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16 June, 2009

Textbook detachment

The BBC reports that schools in California (eh? so why's the BBC bothered?) are phasing-out textbooks in favour of "approved online learning materials".  I'm not sure whether I have an opinion on the relative merits of paper-based and online learning (a bit of both seems sensible) but I do know I wouldn't be particularly influenced by sentiment or the sort of reminiscence provided by the BBC article.

In fact, an early paragraph startled me:

Covering graffiti-laden, handed-down textbooks with left-over wallpaper, sticky-back plastic or posters of the latest bands has been a start-of-term custom for secondary school pupils for years.
True. My sister used sticky plastic, but I couldn't apply it neatly so favoured wallpaper.
Purging books of any trace of their previous owners served to make them feel like ours, and signified reaching a landmark in an educational journey.
What? That never even occurred to me. The books belonged to the school; I neither felt nor sought the remotest sense of ownership. I simply wasn't interested in possessing objects* : a fairly major aspect of my personality now, but I hadn't realised that I've felt that way since childhood.

*: To restate: apart from particularly fine examples of design, I'm generally interested in books, CDs and DVDs as carrying/storage media for their content – words, music and films – not as physical artefacts to own for the sake of ownership. I do own a few ornaments, but for their tactile/visual appeal or for the memories they evoke rather than as mere status symbols. For example, I have a rubber duck beside my TV.

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