73 thoughts on “Textbook Wars

        • So long as I’m the one who gets to call the shots when it comes to where the interconnections affect all of us and so long as I’m the one who calls the shots when it comes to the solutions, I’m perfectly fine with the viewpoint that we have to abandon localism for the greater good.

          Now get back in the oven.

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            • Let me guess: You still have no problem with authorities deciding what is and what is not an interconnection and how best to answer the question of how to deal with the people who are ruining it for the rest of us.

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              • I think that we cannot all just affect a bemused distance from the world. We can wish that we weren’t interconnected in some ways and that we all lived in hi tech isolated pods but we don’t.

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                    • Strawman? Perhaps you are not aware that gay marriage has been shot down by popular ballot every time it has gone up for a vote.

                      One of the main arguments given is that “we need to protect traditional marriage”.

                      Surely you were aware of this.

                      As for extreme points, it’s not like it has failed when brought to ballot once or maybe twice. It’s failed, what? 30 times?

                      You are the one who apparently believes that “I think that we cannot all just affect a bemused distance from the world. We can wish that we weren’t interconnected in some ways and that we all lived in hi tech isolated pods but we don’t.” is a valid argument until one of your oxen gets gored… at which point you accuse others of taking arguments to extremes and strawmanning.

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    • Mike – I’ve been thinking more about your whole point about the national curriculum. I still disagree, but I think you have some strong points that maybe I attached too little weight to. Specifically, the issue of interconnectedness and inter-operability is very important, especially given my personal belief that freedom of movement/exit is the most important freedom of all. If you’re dissatisfied with your local school system’s curriculum but can’t easily move because your child will be too far behind in any district with a curriculum that would satisfy you, then that’s a big problem. The trouble I have is that I think a national curriculum would wind up exacerbating a lot of the existing local problems of curricula being dominated by locally-powerful interests, resulting in domination by a consortium of the biggest publishers and the most politically passionate groups focused on education (read: groups with a right-or-left-wing political correctness mission). Increasingly, I’m coming to the conclusion that we’d ultimately be best served by a primarily privatized system in which private, national, firms ran networks of local schools from which parents could choose, combined with a national curriculum for public schools and vouchers.

      Notably, this isn’t all that different from the way the existing pre-school/day care market already works where there is pretty intense competition between firms, many of which have a huge number of franchises nationally. So, if I were to move from my current hometown to a town closer to my place of business, or even to a town in another state, I could place my daughter in the exact same daycare with the exact same curriculum as she was already getting without missing a beat. But, my wife and I also have a very real choice between curricula to determine which curriculum best suits the way we want to raise our daughter. And indeed, the day care we chose was chosen primarily on the basis of its more suitable curriculum from a surprisingly large number of options (given that we live in one of the more sparsely populated areas of our state).

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      • Mark – one thing to keep in mind about my suggestion is that the national curriculum (as I propose it) is meant to be a skeleton that would be fleshed out at the perrogative of the schools. It’s really just meant to be a series of guideposts and mutually agreeable landmarks along the education path. WHAT is taught between those landmarks and HOW it is taught is still at their discretion.

        As it stands now, a school system in your area might teach physics your sophmore year, whereas her in Kentucky we may teach it the junior year. So if I move to your area just after my daughter completes her sophmore year, what does she do? All of her classmates will have had physics the previous year. Take this down to a more micro level and we could have certain parts of American history missed or a mathematics concept or even the unit where kids learn their colors. It happens all the time.

        I see a national curriculum as more of an efficency or logistics movement than an educational one per se. It’s not so much about a serious debate over subject matter (though that would no doubt happen with certain subjects) but about creating student mobility, which ultimately gives parents more choices. If two counties have the same basic framework they follow but one has a much better reputation for their school system, then the parents have more mobility than they do in the current system.

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        • Right. Leaving aside for the moment concerns about regulatory capture, my position, however, is that I’m ok with certain benchmarks being missed because the benchmarks that are (legitimately and correctly) important to a particular child and a caring and well-informed set of parents will vary quite a bit. This is true not just as between which subjects are most important to emphasize, but also in terms of what areas of a given subject are most important to emphasize. Is it, for instance, more important that a child receive a certain amount of phys-ed, music, art, etc. or reach certain benchmarks in, say, civics by a certain age? And how do we agree on which areas of US, World, State, and Local history are most important to know (not to mention which interpretations are most accurate)?

          I realize these are the types of decisions that we already frequently leave to the democratic process on any given number of issues. But I think there needs to be a strong ability to “opt-out” of that process where one strongly disagrees with the results. Doing so will not hurt any of those okay with the results of the process – to the contrary, it will give those folks greater say in it – but it will significantly mitigate the injury to those who are hurt by it.

          Basically, in order to meet nationalized benchmarks, it is inevitable that schools will have to dedicate a significant portion of their very-limited resources to doing precisely that. Because of the limitations on these resources, this means that schools will have to shift resources away from other areas that may be more important to local parents and children.

          Point being, there’s a big tradeoff between the twin (admirable) goals of mobility and parental input on their child’s education. I think having a strong, accessible private market like that which exists in pre-school/day care would go a long way to overcoming this tradeoff.

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          • Mark – you said:

            “…I’m ok with certain benchmarks being missed because the benchmarks that are (legitimately and correctly) important to a particular child and a caring and well-informed set of parents will vary quite a bit. “

            Define ‘caring and well-informed’. How many caring and ‘well-informed’ parents are qualified to make the assesment as to what the child’s curriculum should be, even at the broadest of level? If we expand access to private schools, as you propose, are you convinced that there are enough parents out there with the ability to decide which of 4 brand new corporate private schools is best for little Johnny to make the ventures worthwhile? It’s one thing to apply the free-market model to stereo purchases. It’s quite another to apply it to the education market after creating a new cottage industry of private education companies.

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          • I’m reading some of the comments on this thread and my eyes are about ready to glaze over. The state of education, like so many other things in America, is pretty simple: the liberals f*****d it up. Hat tip to Jerry Pournelle for this link:

            http://www.fredoneverything.net/ColorOfEducation.html

            In the Book of Ecclesiastes it says that there’s nothing new under the sun. We don’t have to be as fatalistic as that but it should be pretty clear that there hasn’t been very much new in American primary education over the last thirty years.

            Given all this we try to adapt as best as we can but we need to do our best to fix the zeroth order mistakes. I think you were the one who went back and forth with me about the New Jersey governor’s race a little bit. Maybe these issues are disconnected in your mind but I hope you can see why they are not for me.

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      • Mark, on education issues we tend to agree more than disagree so I have a couple of thoughts to toss your way. Your daycare comparison made me think of this, what do you think about private educational firms leasing space in public schools as sort of a public-private franchise. So the private operator would hire the instructors, develop the curriculum and standards, etc… However, instead of constructing a new school from scratch, they could lease existing space in public schools, so instead of having to commute to a KIPP school or move to “the right part of town,” a private operator or charter program could set up shop in each of a city’s schools and operate less centrally.

        Second thought, I’d much rather create a system of federal schools than adopt a national curriculum. Let the states innovate, experiment, and do their own thing but for the mobility/quality issues, just create a federal alternative.

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        • Hmmm….interesting idea. I have to give it some thought. One thing that jumps out at me initially, though, is that as a practical matter the scope of such a program would have to be pretty limited due to a combination of politics and church-state concerns. The trouble I see is that it would be physically impossible for any given public school to accommodate more than one or two private operators leasing space from them, which makes it a different problem from the issue of after-school programs or off-hours programs. This pretty much guarantees that any religiously-oriented program would be ineligible for a spot. Additionally, local schools are going to have strong political incentives to permit only private programs that fit with the preexisting dominant values within the district such that the difference between the in-house private school and the host school is likely to be relatively small. But that’s just an initial impression on which I may well be wrong.

          In terms of a competing federal school system, I think there’s some definite merit to the idea. At a minimum it creates some intragovernment competition, which I generally view as a good thing. And, of course, it solves the mobility problem for those who enter that system. I do see one big problem, though – the federal school system would add a third school system that would be so large that it would have collateral effects on the curricula of smaller school systems, just like CA and TX. Then again, adding more dominant players to the game may just act to diminish the value of catering to any one of those dominant players.

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      • private, national, firms ran networks of local schools from which parents could choose, combined with a national curriculum for public schools and vouchers.

        Why a national curriculum and why a KinderCare model of service provision? Re-constitute each extant public school as a free-standing chartered philanthropy governed by trustees elected by locally resident alumni. Render this the default model of service provision, with some modest exemptions. Make use of examinations issued by state boards of regents for purposes of quality control, but otherwise limit regulation to a requirement that the criminal law be respected, health and safety codes observed, and that certain financial protocols be observed (as is common with philanthropies).

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        • So, in other words return public education to the golden ages of the 1970’s?

          Of course back then states didn’t all do testing and of course even those that did just left struggling students behind. It’s become standard practice to mock and criticize NCLB, but before that it wasn’t just easy, it was practice for the states (and schools) to just not collect embarrassing data or not make it accessible for parents.

          Though, you’ll note art deco, that the two things Mark mentioned he wanted to address in reform were related to choice and freedom of movement. So whereas your solutions don’t really work for his goals, I’m curious what problems you’re seeking to solve.

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          • I wonder, though…

            Were overall literacy rates higher then? (I suspect they were…)

            If they were, what were they doing then that we aren’t doing now?

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          • You misunderstand me. I advocate nothing that was available in 1975 (and in any case the architecture and finance of schooling was little different then than what is the case today). Nearly all schools would be free-standing philanthropies financed by state-issued vouchers and private donations (not tuition). Parents would be free to send their children to any school in the state. The schools would be free to determine their admissions policies, curriculum, and disciplinary rules. The purpose of regents’ examinations (in which participation would be required of those attending school and those tutored at home or those taught out of state) would be to assess students for the award of certificates of achievement and to produce league tables which municipal clerks would distribute to parents antecedent to the registration of their children. The worst performing schools (say, the bottom 2% each year) would have their charters revoked and home tutors with similar deficiencies would be compelled to register their children for school.

            Migration from state-to-state would possibly be impeded by inter-state variation in exam series.

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    • What Jaybird said.

      So instead of radical righties or lefties having to mobilize in a handful of locations, they can simply intimidate Congress into bending to their will…you know like they do on SCOTUS nominees. Or barring that, bad compromises become virtuous because they lie somewhere in the desolate middle.

      I should think not. I would prefer the nation’s curriculum not be decided by the likes of Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman.

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    • Not so vaguely related, actually. The influence of California’s state BOE’s own version of left-wing political correctness is widely recognized as having a similar corrupting effect on national textbooks as Texas’. Right now, it seems that Texas is having a more pernicious effect, but in the not-so-distant past (ie, 4 or 5 years ago), that title belonged to California.

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      • If I were a parent who wanted my kids to have the absolute best education they could possibly get (e.g., like my mom or most of the parents I know), I’d move. Good-bye, God be with ye, I’m taking my kid to a lovely little school district in (somewhere else with science labs).

        There will be a number of parents who do this.

        95% (or more) of them will have the following in common:

        They pay more in taxes to the community than they receive in services.
        The kids in question will qualify as “good kids” who get “good grades” and will eventually go to a “good college”.
        The school left behind (no pun intended) will be worse off for having lost these kids to another school district.

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    • an achievement gap in Berkeley? Quelle horreur! Well maybe the especially socially minded denizens of the East Bay will come together in the name of social justice and work to close it…or maybe they’ll keep the same status quo they’ve had.

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  1. The thing I take from this article is that the culture wars really are – to some people – wars. Additionally, that in various other eras and locations the passionate radicalism of the Texas conservatives would’ve been matched by counterparts on the left. So how, if at all, can Americans deescalate?

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  2. Reply to Jay from above since the Powers That Be/ The Man won’t let me respond in line.

    In the topic of this post we have a situation where one or two giant textbook markets determine what many other states have to put up with. So, whether anybody likes it or not, in that way we are interconnected.

    It is a strawman to go from a simple, seemingly incontrovertible, statement that we are interconnected to thinking gay marriage should be banned. Just because we have common interests and have to live in the same country does not suggest gay marriage should be illegal.

    Every good reasonable argument can be misused, that doesn’t mean those points are forever invalid. As you like to point out, often correctly, people scream WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN!!!!!!!!!!! to often. That does not, in fact, mean that there aren’t some issues that actually do affect children. We have to use our brain thingees to separate the good from the poo.

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    • yes, yes, yes, yes, yes but the point Jaybird was making was that arguments you seem to be using are conveniently situational.

      For example, we’re all connected when it comes to textbook adoption (and therefore something must be done/prevented) but when the same argument is used by SSM opponents you condescend that they are ludicrous in asserting the same. After all marriage is between two people and quoth the liberal*, “doesn’t affect their marriages at all.”

      *stock phrase, I’m not assigning the quotes specifically to you gregniak.

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      • Well you know most things are actually situational. Most of us realize there are limits to personal freedom and some areas where we each have complete freedom. So I can’t drive drunk but if I want to be a sloppy alcoholic in the privacy of my own house then that is fine.

        I don’t believe in dogma. In fact you could say I am completely absolutely against dogma in every and all situation. Some of the libertarian and/or Jay’s point reads as dogmatically reacting against any sort of interconnection or how we cope with it. In this textbook situation it seems like a case where localism and the free market (both of which can be good things) lead to a situation others get trampled. As I read Jay’s post he is just sticking with the “well who are you to decide?” view while ignoring the actual situation in preference to a global dogmatic point and not addressing that some people are having their choice squelched.

        I don’t know what the solution is the text book problem although I do not think it is good for a couple big markets to have so much influence over what others have to stare blankly at in history class while they fantasize about the cute girl sitting next to them.

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        • Still there is a difference between situational differences that are important and ones trumped up to assign more nobility than exists to one’s views and motives.

          If textbooks, which can be used selectively or discussed in classrooms contain questionable material that can easily be addressed or substituted count as a way in which we are all interconnected and therefore should be the subject of what is a political debate. I have a hard time seeing how marriage, its definition and terms of contract as established and enforced by the state, doesn’t meet that same bar.

          As petulant as you seem to think Jaybird’s question is, it’s still germane. Who, exactly are you to decide? If you are a concerned citizen and get a say, that means others just like you get one too. The only difference is in how many agree with you versus how many don’t and where.

          Of course the disparity in influence and efficacy is something we deal with all the time. You get health care, they get textbooks, you get welfare, they get warrant-less wiretaps. You don’t like the outsized influence of big markets, well tough, America’s 300 million plus sized market gets us all kinds of benefits. If you live in a city, you get more choice, more responsiveness, and more benefits than if you lived alone in the wilderness. If our society is built somewhat around the idea that concentrations wield more influence and power, why should textbook adoption be any different?

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          • Short answer to good questions Kyle.

            I don’t think Jay’s question is petulant, I just think he is dogmatic.

            We all get to have a say in how things are run, that’s the beauty and horror of democracy. I think the textbook issue and gay marriage have some fundamental differences so I think throwing them together is faulty.

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            • “I think the textbook issue and gay marriage have some fundamental differences so I think throwing them together is faulty.”

              What argument would you have against me saying “but we all get to have a say in how things are run, that’s the beauty and horror of democracy”?

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                • You think that marriage and textbooks are so very different that putting them together is faulty.

                  Fair enough.

                  What counter-argument would you have to me saying “I appreciate that you have such dogmatic beliefs but we live in a democracy and we all get a say”?

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                  • How about “because of federalism, people in my state don’t get a say in what Texas puts in their textbooks, but because of economies of scale, we get stuck with whatever textbooks they decide on, even if they are not what our community wants”? Because that’s what Greg is arguing, I think.

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                    • Federalism has little, if anything, to do with it. If he is complaining about the economies of scale resulting in the largest pluralities dictating policy for everybody else, I’d suggest he stop using “We all get to have a say in how things are run, that’s the beauty and horror of democracy” as a cornerstone of his arguments.

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        • “As I read Jay’s post he is just sticking with the “well who are you to decide?” view while ignoring the actual situation in preference to a global dogmatic point and not addressing that some people are having their choice squelched.”

          Greg, here is what I am addressing: There is no way to *NOT* avoid “some people” having “their choice squelched”.

          The last time I looked at ID numbers, I saw that a majority of folks want ID taught in schools. Good, old-fashioned, deistic ID.

          If you agree that ID should not be taught in schools (I assume you think that ID should not be taught in schools), what could you *POSSIBLY* found that on if not “dogmatism”?

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            • Greg:

              The article says the elected school board is selecting the text books not the local Baptist church. Last time I checked a free and fair election was “due process.” Or is just not fair when your side doesn’t win?

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              • nice try scott. if texans wants partisan indoctrination in HS then that is what they get. the issue is the nature of the textbook markets ( the publishers sell books made for texas and cali to everybody else) means that other states get stuck with texas style partisan indoctrination.

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                • Would be be complaining so much if the rest of the state’s were getting Cal’s partisan indoctrination? But then again, other states don’t have to buy the books that Texas buys.

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                  • gee maybe i should have mentioned that it is a problem that other states have to buy books based on what cali wants. oh wait i did do that, so i guess i already answered your question.

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    • Just because we have common interests and have to live in the same country does not suggest we have a national curriculum.

      “We have to use our brain thingees to separate the good from the poo.”

      I certainly hope that I’m on the committee in charge of brain thingee usage making decisions for all you poor afflictees of false consciousness.

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              • again huh? i think in a democracy everybodies ox gets gored sometimes, we all have to cope. what we should do is make sure that the ox goring is not over truly fundamental rights ( like, oh i don’t know, lets see) who people can sign a marriage contract with.

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                • i think in a democracy everybodies ox gets gored sometimes, we all have to cope. what we should do is make sure that the ox goring is not over truly fundamental rights ( like, oh i don’t know, lets see) like parents making sure that their children are taught properly.

                  You see these things as so self-evidently everybody’s business (or nobody’s business) and then accuse those who disagree of “dogmatism”.

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  3. Pingback: Items of interest - Erik Kain - American Times - True/Slant

  4. But we are a Christian nation founded on Christian principles. The way I evaluate history textbooks is first I see how they cover Christianity and Israel. Then I see how they treat Ronald Reagan—he needs to get credit for saving the world from communism and for the good economy over the last twenty years because he lowered taxes.

    The mind of a child. I’ve been aware of McLeroy for quite some time, but this even worse than I expected.

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    • Yeah, I noticed that David Barton was involved. The man is a fraud and his Christian nation hypothesis has been shown time and time again to be pure unadulterated bullshit. Of course, I guess if you click your heels three times and wish it to be true…

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  5. Pingback: An Education Public Option « Vogue Republic

  6. This while they slash our university budgets (I know quite a few people who didn’t have their TAships renewed for next year because of deep budget cuts at UT)…Dear god, Texas, what are you doing to yourself?

    This state succeeds despite the best efforts of its state government, not because of it.

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