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Open Source Textbooks For California 201

Posted by kdawson
from the byzantine-doesn't-begin-to-describe dept.
T-1000, appropriately enough, lets us know about a California initiative to compile open source science and math textbooks for the state, in the hopes of saving money. The effort is spearheaded by Gov. Schwarzenegger. "The effort seems very promising, but the state's complex standards and arduous textbook evaluation process will pose major challenges. ... The governator will surely be able to stop the digital textbooks from gaining sentience and subjugating humanity, but there are trickier challenges that will be even tougher to defeat than the impending Skynet apocalypse. Textbooks are a surprisingly controversial issue in California and there is a lot of political baggage and bureaucratic red tape that will make an open source textbook plan especially troublesome. ... [T]he traditional wiki approach is untenable for California teaching material. Individual changes to textbooks can become a source of fierce debate and there are a multitude of special interest groups battling over what the textbooks should say and how they should say it. It would take the concept of Wikipedia edit wars to a whole new level."
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Open Source Textbooks For California

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  • I never knew... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by spiffmastercow (1001386) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @03:45PM (#27898953)
    I'm surprised that introductory algebra is such a politically polarized topic...
    I can only imagine the debates in calculus, what with the ongoing Newton/Leibniz war..
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by skine (1524819)

      They can present anything they want as long as they teach the controversy.

    • Proof-based mathematics vs. faith-based mathematics gets ugly, real fast.

      I guess that goes for any proof-based science vs. faith-based science. And their appropriate school books.

      Although, I must admit, during my differential equations final exam, I think that some of my answers were definitely faith-based.

      Good riddance to differential equations! Not that I want to ruffle any feathers, but I wouldn't recognize the "Differential Equation Rapture," if it popped up and slapped me in the face.

      Let alone, being able to classify and solve it.

    • by rolfwind (528248) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @05:04PM (#27899485)

      While I took a japanese course one semester, my teacher decided to forgo the required text, a classic 300 page textbook for the course, and gave us this short booklet - probably about 50-75 pages long (I forget). Being Japanese herself, she said that it was the atypical school book in Japan, being good for 6 weeks of study. We got a second one half-way through.

      I really liked having a short workbook. It was disposable (paper covers) and much like the Schaum's outlines here (a bit shorter, those outlines cost about less than $15 a subject, don't see why textbooks cost like 8x that and up). It also helped studying because everything in the booklet was relevant to the course and you could keep up with ease.

      Math books especially have that problem of being mini-tomes of info. My calculus book in highschool could also cover Calc II and Calc III courses. I don't see why I have to lug all that around at once.

      Hopefully this initiative and wikibooks work together:
      http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Main_Page [wikibooks.org]

      • I totally agree. Most "textbooks" on "Calculus" I've seen in the US seem to have been produced by people who are paid by the book's weight. They are full of are useless drivel that doesn't concern the actual mathematics, poor stabs at tutorial, and an extravagantly wasteful layout.

        A book based on the "lecture notes" principle which also tries to use the available space can typically cover the same subject matter in a clear and concise manner in a quarter of the size and weight.

        That would be something Op

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Nyeerrmm (940927)

          I think the idea with open textbooks is that you can use it in whatever format you like.

          For instance, while I definitely prefer a real copy for a textbook, having a digital version to keep on the computer or on my kindle would be really handy for traveling. I don't know how many times I've been somewhere and realized I really needed a book; being in grad school I'm running into topics which aren't covered well or at all online.

          Thus, a good bet would be to make the digital copy available, in a reflowable fo

          • by rtb61 (674572) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @09:04PM (#27901041) Homepage

            So here is a new point of study for you, the affect of lobbyists, PR/marketing, large publishing houses and greed upon the cost of free electronic textbooks. There are many people who derive large incomes from the old system and the greed combined with the intelligence will motivate them to do one particular thing over and over again. To become involved in free open electronic textbook projects and poison them, make the collapse in infighting and arguments, become buried in pointless arbitrary differences in technicalities, it other words do every deceitful pathetic thing they can do to keep the whole greater than $100 text book gravy train going.

            So the simple first step to doing it, is expecting that this will happen. The simplest solution is forcing the full declaration of all vested interests by any person or organisation that wishes to contribute and publicly shaming those who contributions are disingenuous and motivated by greed. So the initial effort must be focussed on creating a tightly governed process with set achievement points and firm guidelines, with a real focus on eliminating spoilers from the project. Failure to do this, will result in failure on the project, not because of it's lack of value or the achievability of the project (wikipedia is a good example) but, because of the unending greed and venality of a few asshats.

        • by tyrione (134248)
          Dover Publications eliminates the concern that your "scrawny" body can't handle such manly books.
    • by fermion (181285)
      There are huge conflicts in pedagogy and topics. Do we introduce topics on the board or with a hands on activity. Do we develop a topic following a precise sequence that builds process, or examples that help the student build his or her own process, or activities that convey the general idea of problem solving. Do we assess using multiple guess choices to known problems, the solution to an adapted real world problem, or with the ability to create a defensible solution to previously unseen problems. Some
      • a Bus" method of writing a textbook.

        A textbook should be written so that all of the information for the course is in the book so that the Teacher
        (or the top 10% of the class) only has to worry about the understanding ("why") part of the course. Missing information means the book is defective.

      • My view is that a text should supply sufficient information to get a handle on a subject or an area of study. It can't provide activity - that's a teacher's job - and besides, if I saw an "active book" I'ld probably shoot it on principle. The teacher's business is to persuade students to think, help them take in and apply information logically and critically, the text's task is to inform the thought process.

        Courses where the "material" is in part or as a whole a matter of opinion: history, politics, histo
    • Re:I never knew... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by blahplusplus (757119) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @06:05PM (#27899857)

      How math is taught IS important. I've been doing research into how to teach math and I've learned over the years that the math most schools teach is ONE GROUP OF MEN's way of how to frame mathematics and numbers.

      When it comes down to it math is a language to systematize form and structure.

      There are numerous angles to teach concepts that are much better then traditional methods. One of the reasons kids find math hard is that they are not taught to DERIVE concepts from things everyone understands: Size, difference, distinction, ratio, motion. i.e. before you even open a textbook and start crunching numbers, you need to be taught how to observe and think conceptually, otherwise the symbols will just seem like jargon disconnected from why mathematical systems were 'invented' in the first place.

      What math heads who are good with symbolic computation and manipulation don't understand is that mathematics for most people is difficult without a conceptual framework that they can relate to. Just seeing a bunch of symbols and equations doesn't tell you HOW to think about a general framework and interpretation of concepts that come before "math".

      There's also a real cult around mathematics that turns a lot of people off math, since many people around mathematics tend to be rigid. One only has to look at how contemporaries of George Cantor in mathematics treated him when he came up with different ways of viewing numbers and mathematical concepts.

      • Re:I never knew... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by TheSync (5291) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @06:17PM (#27899949) Journal

        How math is taught IS important.

        One of the best educational experiences of my life was when my (public) high school calculus and physics teachers coordinated together so that you would learn calculus we needed as we were learning physics (surely Newton would approve). That way you could learn integration one hour, and find out how to use integration to solve kinetics with velocity and acceleration in the next hour.

        • That way you could learn integration one hour, and find out how to use integration to solve kinetics with velocity and acceleration in the next hour.

          I read that as "how to use integration to solve kinetics with Veloceraptors in the next hour." I think most classes would have been more awesome with dinosaurs.

          • by N3Roaster (888781)

            My father had a physics course with monkeys. Every problem involved monkeys. My physics was uniformly dull in that regard, neither dinosaurs nor monkeys. The year after one class, though, the textbook was changed to one that was fond of pirates. Unfortunately, the textbook authors were not keen on making sure the problems actually had solutions so the instructors had to accept, "The pirates are drunk," as a correct answer.

        • Re:I never knew... (Score:4, Insightful)

          by shutdown -p now (807394) on Monday May 11, 2009 @02:07AM (#27902909) Journal

          One of the best educational experiences of my life was when my (public) high school calculus and physics teachers coordinated together so that you would learn calculus we needed as we were learning physics (surely Newton would approve). That way you could learn integration one hour, and find out how to use integration to solve kinetics with velocity and acceleration in the next hour.

          I always thought that's how school should work, and it's great to hear that someone, somewhere, is actually doing it that way. Why isn't this more widespread though?

          • by BlueStrat (756137)

            One of the best educational experiences of my life was when my (public) high school calculus and physics teachers coordinated together so that you would learn calculus we needed as we were learning physics (surely Newton would approve). That way you could learn integration one hour, and find out how to use integration to solve kinetics with velocity and acceleration in the next hour.

            I always thought that's how school should work, and it's great to hear that someone, somewhere, is actually doing it that way.

      • by tyrione (134248)

        How math is taught IS important. I've been doing research into how to teach math and I've learned over the years that the math most schools teach is ONE GROUP OF MEN's way of how to frame mathematics and numbers.

        When it comes down to it math is a language to systematize form and structure.

        There are numerous angles to teach concepts that are much better then traditional methods. One of the reasons kids find math hard is that they are not taught to DERIVE concepts from things everyone understands: Size, difference, distinction, ratio, motion. i.e. before you even open a textbook and start crunching numbers, you need to be taught how to observe and think conceptually, otherwise the symbols will just seem like jargon disconnected from why mathematical systems were 'invented' in the first place.

        What math heads who are good with symbolic computation and manipulation don't understand is that mathematics for most people is difficult without a conceptual framework that they can relate to. Just seeing a bunch of symbols and equations doesn't tell you HOW to think about a general framework and interpretation of concepts that come before "math".

        There's also a real cult around mathematics that turns a lot of people off math, since many people around mathematics tend to be rigid. One only has to look at how contemporaries of George Cantor in mathematics treated him when he came up with different ways of viewing numbers and mathematical concepts.

        The best Mathematicians I found always became Engineers and some who dropped out of Engineering [EE/ME/ChemE/Materials] became Physicists. I found the guys who were "math nerds" truly had a void in Imagination [a requirement in Engineering in order to advance yourself in the degree and to understanding the boundless areas of application], were big on a niche in theoretical proofs and were horrific at application and explanation--two requirements to be a valuable Engineer.

        As a Mechanical Engineer I always h

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by esme (17526)

      Anything with words in can be accused of having racist and/or sexist biases. Just for one extreme fictional example, imagine something like this: http://www.snopes.com/humor/question/mathtest.asp [snopes.com] -- but it doesn't have to be ridiculous like that. It could just be the race and sex composition of the smiling faces on the cover.

      Anything written by people can be tainted by other works by those people, or by private comments they have made. Anything published by a company can be tainted by other books they've

    • If you put the wrong ratio of minorities in the text book you'll spark some insane controversy. If your book problems use names that appear feminine but portray the fictional female subject in a way that might be considered a stereotype, you'll find a massive outcry. It's all very complicated here as everyone is hypersensitive to every issue, and will have complaints about controversial depictions, real or imagined. (short story: Californian education politics are insane and generally irrational)

  • ...the printed books we had when I was in school were full of lies. Who cares if these are full of bullshit? So were the old ones. Let's get these kids using some free bullshit and save some money. Of course, instructors who knew the material could teach from Wikipedia, using versions of articles vetted for correctness — a process in which they could participate.

    • a process in which they could participate

      Education is not a democracy.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        Education is not a democracy.

        That's right, the state and federal government decide what thou shalt learn. It most certainly is not a democracy.

    • by skine (1524819) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @04:08PM (#27899117)
      Of course Wikipedia is a reliable source. According to Wikipedia [wikipedia.org], Wikipedia is just as accurate and contains has similar rate of errors as that of Encyclopedia Britannica.
    • I'm with ya. I endured public education through high school, and it taught me that education = boredom. And who knows how many false but socially useful ideas they installed in me. (e.g. grading on a curve = you lose if people are better than you = life is a zero sum game = nasty false idea)

      I sent my sons to private school until they were 8 and 10. I tried montessori and also an elite Lutheran school (despite its religiousness). This past year I switched my job to telecommuting and now I home-school them. They absorb the information like sponges, because kids these days have highly active minds due to the ocean of data that we all live in.

      This month is the end of our first year doing this. I didn't think I could do it, but I did, and it's not hard any more. We've covered sociology/history from the African jungle through the Macedonian empire, physics (all the basics), and information theory (including basic algol programming in C++/C#). I picked those topics because they actually dovetail at many interesting points... and I enjoy them enough to teach them passionately.

      My ex, who is of a different mind, teaches math, reading comprehension, writing, and biology. It's an excellent division of labor. And now my kids routinely ask me if we can learn about a certain topic in school tomorrow (last request was to learn how escalators work).

      I used to think homeschoolers were all religious nutjobs. In fact most of them are (the curricula sold at homeschool bookstores can only be described as 'wacky'), but homeschool can be as rational as the parents are. If I can do it, so can you. You'll have to study to do it, but that's not a bad thing.

      Now I look back on public school and it just seems like an impossible job: mass education that must proceed at the pace of the slowest child in the room, run by unionized teachers who reject performance criteria and do not care about your kids anyway, teaching a publicly approved curriculum where 'public' = a bunch of envirous religious dolts. Completely impossible. But we can opt out.

    • by jaypifer (64463)

      Brilliant post! Very true!

  • Open source ? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by smoker2 (750216) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @03:54PM (#27899021) Homepage Journal
    How is this open source ? You can already read what goes into a book, so the source isn't hidden. Maybe they meant community contributed and owned ? Copyright is the issue, not authorship.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by CSMatt (1175471)

      Becuase "Open source" has become a buzzword, used to describe something even vaugely similar to the concept.

      That's not to say that this textbook initiative is a bad idea, but the terminology is flat out wrong.

      • Re:Open source ? (Score:5, Informative)

        by BrokenSegue (895288) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @04:47PM (#27899391) Homepage

        No, you're mistaken. Here's what happened. We used to call projects like this "free" (as in speech) or libre. The problem was that (lay)people confused that concept with gratis (as in beer).

        The phrase "open source" was created to solve that problem. Since libre software usually implies that the source is public. The concept was then extended to everything. Now open source really just means available under an open source license, which is defined by the OSI.

        You're making the same point RMS made when the phrase "open source" was coined (iirc) in 1998 Netscape went open source. He claims, rightly, that being free is more than having open source.

        Not wrong terminology, changing terminology.

    • Yeah, I think the more descriptive term would be "open access." [wikipedia.org] The article does talk about "digital" textbooks, whatever that means... in which case "open source" should mean not using a DRMed digital format.
    • by syousef (465911)

      How is this open source ? You can already read what goes into a book

      You obviously haven't tried to read a textbook lately, have you? ;-) It's all nonsense to me.

    • The letters and words are open, but the source behind them is not. The process of reviewing the work of an average text book is not open.

    • With the layout metadata it can be hard to print pages of various sizes or reflow text around new images or add new tables and graphs.

      These days (with-in the last couple of decades) we can considered publishing to be a computer-aided process. And creating a document suitable for printing is not much different than compiling code to be executed (and debugged).

      I use Makefiles to build my LaTeX and nroff(msdoc macros) based documents. But perhaps that's just this one programmer's bias for familiar tools.

  • Ugh (Score:5, Interesting)

    by agrippa_cash (590103) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @03:56PM (#27899035) Homepage
    It is a huge industry that I understand deals in a widely dispursed form of petty graft. I'd much rather we use our public university system (which is well regarded) to compile text books and withhold state funds from districts that insist on going elsewhere. Of course, we would have to pay the UCs something, but we wouldn't have to pay them enough to bribe local school districts. I think textbooks are a racket all up and down the line, but up through the HS level I have a hard time believing that you need or can even attract top level scholars to explain Algebra II (as someone else mentioned) or the Whiskey Rebelion or TekWar.
  • by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @04:09PM (#27899125) Journal

    Textbooks are a surprisingly controversial issue in California and there is a lot of political baggage and bureaucratic red tape that will make an open source textbook plan especially troublesome.

    No kidding. It's called "bribery", "corruption", and "bureaucratic naivete".

    See the seventh chapter of part 5 of Richard P. Feynman's book _"Surely you're Joking, Mr. Feynman!"_, which is titled "Judging Books by Their Covers" for a descripton of the process as of the year he let himself be dragged into it.

    (The title comes from an incident where some members of the board submitted ratings for volumes of a textbook set which hadn't yet been completed and so were supplied with the full cover but blank pages.)

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      See the seventh chapter of part 5 of Richard P. Feynman's book _"Surely you're Joking, Mr. Feynman!"_, which is titled "Judging Books by Their Covers" for a descripton of the process as of the year he let himself be dragged into it.

      If you're not able to get a copy easily, it is online here [textbookleague.org]

  • Open source is about the ability of the community to freely access and manipulate, as long as the changes are documented. Regulation is about the control of access and manipulation. Which special interest groups are allowed to look at it before the public? What idea offends which group? Does the example use gender neutral language? Restrictions, restrictions, restrictions...

    If it was creationists who were the special interests groups, it would be in the article. If creationists go anywhere near scienc

    • Open source is about the ability of the community to freely access and manipulate, as long as the changes are documented. Regulation is about the control of access and manipulation.

      Those don't seem mutually exclusive to me at all. Most successful open projects don't just let anybody come in and touch their source--they're free to make a branch, but the "official" source tree is guarded by people that care about its quality and reputation.

      Maybe the Scientologists will be able to write the text book on psychology?

      Hey, why not...after all, that "you have to teach both sides of the story" fallacy seems to be working out pretty well for the creationists in a few places.

  • Use Wikipedia for what it does best.

    Why not use Wikipedia/Wikibooks content as a text book?

    Each teacher compiles the list of articles for the class to read, prints them out, and distributes the printouts periodically during the semester (along with a copy of the GFDL license), and that forms the text...

    • by MrMista_B (891430)

      Mod +5 Funny

      Seriously? Use /Wikipedia/ in a classroom?

      I'm... staggered that anyone would suggest that seriously. I hope you're joking.

    • It wouldn't work, teachers hate Wikipedia.

      Wikipedia is more than reliable enough for homework needs but it makes the information way to easy to reach for the teachers to be comfortable. They don't really care about what you learn or produce, they care about how much you worked for it. Wikipedia means you don't have to jump through as many hoops and they really hate that.

  • by FilterMapReduce (1296509) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @04:27PM (#27899265)

    I've been saying for years that it would be a great idea for public schools to invest in the production of open-source-style licensed textbooks. As long as textbooks are being sold by traditional publishers, they get to charge a per-unit price for them. If you want ten million students to read some publishing house's version of Our Glossy History of America or what have you, then you have to pay ten million times n dollars. If you instead invest in having a new textbook written from scratch and placed under a Creative Commons license, then you pay an up-front cost (expensive, no doubt, but probably pretty cheap as line items on the state budget go) and then it can be issued to any arbitrary number of students for no more than the cost of having copies printed up by the lowest bidder. The publisher's markup, marketing costs, and distribution costs vanish from the price.

    There are external benefits, too. Some day it might be plausible for schools to save even more money by going all-digital; they wouldn't even have to pay to print the books. If the books are formatted in such a way that they can be printed paper-bound at your local Kinko's (the way most college readers are), students could cheaply have one or two extra copies as their private property—one to highlight and take notes in, or one copy for the locker and one for home. And free online textbooks would be a resource to autodidacts and other schools, not just in the state, but anywhere on the Internet.

    The analogy to open-source software is apt. These days, reproducing information costs next to nothing, as long as it was produced by someone who chooses not to charge a per-unit price. Public schools essentially pay rent on individual textbooks issued to students, not unlike the so-called Microsoft tax when you buy a PC. I have nothing against the textbook publishers' profit-seeking activities—they're free to try whatever business model they like—but philanthropists and volunteers really ought to be able to beat their prices.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by HashDefine (590370)

      I've been saying for years that it would be a great idea for public schools to invest in the production of open-source-style licensed textbooks.

      This is very similar to how it is done in India. The National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) is charged with the task of creating texts for grades 1 to 12. I remember the books as being fairly high quality in terms of content but a bit dry as compared to the "imported" text books. You can download pdf's of the most of the books from NCERT's web site [ncert.nic.in].

      • by belmolis (702863)

        Are the books themselves available? I looked at several and all there was was the table of contents.

  • Printing copies of the books. You can pay someone to write them but you still need to get copies into the students' hands.

    Electronic distribution - aside from the initial cost; replacing lost / damages readers would be an ongoing cost and nightmare.

  • This will never happen as school administrators are extremely risk adverse. They will never be able to accept the risk that the reason their students didn't do well is that the open source textbook they used didn't meet the state/federal curriculum standards. The state/federal education agencies will also never certify that any text book meets their curriculum standards.

  • by tjstork (137384) <todd@bandrowsky.gmail@com> on Sunday May 10, 2009 @05:44PM (#27899757) Homepage Journal

    I just reviewed the section on World War II.

    on World War II [schools-wikipedia.org]

    1) These retards have the Battle of the Somme taking place during World War II, when it was rather an affair of World War I.

    2) The battle of Smolensk has an article, but the battle of Kursk does not? Kursk was only one of the largest tank battles of all time and the last great offensive in the east... but I guess that's not important.

    3) Richard OConnor gets a write up, but not Alan Brooke, Ike, or, Zhukov?

    4) The economic underpinnings of the war are not touched on at all. Indeed, the whole history of World War II takes place against a backdrop of the economics of the powers involved, and provides the basic narrative of the struggle. For Americans, where's the talk about how 100 years of protectionism left the USA standing with enough industrial capacity to build 25 aircraft carriers, a bunch of battleships, cruisers, countless destroyers, tens of thousands of aircraft, tanks, guns, and still have enough capacity left over for a speculative bet on the atomic bomb. The great American lesson of WWII is that self reliant industrial capacity wins wars and if any lesson about the war is relevant to the USA today, it is that one.

    5) The article about Nazism is, well completely wrong. Given that the head of the SA was a homosexual, and that was known to Hitler and co for some time, its hard to make the argument that the Nazis were more anti-gay than anti-jewish, although granted, Hitler did use Rohm's gayness as one of many charges against him.

    All in all, if this is what open source history is, I'd say its crap.

    • by belmolis (702863)

      I bet it isn't as bad as Conservapedia [conservapedia.com], which is just chock full of nonsense.

      • by tjstork (137384)

        I bet it isn't as bad as Conservapedia, which is just chock full of nonsense.

        What does that have to do with anything?

        • by belmolis (702863)

          Conservapedia is touted as a resource for schools and schoolchildren by its promoters, that's why.

          • by tjstork (137384)

            Just because conservapedia is retarded doesn't make the "Somme took place in World War II" source any more correct.

    • by mdwh2 (535323) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @06:57PM (#27900263) Journal

      1. http://schools-wikipedia.org/wp/b/Battle_of_the_Somme.htm [schools-wikipedia.org] clearly states it was in WW1. I'm not sure why that shows up in their WW2 list, but that looks to be some kind of index, possibly based on the fact that WW2 is mentioned as a "related" subject. Even if it is a blooper, it's an indexing mistake, and it's incorrect to claim they "have the Battle of the Somme taking place during World War II" when the article explicitly does not state that.

      2,3. Not covering everything you consider important makes it total crap? (Wikipedia does have an article on it - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Kursk [wikipedia.org] - FWIW, not sure why they didn't select it too.)

      4. Again, that it doesn't cover everything doesn't equate to "total crap" to me. And issues such as relative importance of what should be covered, and factors in WW2, sound very much to be something that there will be differing opinions. Why should I take the opinion of an anonymous poster on Slashdot as authoritative? I mean:

      The great American lesson of WWII is that self reliant industrial capacity wins wars and if any lesson about the war is relevant to the USA today, it is that one.

      Is it? Says who? (Also remember that Wikipedia is an international project, so it is not solely concerned with looking at things from an American viewpoint - though I admit that may be something that is disliked, because people tend to prefer teaching versions focused on their own country. Similarly here in the UK, where the history that is taught is almost entirely focused on British history.)

      5. Whatever the sexuality of certain Nazis (sources?), there is plenty of evidence regarding their treatment of homosexuals, e.g., in concentration camps (which bit are you referring to when you say "the argument that the Nazis were more anti-gay than anti-jewish").

      Possibly you mean "Wikischools is total crap, because of one indexing blooper, and the rest of it doesn't fit into my personal viewpoint of what I think is important".

      • by tjstork (137384)

        Is it? Says who?

        Says fact dude. Google Tariff of Abominations as your start, look at the impact that had on northern industry during the civil war, vs the free trading csa, and how the northerners (aka Republicans) relied on free trade all the way through the 1930s. I bet you find that the arguments in favor of free trade were more of a political means to an end. We repeat Roosevelt's "protectionism caused the Great Depression", because it worked, but, he only really said it because he was looking to rea

    • Therefor all Open Source software is crap.

    • As a student of the LA school system, we got new textbooks in the 9th grade. As our teacher pointed out, our new US history textbook made no mention of Paul Revere [wikipedia.org] even though he was pretty important in US history. Our teachers all hated the new books, and even back then textbooks were very controversial.
  • by XB-70 (812342)
    If so-called open source (i.e. copyleft) textbooks are created it will suddenly be possible to legally digitally or physically copy and print any number of pages any number of times. Further to that, a digital version of the ENTIRE CURRICULUM could be distributed extremely inexpensively to every student in the system.

    By taking this step, great harm would come to education and educators. Students would no longer have an excuse: "I left my book at ....". This would mean that educators would be required to sp

    • by Tuoqui (1091447)

      No they wouldnt tell educators to cut hours teaching they'd just include more material.

  • by bcrowell (177657) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @08:45PM (#27900881) Homepage

    The timeline is really goofy. This [ca.gov] press release from last week appears to be the request by the government for content, and they say they want it for fall 2009. Huh!?!? The press release refers to "free, open-source digital textbooks for high school students" and says the government will "develop a state approved list of standards-aligned, open-source digital textbooks for high school math and science." Textbook publishers with books already on the market obviously aren't going to make their books free and open source. Individuals clearly can't start writing new ones and get them done by fall 2009. So the only possibility left is apparently to look for free books that already exist. That's fine (see my sig for a catalog of free books), but I think it's extremely unlikely that there are any preexisting free books that meet the state standards, which, as the Ars article points out, are insanely difficult to comply with.

    I teach physics at a community college in California, and I'm the author of some open-source physics textbooks [lightandmatter.com]. They're intended for the college level, but I do get quite a few of my adoptions from high schools (see the list on that page). So far, however, zero of my adoptions have been from California public high schools. I don't think it takes a rocket scientist to understand why: California's textbook selection system makes it impossible. Actually most of my high school users are at private religious schools. I assume that's because private schools aren't regulated by their state governments in terms of textbook adoption, and they also usually operate on a shoestring, so free textbooks sound like a good deal to them.

    Re the wiki approach, it's a dismal failure at producing useful textbooks. If you look at the catalog linked to from my sig, there are hundreds of textbooks in it, and very few of them were made via wikis. Wikibooks' original goal was to revolutionize education; in reality it seems like the killer app for Wikibooks is video game guides. Plenty of people are writing free books. They're just not doing it using wikis. A textbook is an entirely different kind of project than an encyclopedia.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Manywele (679470)
      As a California high school physics teacher I agree that your text will never be adopted by a public California high school. You have a picture of a beer for one, obviously encouraging underaged drinking. Plus it's not aligned to the state standards [ca.gov] (you're missing thermo). Also every physics teacher has to agree on a single textbook in case a physics student transfers mid-year. That hasn't happened in the 4 years I've been teaching here so why we're catering to the random data point is beyond me. But
      • by tyrione (134248)

        You think that's bad? Sixty-one percent of Math and Science teachers in Washington State don't even have the degree matching the course(s) they teach. If I had to learn Chemistry by someone other than the guy I had who held a MS Physical Chemistry I'd have never become an Engineer. The same goes for Physics, Biology, Trigonometry, Calculus, et.al.

        Hell, they stopped American Government as a required class, along with intense study of Vietnam, WWI/WWII, 1800s/1900s US Constitutional landmark changes, and much

  • The Open Learning Exchange (http://www.ole.org) is trying to build a global system to supply open source class material world wide.
  • Does that mean each teacher can edit them to fit his/her classes and then publish their own version for the school?

    It really depends on who is editing them and how accurate they are.

    If I were the Governator I would have the California colleges write the Open Source textbooks as part of their required projects, and then California would have open source textbooks written on almost every public school subject you could think of.

    It would be cheap to just print up self-published copies using a Laser Printer and

  • First, it will be impossible to create open K-12 textbooks in a few months, as a prior poster has pointed out. Second, I predict that any public mandate to create open textbooks will probably fail, or end up getting bogged down in bureaucracy. The State needs to partner with *private*, commercial organizations that are publishing open content. Here's one: Flat World Knowledge www.flatworldknowledge.com; they're publishing in the post-K-12 market right now, but there's no reason they couldn't put their mo

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