Every textbook, regardless of grade level or subject matter, is the final authority in the classroom.
Every textbook is a political document. This is its strength and its weakness. Authority gives textbooks power, but it's also why most read more like software manuals than real books.
This is the barrier faced by California and any other state seeking to create "open" textbooks. It's not a question of what license content comes in under, or what license the textbook has when it's done. It's the fact that authority is dispersed as more people are allowed in on the process.
Texas has long understood the relationship of textbooks to political power. That's what its hullaballoo over evolution was about. Control the textbook's content and you not only control what your state's children will learn, but what every state's children will learn, if your state is big enough.
The idea of a single, central, controlling authority is anathema to open source. It's the process of Texas, not just its result, that I find objectionable. It's so very 19th century.
But it's also the Pandora's Box that California's move opens. Who will be the authority on what our children will learn, on the content of an elementary or secondary education? Will there be an authority?
Near the end of The Illusionist, writer Neil Burger gives Rufus Sewell's Prince Leopold (above) a desperate speech, in which he defends his efforts to centralize authority and complains that, without him, there will be "a thousand different voices screaming to be heard and nothing will be done. Nothing!"
History shows that is just what happened. Austria's empire collapsed. The center could not hold.
The task before California is to create some form of moderation so that the authority of the final product is respected. A new form of political process needs to be built from the ground-up for the new technology of textbooks to take hold.