Yet Another Reason to Homeschool

Math textbooks that are written wrong, in every possible way. This is a scathing expose by a former textbook writer, of the industry’s “worst practices.” Math is apparently the worst subject, but I don’t expect that other subjects are put together much more sanely.

Your public school district’s textbook budget buys all the kids more of these lemons! Your tax dollars at work!

Via Slashdot.



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5 responses to “Yet Another Reason to Homeschool

  1. Unfortunately, the mediocrity of textbook publishing is ubiquitous, and it doesn’t matter whether you’re talking Texas or New York, public, Catholic, evangelical, homeschooling, what-have-you: textbooks are more subject to Sturgeon’s Law than SF. Diane Ravitch’s The Language Police gets at a piece of it (political pressures to file off any edges), but I think there’s a broader dynamic, wherein you have a market that has no real accountability (in any sector or subject) and huge incentives to shove BRIGHT SPARKLY FEATURES on top of pablum.

  2. I should add that there are some areas that are better studied than others — social studies/history texts are probably more lamented in academic writings, math gets more public attention, and texts targeted at public and homeschooling parents more than Catholic schools and other fragments of the market.

  3. One more bit, as an example… there’s relatively scant coverage of texts used in Bryk et al., Catholic Schools and the Common Good (1995), but the description there is strongly suggests the studied high schools used commonly-available texts for academic subjects (and novels for English classes). That book was published before the dramatic spread of print-on-demand technology and the ability to segment text markets even further than they had been.

  4. Alan T.

    I helped Adam’s school (he is in 6th grade) select math textbooks, and I found that currently available textbooks are not as good as the ones I used when I was in school. Here in California, for grades K through 8, the state maintains lists of textbooks that meet its content standards. This helps as far as content is concerned, but clarity of presentation has fallen over the decades. A friend of ours, a retired professor of education, is an expert on how to write textbooks. She says that people with her kind of expertise are not in the loop of textbook writing or adoption. Perhaps unfortunately, California does not have content standards for high-school textbooks, because it assumes that teachers at that level have the expertise to know what should be taught.

    I have learned a great deal from “Lies My Teacher Told Me”, an excellent book by historian James Loewen that points out shortcomings of high-school history books.

  5. 10Kan

    Oh boy. I know about this stuff on the small scale, and it’s bad there too. I had an undergraduate internship with a tiny publisher of social studies workbooks and such. ‘Seat-of-the-pants’ about sums it up.

    I’d have an outdated encyclopedia, an internet connection and a topic, which I’d use to write a section of the book and some comprehension questions. Another undergrad intern would edit, and then it’d go to the owner for final approval.

    Whatever the end result was, I doubt the students got the sort of materials they deserved or the schools got their money’s worth.

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