our America to 1865,” which is used by students in the fifth and sixth grades in some Virginia districts. Both books are published by Five Ponds Press.

On Thursday, the Board of Education also ordered a review by experts of any other approved textbooks published by Five Ponds Press. The company currently has four world history books which are approved for use in the state’s classrooms. Those books passed the state’s textbook review process, in which panels of reviewers, often elementary school teachers, verified that the books cover each of the Standards of Learning themes. Experts in particular subject matters also sometimes review books….READ MORE

Source: Williamsburg Yorktown Daily, 1-13-11

The publisher of this textbook will replace it at no cost to school divisions, due to errors found in two books. In response to criticism of errors found in its textbooks, Five Ponds Press announced Tuesday it intends to replace all copies of “Our Virginia” and “Our America: To 1865” for free.

The books have come under scrutiny since October, when The Washington Post published a story highlighting errors in “Our Virginia.” William and Mary Professor Carol Sheriff had spotted mistakes when she flipped through the book, brought home by her daughter, a student in Williamsburg-James City County Schools. WJCC purchased the books for $88,825.

Sheriff found one big factual error: a section devoted to the role of African-Americans in the Civil War stated that Gen. Stonewall Jackson had commanded two black battalions. Jackson had died by the time the Confederacy allowed blacks to enlist, and most historians disputed the idea that black battalions existed in the South.

After Sheriff’s discovery was publicized, more historians examined the book at the behest of the Virginia Department of Education and found several more inaccuracies, including misstatements about when Thomas Jefferson took office as president and when the U.S. entered World War I. The review team also found grammatical errors, misspellings and missing words; they called for the book to be removed from classrooms.

“It’s certainly welcome news that the publisher is going to provide corrected books at no charge to the school divisions that adopted the book,” said Charles Pyle, director of communications for the Virginia Department of Education. He said the purpose of the state’s review was not to help Five Ponds edit its books, but to provide timely information to teachers who need to decide how to use the books in their classrooms.

The books were written by Joy Masoff and published in 2010 by Five Ponds Press, based in Weston, Conn. “Our Virginia” is used in fourth-grade classrooms and “Our America: To 1865” is used in sixth-grade classrooms. When the first mistake was discovered, Five Ponds Press pledged to send stickers to schools to cover the incorrect paragraph. Now that the state review has been completed, however, the publisher plans to replace the books this summer, and is revising online editions of the books.

In a letter published on the company’s web site, publisher Lou Scolnik said the company was taking the “unprecedented step” of issuing free replacement copies to the schools and districts that purchased the first edition. “We strive to provide high quality textbooks for Virginia students and are embarrassed that we failed to detect these mistakes during our production process,” Scolnik said. “However, we hope that replacing the books will meet educators’ and students’ needs.”….READ MORE

Historians Expose Error-Filled Virginia Textbooks: In the version of history being taught in some Virginia classrooms, New Orleans began the 1800s as a bustling U.S. harbor (instead of as a Spanish colonial one). The Confederacy included 12 states (instead of 11). And the United States entered World War I in 1916 (instead of 1917). These are among the dozens of errors historians have found since Virginia officials ordered a review of textbooks by Five Ponds Press, the publisher responsible for a controversial claim that African-American soldiers fought for the Confederacy in large numbers during the Civil War. Our Virginia: Past and Present, the textbook including that claim, has many other inaccuracies, according to historians who reviewed it. Similar problems, historians say, were found in another book by Five Ponds Press, Our America: To 1865. A reviewer has found errors in social studies textbooks by other publishers as well, underscoring the limits of a textbook-approval process once regarded as among the nation’s most stringent…. – AP, 1-3-1

Carol Sheriff: Virgina History Textbook Inaccuracies Controversy: It’s a textbook case of getting it wrong. A Virginia elementary school textbook will soon be history after a college professor and parent, caught more than one mistake in it. Turns out the errors she spotted were not the only ones. Some of the glaring errors had to do with African-Americans and the Civil War. These and dozens of other errors can be found in the textbook handed out to thousands of Virginia fourth graders. Problems with the book ‘Our Virginia: Past and Present’, published by Five Ponds Press, first surfaced last October, as reported by the Washington Post, when the mother of one student, a college history professor, spotted several lines on page 122.
“It was particularly jarring when I got to this one passage that was so at odds with what historians have been saying about who participated in the Civil War,” said William & Mary Professor Carol Sheriff, a parent of one student.
The book says thousands of southern blacks fought in the confederate ranks, something not supported by mainstream Civil War scholarship. But it’s the next line that’s just plain wrong: “including two black battalions under the command of Stonewall Jackson.” The textbook actually, does note that it wasn’t ’til 1865 that African-Americans could legally serve in the confederate army. It also tells children that Stonewall Jackson died in 1863. The error about blacks serving in the confederate army was outrageous to many in academia… – CNN, 12-30-10

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