Who is to blame?

I was fascinated  by the villains (too harsh a label? …I think not) in this week’s readings…so I google stalked them.

Patricia Pangloss, the manager of the Baron Von Munchausen Historic House, is painfully absent from the internet. The Historic House doesn’t even have a website. The biggest hit on her name was the Larry Cebula article. Like the rest of you, I was infuriated by her response to Cebula’s open letter. Particularly by the assertion that, “You have to understand the younger visitors know very little about the Revolutionary War period, due to the
fact that the schools have gone downhill and do
not give this generation a good education …The
younger students can barely start a sentence
without the word “like, like” and continue to
ramble with the worst English imaginable…” 
Shouldn’t an educational facility strive to IMPROVE student’s education and confront historical inaccuracies, instead of promoting falsities because it is easier?

My search for Joy Masoff, the author of Virgina’s flawed textbook, was more fruitful. Her publisher’s website listed her biography as follows:

Joy Masoff, mother of two, fell into the world of gross when she became scoutmaster to a den of burping Cub Scouts, and then discovered that her Brownie troop has the same fascination with the feculent. She lives with her family in Waccabac, New York.

Jacketflap.com’s biography of Masoff:

Joy Masoff is a published author of children’s books and young adult books. Some of the published credits of Joy Masoff include All Better Now, Oh, Yikes!: History’s Grossest Moments, We Are All Americans: Understanding Diversity.

Hmmm. Not exactly the credentials that I would look for when seeking an author for a historical textbook that would help teach hundreds of thousands of students. Masoff is obviously the wrong candidate for this job, but I don’t believe the fault lies with her. She obviously did not complete impeccable research and failed to critically evaluate her sources. But how much can we really blame her? She is not a historian. She is a children’s book author. She used the Internet to research a contentious and serious matter and it came back to haunt her.

The real fault lies with the Virginia State Board of Education. The board chose to hire someone who could entertain students rather than educate them. As a daily user of textbooks, I can attest that K-12 textbooks are mostly bad. They are either far too boring and complex for student’s levels or far too juvenile and summarized. Until state boards of education begin to invest more money into the adoption of excellent textbooks (or better yet…hire and train outstanding teachers who don’t rely on textbooks), false education is going to continue to happen in America. Masoff clearly made a mistake in her book. But the true blame lies with the administrators who allowed a children’s book author to write a historical textbook.

One thought on “Who is to blame?”

  1. But remember, Michelle, that Masoff is a self-proclaimed “fairly respected writer.” Doesn’t that count for something? 😉 All jokes aside, I completely agree with you! I don’t have any problem with a non-trained historian doing a historian’s work, or writing a textbook to be used in schools statewide, but isn’t there a process in place to ensure that any work, completed by a trained historian or by an amateur, is the best available resource for our students?

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