Welcome to another installment of From Around The Web.
This time, I am sharing an older article from Edutopia's archives. I must admit I giggled my way through this article written way back in 2004. It is told from the perspective of a slightly disgusted (bitter? ) former Textbook Editor. With wry humor she walks you through "The Muddle Machine" where agendas, both liberal and conservative, are accommodated and innovation is sacrificed along with learning opportunity. Honestly, when the core content of your new textbook is called "chum", you know you have issues!
There are quite a few mind boggling statistics and trivia about the textbook publishing industry. For example, speaking about States like Texas and Florida the article points out,
"Obviously, publishers create products specifically for the adoptions in those three key states. They then sell the same product to everybody else, because basals are very expensive to produce -- a K-8 reading program can cost as much as $60 million. "
Basals are the complete package of a curriculum across a set of grades and includes everything from the Teacher's manual to workbooks and worksheets.
I suppose $60 million is pretty steep. But I wonder how much of that these larger publishers actually recoup? I'd be especially interested in knowing that given that so many schools don't actually seem to give the kids the books - if all the grumbling parents can be believed.
There are other little gems like this one talking about how a State standard actually gets translated into a book.
"The student shall be provided content necessary to formulate, discuss, critique, and review hypotheses, theories, laws, and principles and their strengths and weaknesses."
If you should meet a textbook editor and he or she seems eccentric (odd hair, facial tics, et cetera), it's because this is a person who has spent hundreds of hours scrutinizing countless pages filled with such action items, trying to determine if the textbook can arguably be said to support each objective."
What? I've read some of the Common Core standards and often scratched my head. Why don't they just say, We're going to learn how to construct an experient the scientificy way. (YES, I made up that word.) Less is more more often than not! That is to say, simple, straightforward language would probably lead to a more robust, closely aligned textbook. Or maybe that's just too easy. Or perhaps, it's not the real goal.
I wonder if these politics and well, silliness, is a part of the process publishers like Rod and Staff and Math Mammoth go through? I should think not since the only people these small companies need to impress are the parents, the very tiny samples of private schools and the kids. Granted, kids are generally not impressed with textbooks.
If you are interested in how a textbook comes to be and want a funny telling of the story please follow the link below!
A Textbook Example of What's Wrong with Education
A former schoolbook editor parses the politics of educational publishing.
By Tammy Ansary