03 June 04

A lighter load

. . . a law was passed in California limiting the weight of textbooks?

I’m sure many of you have seen, or maybe know, students who now resort to rolling luggage instead of knapsacks or backpacks because they have so many super-huge books to carry. The average weight of one high school textbook I work on is ten pounds. That’s for one class, and no students rarely make it through half of the pages during the course of one year.

One answer is to create several smaller books so schools can simply purchase the sections they want instead of an entire book. E-books are discussed but rarely an option for most school districts. It’s a great idea that each student would simply carry around a two-pound screen with a couple of keys and a stylus and they’d have their texts and their workbooks and their assignments beamed to them each day by their teacher. In reality this technology is being utilized by the wealthier school districts while most schools are lucky to have a small out-of-date computer lab. Paperback versions of books would make things lighter, but schools aren’t willing to purchase paperback because it limits the number of years it can be used due to wear and tear. Some teachers are calling for an end to designed books. For example in a literature classroom, a teacher might prefer to have the students carry black and white books that only have the reading selections in them. The teachers would have workbooks and handouts with the before reading and after reading text that most students ignore anyway. But these books aren’t pretty, at all, and they aren’t popular with teachers who want their textbooks to compete visually with all the other distractions.

There’s no easy answer on how to make books smaller while still providing teachers with a wide variety of teaching aids and readings that can be chosen based on state requirements. But I don’t blame California for limiting the weight of books. It’s a necessity.

I’ve mentioned before that I have scoliosis, or curvature of the spine. Think Denny by Judy Blume. It wasn’t discovered until I was out of high school. During the initial check-up the doctor informed me that I probably would have it better if I hadn’t carried almost all of my books in my backpack and used only the right shoulder strap.

It’s a good law, it’s a good step. I’m not sure where it will end up, but I like where it is starting.

Wanna know where I’ve been lately, check this out.


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