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Daily Prompt: Undo – Education Without Textbooks


Daily Prompt: If you could un-invent something, what would it be?

I would like to un-invent school textbooks. When I imagine what my own education might have been like without textbooks, not much of significance is missing. Textbooks served to replace the likelihood that we would seek knowledge from authentic sources.  The hidden message?  What was important to know was contained in textbooks.

How might our lives been different without following an “accidental curriculum” based on a few large textbook publishers marketing to a few large states?  As an adult, I learned that much of what was contained in textbooks was biased and sometimes just plain wrong.  This was a shocking revelation.  That this occurred in adulthood shows just how irrelevant and disconnected from reality much of my education really was.

Some would say that textbooks served an important purpose in the education of generations of children but I argue the same could have been done with authentic resources right along side chalkboards or pens and paper.

Just a few years ago, we educators could count on springtime “Textbook Caravans.”  These were announced through state department memos with many locations so no one would be left out.  Representatives of textbook companies would present one of the textbooks being considered for “adoption,” highlighting the “extras” included like black-line masters (worksheets), teaching trinkets, or even rolling carts to move the heavy materials from one location to another.   Snacks were usually provided by the well-meaning retired educators-turned-textbook-reps.

Textbooks are desperately hanging on.  Money is at stake here.  Textbook companies have consolidated in efforts to remain afloat.  They’ve made attempts to deliver the same big-state-driven content with technology.  This might improve efficiency, but not relevance.

Students must find it amusing that adults resist dropping the use of textbooks. The broad range of technology and print resources available for free or reasonable subscription charges make textbook adoptions on eight-year rotations look absurd.

Imagine a world without textbooks where teachers and students move through inexhaustible resources that are relevant and customized to the learners!   Sounds like one step toward a relevant education.

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I'm a retired educator. I enjoy learning and sharing with others. If you like the outdoors, check out my other blog: ozarkmountainhiker.com

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