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Open Source Textbooks For California 201

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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  • 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 mysidia ( 191772 ) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @04:12PM (#27899149)

    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 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: []

  • 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 []

    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.

  • 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.

  • Re:Backfeed (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 10, 2009 @06:37PM (#27900127)

    The amusing thing is that I (the author) am a high school student...

  • by XB-70 ( 812342 ) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @07:08PM (#27900319)
    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 spend more time teaching rather than dealing with various accountability issues. As a result, debates would rage about shortening numbers of class-time hours required to complete a given course.

    I think we should drop the whole concept and drop it quickly before it starts to gain momentum.

    Worse yet, this idea might spread to other jurisdictions.

    Please join and log in to: [] and help us stop the madness.

  • Re:I never knew... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by esme ( 17526 ) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @07:47PM (#27900539) Homepage

    Anything with words in can be accused of having racist and/or sexist biases. Just for one extreme fictional example, imagine something like this: [] -- 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 published, how they treat their employees, where they get their supplies, etc.

    So I can understand why you think math isn't polarizing, but in a poisoned political environment like California, anything can be politicized.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 11, 2009 @03:31AM (#27903297)

    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.

    A sad state of affairs, but America has never been known for its schooling system and the quality of its output.

    However there are places where mass education works well. Having been though an elite schooling system where the concept of 'no child left behind' has a completely different meaning I can vouch for that (10% of bottom performing students cut every year, top 15% moved ahead by a year in an accelerated learning program).

    I can tell you that knowing exactly how you rank in relation to the other 1000 students in your year, and having that reflect which class you are in every 4 months is a real eye opener. You learn very quickly that; there is always someone better than you and that you are the deciding factor.

    I guess it also helped that our school completely ignored the governments mandate when it didn't suit them and most of the teachers were all university educated and top in their field.

    (Posted anonymously as theres way to much personally identifying information in this post :)

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