California has provided yet another Great Moment In Education with the Assembly mandating the length of textbooks for use in its public schools. According to the just-approved AB 756, no textbook used in California public schools can exceed 200 pages:
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.” …
But Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg, a Los Angeles Democrat who chairs the Assembly Education Committee, said critics are thinking too narrowly.
The Democrats in charge of the Assembly have decided that the value of a textbook lies in its bookshelf width, and they claim that the critics are thinking too narrowly? My native state has tried many silly ideas in education before, but cutting off textbooks by page count has to be one of the dumbest yet. Since when does a book’s value come in the number of pages it contains? What’s next — comic books instead of textbooks?
The result will either be that textbook publishers start producing their work in volumes for the California market, or they abridge the material enough to slide under the 200-page limit. The first option will result in higher costs, as the consumer will have to buy each volume separately and the unit cost will go up due to the extra covers, typesetting, editing, etc. The second option shortchanges education rather than pocketbooks. Neither of these reactions, nor AB 756, truly addresses the real issues behind California’s appalling educational performance: lack of competition and accountability in the government-mandated, union-run state educational monopoly.
Educated people already know that one cannot judge a book by its cover. We thought that the obvious corrolary of notjudging it by its page count would be understood implicitly. I’m sure we’re correct, for most places. The intellect-challenged state capitol in Sacramento appears to be an exception to that rule.