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Monday, March 4, 2019

When a Tradition Must Go – Away.

When a Tradition Must Go – Away.
Everything, meaning literally every existing thing, or even an idea, evolves.
That evolution includes human traditions.
Some come and go, some stay for a long time.
There are smart traditions, like raising children in a loving family.
And there are wrong, outdated,"stupid" traditions.
Like taking chemistry before physics.
The roots of this tradition go deep into 1800s.
The main reason for this tradition is that a hundred years ago it was simply much easier to talk about biological events than about chemical events due to abundance of biological material. And it was much easier to talk about chemical events than about physical events, because there was no experimental basis for physics, and no one really knew how to teach physics beyond university levels.
But things has changed since then.
But the tradition stays, because there are many people and institutions who have heavily invested into that tradition (e.g. textbooks).
But mainly, it stays, because it is, well, a tradition.
We’ve been doing it for years – actually, a hundred of years – why change it. Even though many other countries changed it - but why would we, Americans, wanted anything from another countries? Why do we have to evolve?
The reason is simply becasue scenes have evolved, because we, humans in general, have learned lots of new things.
And now, we can apply our new knowledge to make things better, more efficient.
Take any textbook on general chemistry.
About 20 % of it – one fifth! – is plain physics.
If students would have taken physics already, they could have saved 20 % of their time.
In business, people fight of a single percent of improvement.
But in education no one cares.
Or people who do care don’t have a good argument.
That good argument could be a development of complementary courses in physics and chemistry (like one physics-then-chemistry course), but there is no publisher of university which would like to take on this project.
There is a reason for that, too.
No publisher needs to prove that their course materials 
are actually good for students.
In the end, as long as course evaluations and final grades are fine – everyone is satisfied.
In business there is a good – kind of obvious – tradition: don’t roll out a product without giving it a test drive.
But in education to publish a textbook, or a workbook, or else one only needs, well, that textbook, or workbook, or else – prepared in a presentable format.
The format is the only important feature that matters.
Traditions for a textbook format (for example) have been evolving, as well.
Nowadays it must have colorful pictures and supplemented online materials (apps, videos, etc.).
And – done.
Next stage is marketing.
The truth of the matter – and everyone in education knows it – is that there is no single faculty who would ever use all the available material in its entirety.
In fact, the top limit for the material used is close to 60 % of the all available.
Hence, students or schools pay about 40% of their money for nothing.
But, again, no one really cares about it because those money slide through the system without being visible.
What a student or a school should ask a publisher before buying a new textbook is “Has it had a test drive?”
If not – there is no real reason to buy it (of course, there is such reason as “Look at us, we are innovating!”, or others, which have no direct affect on learning outcomes of students).
Such a test drive would require establishing a group of students with various backgrounds and teaching them the subject using ALL the materials.
It is the most important condition that all students would have to walk through ALL elements of the material. But this test-course would not have any specific time line. On the contrary, establishing the time frame need for an average student to master ALL aspects of the course is the main goal of this test-course.
Plus, the set of the assessments, and the results of those assessments of the learning outcomes during and in the end of the course.
THEN and only then a publisher could provide to costumers specific information on the quality of the course materials it offers.
Until then we all have to live in the Wilde West of educational programming and publishing.

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