Futile Openness?

Another milder morning. Once more to the park for constitutional, but I had to share the path and that rather upset my concentration. Not completely, but more than I should like.

We sit on the edge of summer solstice and it seems a strange time to be thinking about schule, but I ran across an article [Link] entitled “College courses without textbooks? These schools are giving it a shot.” I should comment that the title is rather a bit of the contemporarily usual journalistic stercus tauri. One of the things that was learned in the early days of universities was that the students learn better if there is a textbook for every one and not just a “lecturer” reading out of his copy while the students take down his reading. Of course, that was before Gutenberg did the technology and manufacturing development of printing.

We have deviated from this model and in recent years are reaping the punishment of it with a generation of students who were issued schule owned book that were recovered and reused at end of term. So these students have no appreciation of the inertia of textbooks and display it in their lack of knowledge in later time. Another incidence of politicians economizing to destroy civilization.

But the textbooks referred in the title are those produced by the textbook publishing corporations of Amerika. I had occasion yesterday to visit the Barnes and Ignoble site with a discount coupon and was shocked. The inflation of textbook prices since my undergraduate days is a factor of about 20! I looked at some introductory texts that I paid $10-15 for and all were north of $250! No wonder the students dispose of their texts at end of term!

A more accurate way of describing the alternative being explored is open source materials which may include texts. It is another bit of a program I have seen growing in recent years to offer alternatives to hideously expensive textbook and learning materials. I strongly support any such efforts. 

Sadly, I have been unable to find any support among my collegiate colleagues. They seem addicted to the bribes conveyed them by those publishers – outlines, syllibi, slides. They claim that the press of their duties precludes them doing a competent job of preparation. Evidently one more indication of the factoryization of college. 

I weep for the deprived students. They can no longer take notes for lack of cursive, thereby they cannot learn, the lectures are standardized and unengaging, and they discard their textbooks. No wonder they emerge from college as ignorant as they entered. We are out own enemy as Pogo sayith.

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