Institutional Memory For Education Reformers Sadly Lacking
This post on textbooks in schools, or the lack thereof, illustrates just how handicapping it is not to have informed discussions about education issues. Going back to previous discussions 6 years ago it’s interesting to note how valuable it is to have context and a wide-range of views expressed.
The education system has its institutional memory to advance its positions. The teacher unions have institutional memory to advance their benefits and political agendas. Parents and public and taxpayers simply do not engage very effectively in public discourse because there is little by way of background on which to lean on for facts and figures and to advance reform. This is where Society for Quality Education, through its blog, has been so helpful. It provides both a forum for discussion and a backup archive from which to search for issues of the past. Long may we enjoy this excellent service!
Now, to the matter at hand: textbooks.
1 I do know that home educators are great at using textbooks — be they old, used (even ancient) textbooks for their studies. We do know that home educated students generally do very well in education whether it’s on standardized tests or college and university.
2 In the commentary brought forward from 2010 this gem pops up from a post by TDSBNW on 06/07 — “Unfortunately, pseudo-science is the name of the game in education, and always has been.” So, even if the latest, best, and compelling research shows up that textbooks are definitely superior to the mish-mash now being used the question arises: Would the education system bow to evidence? This seems to be the continuing refrain informing current education debates and adding to the polarization — on one side we see parents and some reformers pressing for evidence-based standard procedures and on the other hand we see an education system steadfastly resistant to that position in favor of methods largely based on subjective beliefs, fads and politics versus hard facts. What will it take to shift to more objective standards?
3 Of course, textbooks, by themselves are not the issue alone. It’s the credibility of the textbook that’s also important. Here is an oft-quoted story about Dr Suess:
“That damned ‘Cat in the Hat’ . . . I did it for a textbook house and they sent me a word list. That was due to the Dewey revolt in the Twenties, in which they threw out phonic reading and went to word recognition . . . I think killing phonics was one of the greatest causes of illiteracy in the country . . . there were two hundred and twenty-three words to use in this book . . . I read the list three times and I almost went out of my head. I said, I’ll read it once more and if I can find two words that rhyme that’ll be the title of my book . . . I found ‘cat’ and ‘hat’ and I said, ‘The title will be ‘The Cat in the Hat.’”
That dismaying experience with the whole-word, look-say, word recognition movement and his first “Cat” book (1957) was reported in 1981 in “Arizona” magazine. When Dr Seuss fully grasped the situation he then afterwards became known as a strong champion of phonics.
The Internet just cannot replace textbooks as long as they’re credible and students can read !