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The 7 - Current Events & Politics - California Assembly to limit textbook to 200 pages
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bash91
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#1 Posted on 31.5.05 2301.07
Reposted on: 31.5.12 2304.32
As I was reading the invaluable, if you're interested in education, Eduwonk (eduwonk.com), I came across this frightening story (sacbee.com). (registration may be required so use bug me not (bugmenot.com))
    Originally posted by Jim Sanders
    The California Assembly is betting that kids learn more with small books.
    Lawmakers voted Thursday to ban school districts from purchasing textbooks longer than 200 pages.


Are they really serious? Borrowing from the Bible thread, 200 pages only gets you most of the way through Exodus in my KJV study bible. Thinking back to the required reading from my HS English classes, 200 pages doesn't allow you to read The Grapes of Wrath, Moby Dick, 1984, Animal Farm, Fahrenheit 451, A Clockwork Orange, or any number of other books that were used as textbooks in my AP , American Lit, and British Lit classes. 200 pages is less than half the length of my Calculus text and about a third of the length of my Advanced Chemistry text. For that matter, my Indiana history text that we used in 4th grade was longer than 200 pages.

While I think it's indisputable that many texts are poorly or overwritten, 200 pages, or any strict length limit, seems like the answer to a question that no one is asking.
    Originally posted by The Sacbee
    But Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg, a Los Angeles Democrat who chairs the Assembly Education Committee, said critics are thinking too narrowly.

    California schools are teaching kids with the same kinds of massive books that were used generations ago, though the world has changed significantly, Goldberg said.

    The workplace increasingly demands more than the ability to read Page 435 of some manual.

    It requires expertise in using the Internet to research and solve problems, according to Goldberg.

    "Our textbooks are not going to be able to meet that standard," said Goldberg, a former Compton high school teacher. "I think it's time for us to begin to approach the problem in a different way."

    AB 756 would force publishers to condense key ideas, basic problems and basic knowledge into 200 pages, then to provide a rich appendix with Web sites where students can go for more information.


Unless internet access is a lot more available, both physically and economically, than I think it is, asking students to use the web to actually do their learning is just asking to exacerbate the already problematic digital divide. As an example, in my current class, about a third of my students don't have internet access outside of campus. If I'm required to use a text that requires them to use the internet to learn necessary material, then I'm going to have to spend way too much time, money, and resources on printing out that material so that all of my students are on something resembling an equal footing. I've got unlimited printing and copying privileges where I work, but I can't imagine that your average public school teacher has that luxury which means that some students are going to be deliberately and systemically disadvantaged in order to have short textbooks.

Ultimately, this seems like the kind of boondoggle that's designed to hurt education in the guide of helping it. It also certainly seems like it will dramatically raise costs, either exclusively in California or, as I find more likely given California's importance to textbook publishers, for everyone as publishers produce multiple volumes of texts in order to meet the length limit or start having to produce multiple editions of textbooks for the same reason. Any way you look at it, this idea stinks on ice.

Tim
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Wolfram J. Paulovich
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#2 Posted on 1.6.05 0156.12
Reposted on: 1.6.12 0156.20
    Originally posted by bash91
    Borrowing from the Bible thread, 200 pages only gets you most of the way through Exodus in my KJV study bible. Thinking back to the required reading from my HS English classes, 200 pages doesn't allow you to read The Grapes of Wrath, Moby Dick, 1984, Animal Farm, Fahrenheit 451, A Clockwork Orange, or any number of other books that were used as textbooks in my AP , American Lit, and British Lit classes.

This isn't meant to be a niggling point, but wouldn't those books be exempt as "primary" texts and not textbooks? I know that I took classes in high school and college that had an overall sort of textbook, on which we relied for general information/commentary, but we still used primary sources for specific engagement with history/literature.

I'm not saying that I support this legislative decision, but I will suggest that it's possible that some of your worries will prove unfounded. Granted, I liked my giant Norton Companion to English Literature textbook for my AP English class, but if I had been able to read all those primary literature books without it, I think I wouldn't have minded so much. I spent more time writing essays about the books themselves than reading the textbook anyway. However, that's a specialized example (AP, obviously), and not reflective of the wholesale change that would result from truncating textbooks across the board.
JayJayDean
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#3 Posted on 1.6.05 1003.17
Reposted on: 1.6.12 1004.06
Maybe with this law some classes would actually get through the entire textbooks in one year. I don't think we ever got through one complete textbook in any class I ever took.
DrDirt
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#4 Posted on 1.6.05 1101.31
Reposted on: 1.6.12 1102.26
Maybe they should worry about brevity on the internet first. I admit I am confused as to why in the Hell they are doing this. At least with a text book there is a chance it was fact checked.

My daughter had a history project on the Civil War and they were supposed to use the internet. After reading some of the suggested websites that were riddled with inaccuracies and quite poorly written, I gave her a pile of over ten books ranging from Grant's and Sherman's memoirs to Shelby Foote and told her to get busy. She actually got into it. And most impotantly the teacher lauded her for the excellent and through job.

The internet has a place but I cringe to think of the day it will replace books.
DrOp
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#5 Posted on 1.6.05 1215.56
Reposted on: 1.6.12 1218.06
There is a growing movement for textbooks to all be made available in electronic form via a Universal Digital Format. These efforts are being championed by advocates of the blind and learning disabled. There are many text readers that can read to you, and most are proprietary to the point of making digital text access excessively prohibitive. A Universal digital format would allow these individuals to use any reader (E-reader, the text-to-speech in Office) to access texts. Textbook publishers are fighting this because, as you know, they make money from selling books.

I believe that there is merit to having texts, articles, etc. available online. I don't know HOW I'd ever finish my doctorate without Ed Full Text--going to the library would literally take HOURS to do what I can do in 90 minutes from my University access at home.

That being said--limiting text book sizes seems an ubsurd idea at best, although I do think we need to find a way to rethink History Classes since the course grows every year. IIRC, when I was in Highschool the closest we got to the modern era was the Cold War. How do you keep cramming more and more history into the same amount of space?
DrDirt
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#6 Posted on 1.6.05 1230.39
Reposted on: 1.6.12 1234.04
    Originally posted by DrOp
    I believe that there is merit to having texts, articles, etc. available online. I don't know HOW I'd ever finish my doctorate without Ed Full Text--going to the library would literally take HOURS to do what I can do in 90 minutes from my University access at home.

    That being said--limiting text book sizes seems an ubsurd idea at best, although I do think we need to find a way to rethink History Classes since the course grows every year. IIRC, when I was in Highschool the closest we got to the modern era was the Cold War. How do you keep cramming more and more history into the same amount of space?


Back in the dark ages, I would have killed for access like that when writing my dissertation.

You keep current through supplemental materials. However, our children aren't even receiving decent history classes for any period of history. It amazes me how ignorant the majority of people under 30 are regarding history. It's not becasue they aren't bright because they are a great deal sharper than we were at that age but very very ignorant.
Oliver
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#7 Posted on 1.6.05 1256.01
Reposted on: 1.6.12 1256.01
If a textbook is limited to 200 pages, logic would say that they'll just take the subject matter and release TWO textbooks, right?

I like the idea about learning online or via electronic means, but I'd always prefer to have a book handy.

(edited by SOK on 1.6.05 1156)
AWArulz
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#8 Posted on 1.6.05 1921.39
Reposted on: 1.6.12 1924.27
    Originally posted by DrDirt
    It amazes me how ignorant the majority of people under 30 are regarding history. It's not becasue they aren't bright because they are a great deal sharper than we were at that age but very very ignorant.


I tend to disagree with this, Doc. I'm an adult teacher and the younger guys (I mostly have guys, but occasionally have a female person) are slower to pick up on everything I teach, even basic subjects like strong math and psychronics. The older folks just have been taught to think better, in my opinion. I think they make better decisions, reason things out better and are able to do basic research of documentation and find answers. The younger people need to be spoonfed.

Now, obviously, this is generalization. In every class there's the exception. But I know (and I can prove with class metrics) that younger students are slower and less likely to complete labwork than older students. And it's not experience, because, as a rule, none of my students have any experience in what I am teaching and it is generally unrelateable. If that's really true, the younger guys should have a leg up - because they don't have bad habits to unlearn.

I think it's a lot of what goes on at home. We didn't watch as much TV (uh, we were lucky, we had FOUR channels) So we read. For example, I could name the 36 presidents in a row when I was a yound lad, and could name their vice presidents if pressed. I was required in school to know the tudor Kings of Great Britain and the Bourbon kings of France. I built a southern plantation (including fields, slave houses and the "big house") out of popsicle sticks, cotton balls and pipe cleaners. Some other guy had the monitor and Merrimac fighting in an aquarium. Andmy Dad and Granddad would ask me questions. I know that when Nixon resigned I pissed my Dad off knowing about it (and comparing him to Andrew Johnon) that he backhanded me across the mouth.

But I admit, things are different now and some of it is good. I don't think we ever studied black history except slavery, booker T washington, Carver and Fredrick Douglass. And of course, they spend all of February on that now. That's a good thing, although I am not sure it requires a full month every year.

I had to explain watergate and why Nixon resigned to my two highschoolers. They thought he resigned because he screwed up the vietnam war. Some kid presented that in their "70s" presentations and the teacher didn't challenge it. Because that might make the kid uncomfortable.



(edited by AWArulz on 1.6.05 2034)
EddieBurkett
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#9 Posted on 1.6.05 2259.17
Reposted on: 1.6.12 2259.58
    Originally posted by AWArulz
    I'm an adult teacher and the younger guys (I mostly have guys, but occasionally have a female person) are slower to pick up on everything I teach, even basic subjects like strong math and psychronics. The older folks just have been taught to think better, in my opinion. I think they make better decisions, reason things out better and are able to do basic research of documentation and find answers. The younger people need to be spoonfed.


I noticed that in college too, the older people were always among the better students, but I always attributed that to the fact that the older people were more interested in learning and weren't affected by any of the other usual college distractions. I don't know what exactly you are teaching and what the age range in question is, but can you claim that your sample is truly representative, or is it possible that the older you get, the less likely you are to seek further education unless you are genuinely interested and dedicated?
DrOp
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#10 Posted on 2.6.05 0734.18
Reposted on: 2.6.12 0740.46
I also teach adult learners-although most of my students are new teachers fresh of the Teach For America wagon--so they tend to be younger and full of energy (and also come complete with a sense of "everything should be immediate" that older students do not seem to possess).

I think one of the problems with school age students is that video games have killed reading. I was never into reading lots and lots of books, but I read comics (and beleive you me, Claremont, Simonson, and Wolfman used lots of college level vocabulary). Why read about Army Ops or SuperHeros when you and LIVE it vis X-Box and PSP? It's hardly a competition between ther two choices for most kids.

I have thankfuly been able to instill in both the DrOplets the joys of reading and imagination and they actually spend more time with their Junie B. Jones and Bionicle books than with their GB Advance SP's. I'm sure banning Game systems that connect to TVs, encouraging outdoor activity, and modelling reading books and magazines has helped as well.
Crimedog
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#11 Posted on 2.6.05 1130.40
Reposted on: 2.6.12 1130.46
    Originally posted by AWArulz
    I had to explain watergate and why Nixon resigned to my two highschoolers. They thought he resigned because he screwed up the vietnam war. Some kid presented that in their "70s" presentations and the teacher didn't challenge it. Because that might make the kid uncomfortable.



    (edited by AWArulz on 1.6.05 2034)


That teacher should be fired on the spot and have his/her teaching license revoked FOREVER.

The biggest problem is crap like this. Schools have moved so much towards being PC and making students feel "comfortable" that nobody ever gets challenged anymore. The whole point of education is to force you out of what you know and to teach you to look at things in a different way and learn what you didn't know before. It's not to reinforce what you already feel comfortable with.
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#12 Posted on 2.6.05 1400.35
Reposted on: 2.6.12 1402.34
I would suggest this has nothing to do with PC and everything to do with lazy teachers.

I had some of the same experiences growing up with some pretty bad teachers, both here and in France. For example, I had a geography teacher in High School have no idea that Peking had been changed to Beijing, and he sent me to the office when I deigned to correct him.

There always was and always will be bad teachers, especially when we refuse to pay for good ones. This has nothing to do with coddling students.

I would say what doesn't get taught properly does change. Now, the ability to write and construct a proper sentence is a lost cause. In the past, foreign history was mediocre at best.

But I will also say textbooks aren't the be all and end all of teaching. The best teacher I ever had lived in Singapore for years. He would come to class in potato sacks, he would have us dress up in period clothes and do reenactments, he forced us into debates on political issues, and by god we all learned more in that class then any class spent simply reciting material and dates from a text book.

He taught us not only the cold facts of history, but the warmth of historical connections, the reasoning behing historical events, the thoughts and failures of important people. He taught us how people of all generations and cultures might have actually lived and thought about events that are just words in a text book.

I support the use of text books, but they can also be a crutch. Any lazy teacher can tell you to read 10 pages of a book for homework and give you a text on names and places. It takes an inspired teacher to make these names and places come to life. In this respect, I support the abbreviation of the book, because it makes it harder to use the book as a crutch.
DrOp
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#13 Posted on 2.6.05 1609.13
Reposted on: 2.6.12 1618.26
    Originally posted by Mess
    He taught us not only the cold facts of history, but the warmth of historical connections, the reasoning behing historical events, the thoughts and failures of important people. He taught us how people of all generations and cultures might have actually lived and thought about events that are just words in a text book.


Which is a MUCH richer way to teach History compared to "on X date B did Y, R, and s. Then, four years later, C said T, U, and W."

Ugh.
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#14 Posted on 2.6.05 1619.47
Reposted on: 2.6.12 1622.52
Getting through a textbook is hard enough. History curriculum should be reviewed every couple of years to see what should be added or replaced.

In New England, every few grades has American history courses being re-taught back to pilgrims and the MayFlower. Rarely do classes get up to the Industrial Revolution, much less the WWI, WWII, or even Vietnam.

On the West Coast, I've heard American history often begins with the Gold Rush.

To me, what should be covered is what might be relevant enough for the population. Ancient history has interesting stories and parallels, but spending too much time on the old old stuff short-changes the newer.
AWArulz
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#15 Posted on 2.6.05 1638.01
Reposted on: 2.6.12 1644.31
    Originally posted by EddieBurkett
    I don't know what exactly you are teaching and what the age range in question is, but can you claim that your sample is truly representative, or is it possible that the older you get, the less likely you are to seek further education unless you are genuinely interested and dedicated?


I'm a corporate trainer. So my students get sent to me. They rarely have a choice about it. In fact, the old farts are usually quite resistant about it. But when it gets down to the actual work of learning and actual performance testing, they shine, as a rule.

Obviously, my sample is small and somewhat non-representive of the population. It's heavy on guys, mostly 22 to about 55, with about 30% older than 45, although that has skewed downward lately. Experience in the field (building control systems) doesn't seem to be a factor, but area of operation does. Northeasterners seem to be the slowest, regionally, in getting the material. (I'm thinking: They spend too much time driving to it), while Westerners, especially Californians, seem to be the quickest. The guys in the 40-50 age range seem to be the quickest by far as an age group, with 30-40 second.
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#16 Posted on 2.6.05 1725.55
Reposted on: 2.6.12 1729.01
I'm reminded of a book I read. It was called "Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong."
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0684818868/qid=1117750705/sr=8-1/ref=pd_csp_1/104-3947345-4197553?v=glance&s=books&n=507846

The author, who was quite liberal, I must admit, felt that history classes don't cover the recent history because then people would realize the textbooks are wrong. There are no eye-witnesses who can tell you that Columbus wasn't really a hero, or that racial equality after the Civil War was higher in some places than it is today.

But parents and grandparents of students know about the Vietnam War, so the textbooks are noticeably vague. That way they can't get yelled at.
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#17 Posted on 3.6.05 1151.53
Reposted on: 3.6.12 1157.10
    Originally posted by Mr. Boffo
    I'm reminded of a book I read. It was called "Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong."
    http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0684818868/qid=1117750705/sr=8-1/ref=pd_csp_1/104-3947345-4197553?v=glance&s=books&n=507846

    The author, who was quite liberal, I must admit, felt that history classes don't cover the recent history because then people would realize the textbooks are wrong. There are no eye-witnesses who can tell you that Columbus wasn't really a hero, or that racial equality after the Civil War was higher in some places than it is today.

    But parents and grandparents of students know about the Vietnam War, so the textbooks are noticeably vague. That way they can't get yelled at.


I may not know as much about history as the author of that book, but I would tend to disagree with that. We don't put newer history into textbooks because, quite simply, we can't judge recent history fully. It isn't that we can't judge it at all, but rather it is best to wait longer to get a more clear perspective. We know the short term consequences of Vietnam and the Civil Rights movement, but we don't know how they will be judged a century from now.

As for this textbook solution, it sucks. I definately agree with the posters who said that history should be more than memorizing facts and dates. It should. The best history course I took was as a freshman in high school. We had to memorize three dates all year, we barely read the textbook, and the class focused on critical thinking and making connections between historical events. It was a great class, but that doesn't work for all history classes, let alone all courses in general. What about higher math? Can you teach all of an introductory calculus course in 200 pages? I certainly don't think so. This is just a stupid solution that fails to address any of the real causes that kids don't learn. It doesn't matter if the book is 200 pages or 2,000 pages, it won't matter.
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