We've had some interesting, and conflicting, proposals in the legislature recently, proposals relating to textbooks.
1. Most recently, which I've written about here, would require our textbooks to discuss the contributions to California of gays, lesbians, and other sexual minorities. This would make textbooks bigger.
2. Another legislator, for whom I have nothing but contempt, proposed a bill that would require textbooks be no longer than 200 pages. This would make textbooks smaller.
3. Many high schools don't have lockers--students might stash drugs or firearms in them. Students have to carry their books around with them all day. Periodically we hear about suggestions for laws that would limit the weight of the books a student would have to carry in his/her backpack. Such a law presumably would require textbooks to be smaller.
I have an algebra textbook published in the 1940s. It's 7.5"x5.5"x1", and that 1" is measured from outside the cover to outside! It has more algebra in it than the textbooks my students currently use, which have perhaps three to four times the volume. Has there been *that* much new algebra to learn since the 1940s?
My textbooks in school weren't as big as they are today. Then again, they didn't have glossy pictures of unrelated items that are supposed to get the student interested. No, we were expected to be internally motivated to some extent, and the thought that they should actually have to entertain us probably never occurred to my teachers or to the publishers of textbooks.
So why are students' textbooks so big and heavy today? What silly requirements has the legislature imposed for our textbooks? Why is student achievement today not as high as it was in decades past?
Let's not blame MTV, at least right of the bat.