California State Assembly: The Forum for Fruits & Nuts

Scott points to this disturbing article. The California State Assembly has decided to ban school districts from purchasing textbooks longer than 200 pages. The bill itself can be found here. As phrased, the bill could actually go beyond mere textbooks and be destructive to books in general. AB 756 states, “This bill would prohibit the State Board of Education and school district from adopting instruction materials that exceed 200 pages in length.” So what are instructional materials?

According to California Education Code Section 60010(h), “instructional materials” are defined as “all materials that are designed for use by pupils and their teachers as a learning resource and help pupils to acquire facts, skills, or opinions or to develop cognitive processes. Instructional materials may be printed or nonprinted, and may include textbooks, technology-based materials, other educational materials, and tests.”

In other words, what we have here is a definition so broad that a “material” that might be used in a Grades 1-8 classroom such as a book that exceeds 200 pages will be tossed in the dustheap. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn? Sorry, 360 pages. Too long. Silas Marner? Maybe, but be sure to order the edition minus the introduction and the related resources page. Because Eliot’s just on the brink of 200 pages.

Beyond the baffling anti-intellectual nature of this bill (which was introduced by Democrats), there’s the troubling financial impact it will have upon school districts. Instead of ordering that big 500-page compilation for a classroom, I forsee an age where school districts will have to order three 200-page books to cover the same material. And with school districts already pinching their pennies, it’s doubtful whether they’ll pony up the dough.

Fortunately, Governor Schwarzenegger (how I do hate typing those two words together) has not yet taken a position on the bill (which needs to be signed into law to be effected). Since he has previously gone on record with absurd approaches to fiscal spending, perhaps the fiscal approach might be the way to get through to him.