Thursday, August 22, 2013

Text books

Here's an article on how Common Core adoption is pushing kids out of science careers when they are 13 years old. By only offering limited opportunities to take algebra in 8th grade--which leads to calculus senior year, which leads to possible acceptance into science and engineering schools--the doors to science careers are being closed, with the determination being whether a student manages to grab the few spots available for 8th grade algebra. Miss that cut off, and you are left scrambling with either intensive summer work to catch up, or doubling up math classes in one year.

But here's what I see as the worst line in the story:
According to Martin, textbooks are “a 20th-century concept.” Teachers are now “finding their own resources and putting them on the website for students to access,” he said. “In almost every curriculum area, the investment districts used to make in textbooks is beginning to change.”
Textbooks, at least the best of them, are a carefully designed sequence which thoroughly and thoughtfully walks students through the material and allows them to access the concepts and practice needed for mastery. When stumped, students can look back or can look at example problems to figure out which way to go.

I have absolutely ZERO confidence that teachers grabbing things ad-hoc from wherever can do half as good a job as even mediocre text books. It will leave students with no resources beyond the teacher's word.

I've had courses taught to me by the teacher, using a text book they themselves had written--or worse, a photocopy of transparencies the teacher displayed in class. I always hated it! Having two independent resources at hand is vastly preferable to having one. With a single source, there is no other opinion as to what is most-important, what should be stressed, what should be skipped or deƫmphasized, there is no alternative explanation you can turn to when the first isn't working.

I find the idea that teachers are superior textbook authors, better than textbook authors themselves, to be arrogant and misguided.

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