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California’s No-Textbook Plan

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Here’s one part of the storyAnd here’s another, the Governator himself.  And here’s anotherAnd here’s another, with textbook publisher Pearson falling on the FTSE index. And here’s an objection, and yet another objection.

And the eschools news story on this story.

Go ahead.  Read up.  Take your fill.  Go search out a few more stories, and post them in the comments.  I’d love to know your thoughts.

Here’s mine: California used to throw $350 million a year at textbook purchases.  Now they’re gonna give zilch. Zero. Zip.  Nada.  In essence, the Governator is proposing to scrap paper books altogether in favor of free online resources. Apparently they’d rather subsidize computer use in poor neighborhoods for up-to-date information, to buying glossy paper that’s years out of date.

Anyone else notice that all the objections center on the look and feel of a book, and the tactile sensations of holding a book in your hands, and how the new generation feels comfortable with both old and new forms?

Yeah.  I bet the scribes said the same thing about papyrus scrolls when the parchment codex came along.  And the Humanists felt the same way about manuscripts and printed books in the late 1400s.

But the ‘new generation’ didn’t care about the tactile feel of scrolls, or codices (pl. of codex), just like the new generation today doesn’t care about the feel of pages. What they care about is the information. They care about the story, not the medium in which that story is stored.  They will only read the book for as long as that is the convenient form in which to access the need information and narrative.

Can they read it? Can they annotate it? Can they communicate it to others in a new form? in the same form? Can they add to it? Summarize it?  Can they connect to it? Can they connect it to what is already known?  Can they copy bits of it to send to their friends?

Whether we deal with oral histories, or clay tablets, or scrolls, or strips of bark, or slips of paper, or film clips, or knots in strings… those questions right there are the only ones that matter. EVER.  We would do well as teachers not to forget it.

Oh, yeah, one more thing.  If you think this isn’t going to blow the textbook market to smithereens in the next three or four years, fine.  But those textbook publishers are going to want their $350 million, and if California isn’t paying, the rest of us will.  The sooner you wean your teachers off textbooks — like, this fall — the better.

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