Go Beyond Just Fixing Errors

Jay Mathews has an idea for dealing with errors found in the elementary social studies textbooks used in our overly-large school district.

It comes from “the best day I ever had in high school”, during which he pointed out an error in his teacher’s lesson and saved his classmates from weekend homework.*

If history textbooks have mistakes, why not unleash students to find them? That age cohort is only too happy to point out flaws in their parents. Exposing misstatements in their textbooks should be just as enjoyable and addictive.

Once they start, they won’t stop. They don’t have to confine their search to factual errors. Our textbooks are also loaded with conceptual problems, relatively easy to find once students develop a point of view on what they are learning. Isn’t that what critical thinking – one of this era’s most fashionable pedagogical phrases – is all about?

I have a better idea.

Rather than paying large amounts of money to textbook publishers who are too careless to do a good job and overcharge for their products, why not let the kids help write them in the first place?

Year after year we ask them to do the same research, write the same papers, and re-do the same assignments so why not turn all that work into an interactive, editable, online learning resource for all teachers and students to use?

We could even pay the kids for their work, still cut costs, and wind up with a better product, not to mention decreasing the influence of the big publishers.

Win. Win. Win.

*I was also a nerd in high school but I can still think of many days to top Mathews’ high point. :-)