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Story pick: History, journalism and the importance of being thorough

By Christian Davenport

Washington Post education writer Kevin Sieff's story this morning about a textbook being distributed to Virginia students that claims that thousands of African-Americans fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War is fascinating and a great read. But above everything else it is thorough.

He talks to historians who debunk the claim, and to parents concerned that their children would be reading a version of history promulgated by groups trying to downplay the role slavery played in instigating the Civil War. He also interview the book's publisher, an official from the Virginia Department of Education, a member of a Confederate heritage group and the author herself. By my count, Sieff did at least eight interviews in addition to reading historical texts and education literature.

Education officials learned that the book was being used in elementary schools because Sieff brought it to their attention. And as a result of his reporting, they said, as he writes, "that they will contact school districts across the state to caution them against teaching the passage" in question.

The book's author Joy Masoff may very well be "a fairly respected writer," as she describes herself. But Sieff is thorough.

By Christian Davenport  | October 20, 2010; 9:52 AM ET
Categories:  Story Picks  | Tags:  arfrican-american soldiers, civil war history, confederacy, joy masoff, kevin sieff  
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Comments

Education officials learned that the book was being used in elementary schools because Sieff brought it to their attention -- surely Mr. Davenport isn't asserting that the Virginia Department of Education wasn't aware the recommended book was actually being used in a classroom?

Posted by: iteach5 | October 22, 2010 7:20 PM | Report abuse

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