Friday, July 17, 2009

From the Archives: A Textbook Editor Responds

Originally posted June 9, 2009

A textbook editor responds to my call to 'Get Off Textbooks'.

Here's the highlight reel:

As one of the textbook editors you disparage in your post, I will say I am equally as frustrated as you are w/ the state of textbooks, but I think laying the blame completely at the foot of textbook publishers is misplaced. State standards such as those in CA are in essence political documents, and the textbooks produced to align to these standards are also politicized by extension. They are not so much a way to ensure that our children get the best education possible but a way to ensure that every interest group gets its say in how our children are taught.

There are a lot of intelligent, well-meaning, passionate people in textbook publishing. But unfortunately, the goal of textbook publishers is not ultimately to make a book that is of great value to teachers and students. Their goal is to please adoption comittees [sic] and district administrators who decide which books to purchase. To do otherwise would ignore the biggest markets and the biggest profits.

To truly change the educational system, change needs to happen to the standards themselves to make them more open and flexible and to allow for innovation in the classroom. And that change only seems like it can happen when the majority of parents, politicians, and educators begin to seriously reflect on how students are treated and taught and begin to change a lot of institutionalized attitudes that are really detrimental to actual leearning [sic]. I do see the glimmers of that happening, but it seems a long way off.

Problems with 'standards' and 'politicization'. Acknowledgment that this is really about markets and profits. Acknowledgment that flexibility and de-institutionalism are the benefactors of 'actual learning'.

If these are the feelings of a representative from within the textbook industry, then it's no wonder that classroom teachers themselves would want to throw textbooks out the window.

The short of the story: textbooks -- whether of the paper variety, or their online doppelgangers -- don't seem to be worth the time it takes to produce them.

Get Off Textbooks.

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