From the Editor’s Perch

Editor’s Note:  grumble, grumble….

Hyperactive Textbook2

Hey Kids!

The Hyperactive Textbook

If you have kids, chances are you end up helping them with their homework.  When I was a student the texts had chapters and paragraphs explaining the material to be learned followed by questions to test whether we had indeed understood the lesson.  Nowadays, just locating the explanatory narrative can be challenging.  The page is a jumble of fonts and colors and letters printed in a variety of bold types and sizes.  There are illustrations and photos and diagrams and insets and outsets and a matrix of colored explanatory boxes rife with additions and digressions and further explanations, and even little cartoony, happy learning helpers to point out important things you might not want to miss.  All in all it’s a thriving, teeming mass of intelligiblia (my term).  Just locating the preceding and following chapters takes a bit of concentration.  And the whole phantasmagoria of it makes me a little queasy.  Whatever happened to simple schoolbook type and the narrative progression of reason… followed by a few well thought out questions?

Hyperactive Textbook3

Look at this!

If your students’ problem solving skills are anything like my son’s, it’s a matter of reading the question and stabbing at an answer.  And if the answer doesn’t come in a lucky burst of insight, the next thing you do is to go looking for help.  Actually, demanding  help.  (Looking for that little ‘happy figure’.)  And any help should cut to the chase – providing the answer first, before providing the explanation.   Any help which has to mull the problem over – pause to think for a moment – is obviously incompetent.

And this!
And this!
Cool!, huh?

As a parent we have to resist this tyranny of the ignorant, for the sake of our children.  But it’s hard when the text itself panders to it.  To my thinking a good text implicitly practices the problem solving skills required by the questions. Chris19Web It is a calm thoughtful explanation, each of which parts are an equally important link in a narrative of constructed understanding.Chris5Web It begins with what we know – just as should the process of answering the questions – and progresses in clear, thoughtful steps towards conclusions which reveal much that we didn’t know.  It is an exercise in delayed gratification, much like a successful life.

But apparently our educators and their publishers all know better now.Chris16Web  Cool!  huh?

Photos by Carl Nelson of a professional model

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One Response to “From the Editor’s Perch”

  1. mauriceabarry Says:

    I feel that same pain but suspect that the root of many of those frustrations may not lie with the educators and publishers. Both are subject to tremendous pressure from district and department overseers and political trends often translate to educational directives. Teachers and administrators are frequently left with a horrible choice–go along with the plan or resign. We all have bills to pay and mouths to feed so that’s not much of a choice.The thing is for us, as parents and citizens, to be part of that big voice which applies the pressure and to try and ensure that our voices speak with wisdom and truth…no mean feat, I might add. BTW–loved your post. It stopped me cold…I’ll be back :>)

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