The Ergosphere
Thursday, September 30, 2004
 

Wasting energy... with useless textbooks

I promise that this is not going to become an education blog, but I had to point to this Richard Feynman story wherein he recounts his one time reviewing mathematics textbooks.  (Hat tip:  a commenter Jeff_H at joannejacobs.com.)

Textbooks which are confusing, obfuscatory or just plain wrong are more than just a waste of money; they are a crime against the taxpayers, schoolchildren and progress itself. 
Comments:
I'm looking forward to the day when the content of books will separate from the physical media. Once we get bookplates (or whatever we'll call them) all the really nasty effects of politics will go away. So you say you want the text not to say X? Sure, we'll rewrite the paragraph for you Texas. We'll also sell the other version to anybody who wants it because developing that other version is all sunk costs at that point.

Large states like Texas and California won't be able to rule the country's text market, just their own.
 
Or it could lead to fifty, or five hundred, regional variants of the same books, each with different biases, omissions and errors.  If the problem of reviewing and correcting them is bad now....
 
Um, if what you're selling is a bifurcated physical carrier (bookplate) and bits (the content of classes) then correction can be done cheaply and effectively. Also, it would be really cheap to just roll them all into one mega version and allow the students to see them all with the commentary and debate over the controversies.

99% of them will just stick to the text on a particular issue as taught by the teacher but they will have one advantage over today's students. They will be aware that there are different opinions and have access to dissenting views whenever they like. That's a major plus for intellectual curiosity and the prospects of good citizenship at 18 when they get the vote.
 
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