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California Assembly Sticks Nose into Textbooks

Ohanian Comment: In education, not everything foolish happens in Texas. California can be counted on to do its share.

Okay, okay, I'm married to someone who's reading page proofs on his 1,400-page textbook. I've suggested that the publisher supply luggage wheels and a handle. Will being banned in California give this text a certain cachet? I wonder if the legislators, in all their wisdom, realize their bill will wipe out Advanced Placement courses. Now I wouldn't mourn such a loss, but the arrogance and the ignorance engulfing this bill is monumental.

Someone send this to Jon Stewart.

Maybe Democrats in the state Assembly should just go ahead and write textbooks for California's students. They're so confident they know what constitutes a good one.

For instance, who knew that making a textbook longer than 200 pages was such a bad idea that there needs to be a law against it?

Well, 42 Assembly Democrats knew. On Thursday they approved AB 756, a bill by Jackie Goldberg, D-Los Angeles, that says: Neither the State Board of Education nor a local school district ``may adopt instructional materials that exceed 200 pages in length.''

Textbooks, the bill's supporters argued, should sum up the basics and then refer students to the Internet and to libraries for the rest. Plus, shorter is lighter and cheaper.

Maybe. Their assumption doesn't seem that obvious to us. It seems like something that ought to be decided -- just brainstorming here -- by actually reading each proposed textbook, as opposed to laying down an arbitrary limit.

The bill doesn't jibe with other instructions (some from the Legislature) that textbook publishers have been getting to avoid textbooks that are just dry columns of words. They must be full of pictures and charts. And in each subject, they have to cover the state's comprehensive curriculum requirements. This makes them longer.

The bill now goes to the Senate.

A few weeks ago, the Democratic leader in the Senate, Don Perata of Oakland, held a news conference to say that his colleagues were committed to more funding for education and less interference in day-to-day decisions.

For more money, they need the cooperation of Republicans. Democrats will be slightly more likely to get it if they show some resolve on the second half of the promise by killing some Legislature-knows-best bills. May we suggest a place to start?

— Editorial
San Jose Mercury News





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