Thursday, April 1, 2021

"Someday we will go to the Moon!"

 Several years ago, I saw the claim Los Angeles inner-city schools were so badly funded that they used science books with that hopeful sentence.  My first reaction was, "That's absurd."  Then I thought about how badly some public school systems work, and I found myself wondering, "Is this why black kids are doing so poorly in college?"

I tried to find that article.  What came up was 2/8/11 Winston-Salem Journal:

When Gina Webster took over as media coordinator at Walkertown Middle School in 2000, she found the offerings needed more than a bit of updating.

The average copyright date of print materials was 1961, and there were such titles as "Let's Visit the USSR" and "We Live in West Germany," she said.

One book contained the sentence: "Someday we will go to the moon."

What are the chances that two different districts had the same out of date science book?  Or is this a story the left uses to justify higher spending and avoid confronting cultural problems in the ghetto?  Has anyone seen similar claims?


  1. Not to nitpick, but the linked article is dated 2/8/2011, not 2021.

    I strongly suspect people are referencing "You Will Go To The Moon", originally published in 1959. Pretty popular back in the day, and I can imagine it would hang around in school libraries.

  2. Clearly, we need to find out how print matter like that lasted 60+ years in a school environment

    And where have the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on books for that school gone, in the last century?

  3. While I can't comment on this topic head on, I can sort of come at it from a different angle.
    I tend to watch movies via my Amazon Prime membership, for free. There are hundreds of titles, maybe thousands of them, to choose from, including an impressive number of new or newer offerings. But there are also movies from as far back as the 60's, 70's, etc. While for a drama, romance, etc it might not be a bad thing, I often will watch a sci fi movie, and watching a sci fi movie from even the late 80's or early 90's is almost like actually travelling back in time to that era myself.
    I mean, their weapons, or communications, or even the manner that they understand our modern world in areas such as the speed of life, and how interdependent the whole world is on each nation, is simply not something that is ever considered, yet alone shown.
    So to imagine just how a student who is learning from textbooks so outdated, even if they have an above average teacher who works to make sure that the students are not falling behind, can compete with students who have up to date textbooks.

  4. Bernard Le Bouyer Fontenelle, 1657-1757, was an influential science writer and popularizer, known for easy-to understand writing of what were for the time difficult subjects in astronomy and other sciences.

    One of his most famous quotations is translated as "“The art of flying has only just been born; it will be brought to perfection, and someday we will go to the moon”

    So just about any library or book collection that contains a reasonably comprehensive encyclopedia is going to have a book containing the sentence: "Someday we will go to the moon."


  5. This was essentially the story told by a coworker about 30 years ago, only it was about a family's home encyclopedia.

  6. I'll never forget losing points in sixth grade because, sometime between the publication of our home atlas and 1966, Brazil had the temerity to change its capital from Rio de Janeiro to someplace inland called Brasilia.

  7. Beware a cure worse than the disease.

    My lived experience includes, a few years back, taking recycle paper to the nearest elementary school dumpster. Couldn't dump my stuff, both bins were jammed full. Of books. Library books.

    There's a term of art for books -- library binding. You can as a consumer buy a copy of "Are You My Mother" or whatever children's book with a glossy paper cover and pages stapled in. But a library gets the same book in a cloth-over-fiberboard cover and heavy paper pages sewn in. It is designed, built, and priced to last for generations of hard use.

    A school library includes not only popular fiction and picture stories. There are biographies -- in the bins I encountered there were biographies of Davy Crocket and Sam Houston (this was, after all, Texas); Rosa Parks and Jackie Robinson; The Curies and Isaac Newton. There should be books about birds and bees and "the-birds-and-the-bees". These will be books about Earth Day and the importance of re-cycling. And yes there were books about the US Presidents. In the recycle bins were all of these, including a book of presidents where the last listed was Ronald Reagan...

    These were books with copyright dates that boosted the average age of the collection to a number measured in decades rather than single digit years. And so the librarian and her shelves would earn a higher "quality score" by dumping hundreds of these good-condition, timelessly topical, perfectly grade-appropriate books. She had fewer books on her shelves, but the ones she had -- about Davy Crocket and Rosa Parks, and all still -- had the virtue of NEWNESS. And if she spent taxpayer funds and her own personal days off to come in and cull an old biography of Crocket and put in a requisition to buy a newer $25 version -- with modern more simplified language and bigger picture-to-text ratios -- she was earning her evaluation scores and the higher ranks for her school resource grades.

    And, as it happened, gave my home-school collection a huge boost. And prompted me into the good citizen / concerned taxpayer research that introduced me to a nice person in a stupid state system...

    ANYHOW, the news about old books and obsolete titles makes for enraging headlines. But behind click-bait headlines are almost always policies stupider than the the people implementing them or representing a lack of resources.

    1. To reinforce this, I have often wondered if the newer calculus textbooks offer anything that substantially different from that of 10 years ago. How much do fundamental, grade-school-level math, science, history, and literature, really change? Does it *really* justify throwing out all the textbooks every 10 years? And to what degree does throwing out the textbooks also throw out proven methodologies and replace them with methodologies that merely serve to confuse student, parent, and teacher alike?

  8. I believe we used that book.

    I went back to college at age 50 and had to retake the basic science courses, chem, microbiology and so on. I was immediately impressed by two things. One, that not much had changed. All the material was exactly as I had recalled (genetics a bit updated). And two, the textbooks were SO MUCH better. Really, much better presentations, better explanations, better problems, more of them.