Re: Textbook writing (long)

Subject: Re: Textbook writing (long)
From: Jo Francis Byrd <jbyrd -at- byrdwrites -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 15 Jan 2001 15:10:37 -0600

Back in another lifetime when I thought I wanted to be a teacher (another wrong turn
in the twisted road that led to tech writing, my true vocation), I did student
teaching. My primary field was history - so I got stuck teaching government! Since I
hadn't had a government course since the required on my second year of college eons
(or what felt like eons) before, I had to scramble to keep up.

The government textbook was terrible. Whoever selected that abomination should have
had to see their children suffer the inadequacies of it. It did not, for example,
discuss petite juries, grand juries, nor, I believe habeas corpus - some of the
cornerstones of our legal system.

The government teachers at that particular school, banded together and created their
own study program. They used the book ONLY because it had the Constitution printed
at the back of it. The kids, that year at least, learned about their
Constitution....what it meant, what it did not mean. What rights we, as Americans,
have as granted by the Constitution. It turned out to be an interesting course of
study; I learned a LOT more than the kids I taught!

Jo Byrd

Chris Fitzgerald wrote:

As a teacher in reputable private schools, I was given the opportunity to choose the
textbooks that we were going to use. They were chosen based upon first, the State
adopted versions, and second, an accelerated version (i.e., the state's 1st grade
text was used in our Kindergarten). Out of 4 schools that I taught, the same was
true from elementary to Middle School. Don't know about the High schools, but
pretty confident that grades 9 - 12 were considered strong college prep. or they
wouldn't be open.

The bigger the school, the less feedback the teacher had in choosing the text. (In
such cases, a group of assigned teachers or board of educators chose the text).
Also, each year, only one subject was purchased (e.g., updating the entire Reading
series for each grade). Another difference from State to private schools is that
each grade might not agree on the publisher, so it can be split up as long as there
was reasonable scope and sequence.

Now, to answer your second question. It is possible to review textbooks for a lot
of things: material covered, design and readability, supplemental material, etc.
But the mistakes that I have found as a teacher using the text and slowly reading
each page a long with (or a day prior) to my students can not be caught in a review

Overall, teachers are able to catch these mistakes and point them out, but it's not
the textbooks that are the problem. It takes a village to raise a child and no one
entity should be blamed for our low standardized tests in the US.

As a technical writer, I work very hard to ensure the accuracy of the material that
I write, but I know that there must be somewhere deep in to my manual that just may
be a little off. Hopefully, it is caught before print, but I'm only human and 12
hours a day of working is enough, I think!

So, the point is that I need to get back to work, but thought that I could address
your questions.

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