Skip to comments.Obama To Take Over Control of College Textbooks?
Posted on 03/31/2010 6:57:04 AM PDT by Sopater
Candace de Russy over at National Review posted an alarming example  of an Obama power grab. Or perhaps more precisely it’s yet another alarming example of an Obama power grab. This time Obama apparently is setting the table to take control of what is printed in our nation’s college textbooks.
This one slipped past my radar in August of 2009, but apparently Barack Obama signed the Federal Textbook Act (Download .pdf file ) that made provisions for the federal government to take control of the pricing and availability of the text books in our institutions of higher learning (at least the ones that take federal funding).
According to the language of the act, it is all about keeping textbooks affordable for students.
Purpose and Intent- The purpose of this section is to ensure that students have access to affordable course materials by decreasing costs to students and enhancing transparency and disclosure with respect to the selection, purchase, sale, and use of course materials. It is the intent of this section to encourage all of the involved parties, including faculty, students, administrators, institutions of higher education, bookstores, distributors, and publishers, to work together to identify ways to decrease the cost of college textbooks and supplemental materials for students while supporting the academic freedom of faculty members to select high quality course materials for students.
Sounds good, right?
Maybe not so much.
National Review quotes George Mason economics professor Donald J. Boudreaux as saying that this act seems to be “a first step toward federal oversight of the contents of college textbooks.” As proof he points specifically to section C, the publisher requirements section.
(C) A description of the substantial content revisions made between the current edition of the college textbook or supplemental material and the previous edition, if any.
Why does Obama’s overlords need to know what revisions have been made to a textbook? This act is supposed to be concerned with pricing and availability, not content isn’t it?
Of course, we all know that once government gets its tendrils into your business it takes all power away from you and reassigns it to government. So, once this act is implemented, any federal money involved will give government the opening to begin controlling everything in the process of creating and distributing college textbooks.
As prof Boudreaux points out, if people are upset over the recent newfound control that the conservative leaning Texas textbook commission had over new textbooks, then how upset might they be if the federal government takes over our college textbooks? There should be no difference at all in the reaction if it was really government control that was being opposed.
Naturally, its always about whose ox is being gored with liberals. Texas textbook control: baaaaad. Obama textbook control: gooooood.
I would also point out one other thing. Many professors in our nation’s colleges and universities have hit the lottery by writing textbooks for their own classes, books that their university will then adopt as the “official” textbook for class work. These professors make a tidy sum of money on these expensive, small print run books that their captive student audience is forced to buy. It would seem to me that this Federal Textbook Act could easily eliminate this lucrative but under-the-radar source of income for professors everywhere. Not that I am against that, but it is something for those lefty profs that so love their Obammessiah to think about.
This bill was originally signed in 2008 by President Bush and was introduced by Illinois Senator Dick Durbin. It took effect this year during Obamas presidency. But regardless of who signed it — and this shows that Bush was as bad as Obama for his love of big government — it is a bad idea to allow the federal government to get involved in the production of text books.
I don’t trust anything Obama does to ultimately be innocent.
But the rationale for tracking updated editions of textbooks I’m sure would be that it has become something of a scam for the publishers (and authors) to keep putting out minor updates, then require students to buy the newest edition rather than the previous editions that are widely available on the used market.
My son already graduated college a few years ago, works in the oil and gas industry, is a solid conservative and just bought his first home all by himself. We are pretty proud of him. But I know what you mean about learning a trade. I think it’s stupid for every kid to go to college. We need to starve that liberal beast too. These leftist professors and universities are robbing our country blind.
While the two parties are not the same, more evidence that the elites in both parties have the same goals- more control over us. New boss same as the old boss. The details change, but nothing else does.
Those ignorant of Mussolini’s ascendency in Italy are about to become intimately familiar with it.
If one can control the revisions, if one can control the price, then one can control content.
That is what is going to happen. It will be official, and done on a basis of price. The pool of approved authors will be subsidized in their efforts through other channels, of course.
We have already reached the point where a Bachelor's Degree is considered passe, to the detriment of those of us who worked our butts off decades ago to earn one.
The issue then, for many jobs was whether one had a High School Diploma, which actually implied a reasonable level of numeracy and literacy--no longer!
Now we will produce the best-educated ignoramuses in the world.
As Mark Twain said, "Never let your schooling interfere with your education."
Even if that provision was put in for reasons dealing with cost. (they change minor things and make for new textbooks each year) It will be abused. They are always making minor changes just so the old books can’t be resold and used for the next class.
In the context of pricing & availability, many textbooks are often re-issued with trivial revisions designed to deprecate previous versions and force purchase of new, expensive tomes instead of buying old, used, cheap, yet still entirely valid copies. Since a slight change in page & section numbers, tweaking of content, and modification of student exercises all add up to compelling an impractical level of comparison & reconciliation between old & new texts owned by many students, the school just requires the latest version and the students are stuck with shelling out ~$100 for something they could get a viable copy of for under $10. I consider it an unfair practice, just a hair this side of illegal price fixing; since it's "unfair" (yeah, it is), the polypragmatons (gov't busybodies) get involved and write laws like this.
That's the formal, reasonable explanation. I'll even grant it's probably the real reason. ...thing is, gathering such info and making 3rd-party decisions about what changes are "acceptable" for the above reason will lead to further questions about content beyond the limit of this law, leading to more laws & more oppression.
If one reads the article, the law was passed by the Bush administration. Also it mainly deals with aspects that drive up the cost of textbooks. Publisher bundling of useless bits, frequent revision to stifle any used book market...
Friendly reminder / PSA:
ALL of MIT’s courses are available for FREE at http://ocw.mit.edu
If you want the _education_ it’s available at no cost. Diploma & personal classroom attention is extra.
More universities are doing this now.
Without exploring base motive and agenda, and without making a judgement: I would say this section is aimed at the publisher practice of making only minor change in a textbook, then releasing it as a new edition. This has the effect of generating sales of the "latest, most up to date" edition of these VERY expensive books, thus reducing or eliminating the book's resale value.
The power grabs have been going on for quite a long time now.
I beg your pardon in advance as you are probably aware of this thread’s topic,
but I decided to ping you as you might be interested.
I have no doubt that the leftists want to control textbooks just like every other facet of our lives, but this is a dumb argument. The revision of textbooks between editions is VERY MUCH tied to pricing. The only real reason that many revisions are made by the writers & publishers is to force students to buy new books at $100+ instead of getting used editions.
Although I am against goverment control of most things, including college textbooks, the answer to this question should be obvious: College faculty often require their students to purchase the latest edition of the textbook that they or their collegues have written even though the changes to the latest edition from the previous edition are insignificant. The result is that a student spends $150 for a new book, rather than $30 for a used prior edition of the same book from the same author, and the only difference between the two editions is a footnote on page 442, the size of the graph on page 561, and correction to a citation in the bibliography.
There are few college textbooks that are worth the paper. I teach college economics and have used the McConnell and Brue textbook...actually shows free markets in a positive light.
Thanks...will check it out.
McConnell:Economics list price in 1973 $11.50
Same book today $189.38
Hillsdale, Grove City to name two...