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Topic: put but money in thy purse
Replies: 3   Last Post: Aug 6, 2000 4:47 PM

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Posts: 52
Registered: 12/6/04
put but money in thy purse
Posted: Aug 6, 2000 9:47 AM
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i posted a link to my remarks on textbooks
to this list last month. nobody replied.
here's the text itself, sans links (short),
followed by a few comments on recent threads.

My letter to UME Trends (Vol 7, No. 6):
To the Editor:
Thanks for the short piece on Irrelevant Illustrations (p. 9 of the September
'95 Trends [vol. 7, no. 4]). This is a very important issue in my opinion.
It's wonderful to see it brought up in print and I hope some serious
discussion will follow. My efforts at introducing the issue in my own
department have generally been met with puzzlement, indifference, or
hostility, but the recent mini-controversy in the Notices of the AMS (Letters
from Stuart Hastings [April '95 Notices], John Isbell, Don Saari, and John E.
McCarthy [July '95] about irrelevant illustrations in that journal had
already convinced me I was not entirely alone.

I see the problem as part of a wide pattern of textbook misfeatures. American
textbooks in most subject areas have been suffering for decades from a growth
in their physical dimensions, an increase in the use of magazine-style
graphics like ``sidebars'' and photos (now often in color), and a
proliferation of little-used but expensive ``ancillaries'' (now often in the
form of computer disks). Meanwhile, production values have actually
declined---sewn binding and cloth covers being replaced by the more fragile
glued bindings and paper-over-cardboard covers. New editions appear
frequently to prevent books from being reused.

I find these trends scandalous and believe they should be resisted.
Fortunately for us in Mathematics, inexpensive and well-produced texts are
available; for example, the Dover reprint series, the hardy perennial
Schaum's Outlines, various publications of the professional organizations,
and ``popular'' books like those of William Dunham, Rudy Rucker, and Ian

We are educators, responsible to our students. Publishers are businesspeople,
responsible to their stockholders. It's up to us to put pedagogical issues
ahead of slick sales gimmicks and mercenary marketing techniques.

Owen Thomas.
karl smith wrote a reply, published in the same issue of the _trends_.
hint to me@talman:
"mercenary marketing techniques" $/not= "someone making money".
i hope the authors and publishers i plugged are raking it in.
>The fact that someone stands to make money isn't in itself a good reason
>to [forgo] something that might be useful. The judgement must be made
>on the basis of what that something is good for.

also, among other things, on what it costs.
socially as well as financially.
let's see: smoking crack makes me feel good.
hey, feeling good might be useful.
on that basis, i should smoke crack. hunh.
meanwhile, mikegold offers a few hundred words along the lines:
>I hate to say this, but the year is 2000, not 1970.
>Computer technology is part of our culture.

to continue with my crack analogy,
the logic he appears to be using here
would say that if i *don't* approve of crack use,
why then i must be anti-medicine.
i like computers as much as the next guy.
but, hey, i'm a math teacher.
and i've done a much better job
of preparing my students for high tech
if they can, say, explain de morgan's laws in their own words
and do some binary-octal-hex calculations *on paper*
than if i get 'em up to speed on some expensive progam
that'll be obsolete in three years anyway.
and this is so obvious that it pains me to have to say it.

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