Teachable moments in textbook errors

(Please note, because of the time that has passed since I wrote this article, it may no longer reflect my current views or the most accurate and complete information available on this subject.)

Educators in Virginia are wondering what to do with the thousands of copies of an error-ridden history textbook that the school districts there have purchased:

A panel of historians has found an "appalling" number of factual errors in a new fourth-grade history textbook used in many Virginia school districts, one of the experts said...The historical inaccuracies "are appalling in number,"...the book needs more than 140 corrections.

I hope they don't throw them away.  This seems like a great opportunity to teach students in Virginia and beyond some important lessons about education (things I wish I'd been more cognizant of in the early days of my education):

  1. It's possible for so-called authoritative texts to contain blatant, significant errors and personal biases.  Just because something is in print doesn't mean it's correct.
  2. It matters who peer reviews a publication.  If they're not trained to look for all of the different kinds of errors that can occur, or if they're just not looking at all, you might as well not have a peer review process.
  3. The education system does not always work in favor of actual education, and sometimes it works against it.

I know they're just 4th graders, but it would be so interesting to use the flawed books to teach a unit on how textbooks are produced, and the effect of factual and conceptual errors in widely circulated publications.

One thought on “Teachable moments in textbook errors

  1. How fun a project it would be to give the books to 4th graders (or even older students) and have them work together to find errors! That would be great learning in addition to understanding the process of how these errors take place.

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