Texas moves emphasize need to open source education

Texas has created an enormous opportunity for states, for communities, for publishers, and for authors to use open source and mass customization to transform education, just as those savings are most needed.

I didn't intend to get into the Texas school board controversy.

Personal reasons. After I left college I was a close friend of a guy who is now a member of that board, one of its most controversial.

Back in 1978 David Bradley was drifting, but the woman he married around the time I knew him straightened him out. Last I saw him he was living in the mansion where the papers creating what later became Exxon were signed.

But his latest silliness (only stupid kids believe the history they're taught in high school) got me to thinking of the enormous opportunities there are for open source in education, starting in the area of textbooks.

What lefty political types will tell you is that Texas' school book standards are followed in lockstep by most other states, because Texas is such a large market and publishers don't want to publish multiple books.

What is really 1950 here is not the lesson plan, but the business model.

Why are states relying on early 20th century manufacturing technology for 21st century education?

States are going broke, right? They're laying off teachers, increasing class sizes, looking to save money wherever they can. But they're still centralizing lesson plans, still teaching kids in ways Horace Mann would recognize.

There's your insanity.

If Texas wants to teach kids lies, fine -- become AngloMexicana if you want. But that doesn't mean Rhode Island has to follow suit, does it?

California has an open source textbook project, but this is becoming a real industry, and Texas has opened the entire K-12 market to this kind of innovation.

Flat World Knowledge, for instance,  gives away textbooks, in the form of PDF files. You can print them for a base fee, you can get additional materials as well, and you can work a lot more closely with the author than you can with the old model.

Imagine what a company like that could do in K-12 where the orders are bigger, the books simpler, and the cash flow more certain?

Best of all, their business model lets authors make money even while it gives educators unbelievable bargains. Which means states can have their own standards, and in places with real federalism so can individual school districts.

Texas has created an enormous opportunity for states, for communities, for publishers, and for authors to use open source and mass customization to transform education, just as those savings are most needed.

Will anyone seize the chance my old friend David Bradley is giving them?

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