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    Founder Sara Noel's Avatar
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    Default Shorter books?

    Assembly says shorter books would help kids By Jim Sanders -- Bee Capitol Bureau Published 2:15 am PDT Friday, May 27, 2005


    The California Assembly is betting that kids learn more with small books.

    Lawmakers voted Thursday to ban school districts from purchasing textbooks longer than 200 pages.

    The bill, believed to be the first of its kind nationwide, was hailed by supporters as a way to revolutionize education.

    Critics lambasted Assembly Bill 756 as silly.

    "This bill is really the epitome of micromanagement," said Assemblyman Keith Richman, R-Northridge. "(It's) absolutely ridiculous."

    "With all due respect," said Assemblyman Ray Haynes, R-Murrieta, "this Legislature worries more about the rules than they do about whether children learn."

    But Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg, a Los Angeles Democrat who chairs the Assembly Education Committee, said critics are thinking too narrowly.

    California schools are teaching kids with the same kinds of massive books that were used generations ago, though the world has changed significantly, Goldberg said.

    The workplace increasingly demands more than the ability to read Page 435 of some manual.

    It requires expertise in using the Internet to research and solve problems, according to Goldberg.

    "Our textbooks are not going to be able to meet that standard," said Goldberg, a former Compton high school teacher. "I think it's time for us to begin to approach the problem in a different way."

    AB 756 would force publishers to condense key ideas, basic problems and basic knowledge into 200 pages, then to provide a rich appendix with Web sites where students can go for more information.

    AB 756 was approved by a vote of 42-28, with most Republicans opposing the measure. It now goes to the Senate.

    Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has taken no position on the bill.

    The text of AB 756 says it could reduce the cost and weight of textbooks.

    Lawmakers were given no estimates, however, of potential impacts to student backpacks or campus coffers.

    Goldberg said the thrust of her bill is learning, not economics.

    "We're talking about a dynamic education system that brings young people into being a part of the learning process," she said.

    No position on AB 756 has been taken by Jack O'Connell, state superintendent of public instruction, or by education groups ranging from the California Teachers Association to the California School Boards Association.

    Assemblyman Todd Spitzer, R-Orange, said a 200-page limit could hurt learning, not revolutionize it, for the state's 6 million students.

    Spitzer presented the hypothetical of attending a high school comparative literature class that is studying the Bible.

    "I can only get about halfway through the Old Testament," he said.

    The Association of American Publishers opposes the bill, saying the arbitrary 200-page limit could force publishers to produce multiple volumes to cover the state's content standards.

    Textbooks would have to be restructured, the group contends.

    "To do this will increase the costs of instructional materials without adding any instructional value," lobbyist Dale Shimasaki, representing publishers, said in a letter of opposition.

    Goldberg said she's willing to negotiate over specifics, but that publishers have been uncooperative.

    Her bill would apply to future purchases, not existing textbooks.

    Michael Kirst, a Stanford education professor and co-director of Policy Analysis for Education, said he's never heard of any such bill nationwide.

    "There's no track record that anyone can draw on," he said.

    One key question, he said, is whether a 200-page limit would be equally practical for every subject - from math to social science.

    "And you'd have to know how aligned the materials are on the Internet with our education standards," he said. "I don't know that anybody has done that."

    Nancy Waltz, a former elementary teacher and current president of the San Juan Teachers Association, said she's open-minded about AB 756.

    "As long as the standards are being met, textbooks are only a tool. ... (But) I don't know that there needs to be a number of pages mandated."

    Hilary McLean, a spokeswoman for O'Connell, said that not every student - at school or at home - has ready access to the Internet.

    "You can't carry the computer home with you," said Bill Hauck, president of California Business Roundtable.

    "Our problem in California is not the size of textbooks, it's that we have large achievement gaps that need to be closed," he said.

    Penny Kastanis, executive director of the California School Library Association, said the Internet is vitally important, but not always accurate.

    Books still are valuable, she said.

    "What we're finding more and more is that people are saying, 'Who needs an encyclopedia? Who needs an almanac? Just go to the Internet, it's all there.' Well, it's not all there."

    Goldberg said homework can be drawn from the 200-page textbooks. Students using campus computers can be referred to accurate Web sites.

    Problems aren't insurmountable.

    "(AB 756) says don't give students a predigested version of what U.S. history is, let them explore the Smithsonian and the Library of Congress," Goldberg said.

    "It's time for California to be the leader that it always has been."
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    Maybe if they would just put actual facts instead of "feelings" and fluff the text books would actually accomplish something. Oops, my politics are showing.

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    Registered User mommy2many's Avatar
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    Well the only part that bothers me is that even though the internet is a big part of the world now, I would still prefer my children to learn from READING BOOKS in the quiet of their rooms without the distractions that the internet has to offer (pop-ups, games, IM's, email, ect). While I do think it's important for children to learn how to use the internet and computers I don't think it should be thought of as a replacement for the number of pages in a textbook. But this is coming from someone who LOVES history textbooks I have been known to read old textbooks for fun LOL

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    Personally I think this is the most ridiculous thing I've heard in a long time. Make smaller books - why so that the leaders can take out the stuff they don't want in the books. Why then are the Harry Potter books so appealing to kids when they have far more than 200 pages in each book.

    My kids are drawn to books that have more than 200 pages. They love history books. Make history exciting and they'll be drawn to books with over 200 pages. Make science exciting and you'll find them in large books. No way is the internet near as exciting as books are. And what about children who don't have the internet in their home or have access to it.

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    I hear you mommy2many. I read encyclopedias and such stuff for fun also.

    But I do appreciate the idea of smaller books for children. My older DD (who just passed to second grade) finds it much easier at this time to read shorter books with fewer pages. More discourage her into thinking that she'll never get through it.

    Print size and darkness also help her. If she has larger darker print, it works better with her vision and she sees it better.

    Debbie

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    Originally posted by homesteadmamma
    Personally I think this is the most ridiculous thing I've heard in a long time. Make smaller books - why so that the leaders can take out the stuff they don't want in the books. Why then are the Harry Potter books so appealing to kids when they have far more than 200 pages in each book.

    My kids are drawn to books that have more than 200 pages. They love history books. Make history exciting and they'll be drawn to books with over 200 pages. Make science exciting and you'll find them in large books. No way is the internet near as exciting as books are. And what about children who don't have the internet in their home or have access to it.
    yep I totally agree!

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    Registered User mommy2many's Avatar
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    Originally posted by debbiepittman
    I hear you mommy2many. I read encyclopedias and such stuff for fun also.

    But I do appreciate the idea of smaller books for children. My older DD (who just passed to second grade) finds it much easier at this time to read shorter books with fewer pages. More discourage her into thinking that she'll never get through it.

    Print size and darkness also help her. If she has larger darker print, it works better with her vision and she sees it better.

    Debbie
    WHile I see your point I don't agree. My 2nd grader loves to read and she LOVES to read big books too for her it is challenge to prove she can read the big books. I understand not all children like to read but reading is important and I don't feel that making books smaller is the answer to our education problems.

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    I should never have read this thread because the more I think about it, the more angry I get.

    Why do leaders feel they need to make schooling easier for kids. They are "betting" that smaller books are the "right" thing. Do you realize they are "betting" with our children's lives. If this doesn't work, next they'll say they need smaller books yet, heck 100 pages. When that doesn't work, then they'll say the internet is all they need and we can teach them w/o books exactly what we want.

    Our history as we know it will be gone. Science as we know it will be exactly what each educator wants to teach. Most kids can't spell now so lets get them smaller books so they never learn proper grammar or spelling. Lets not have encyclopedias anymore because they have far too much information in them and heaven forbid, too many pages!!!!

    Why is it that leaders feel our kids are so "dumb" that they can't enjoy or learn from larger books.

    This isn't about our kids not learning from larger books. Its about educators not making school exciting enough to get kids into books. Its about law makers wanting to make things easier rather than encouraging kids to learn about our rich heritage through books. Now that books have to be changed to 200 pages or less, we can take out what we don't want into those books - by chance anything to do with Christian beliefs, anything that we might not agree with, anything that we don't want our kids to find out about slavery, etc.


    Yup this has me upset.

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    Registered User mommy2many's Avatar
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    homesteadmamma,

    Me too I am trying to not come back and look at it anymore today either because it makes me so upset! I'm right there with you!

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    School isn't supposed to be easy!!! Kids are supposed to work hard to learn.

    My DSs love to read large books. DS#1 reads the Almanac every week (more or less). He is alwyas picking up some new factoid to share. DS#2 reads big, long car books. He can recite car trivia like nobody's business!

    Short books lonly skim over the facts. They don't give any in-depth information. Short novels don't have richly delveloped characters.

    I am sorry, but this is a CROCK.

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    Lori my son reads the Almanac every year too. He loves them.

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