Clash of world views (curriculum)

I could get myself in trouble here.

But I need to share.

Regular readers are aware that part of my professional time is spent working on a large-scale middle school curriculum project. The bulk of those on the project are university faculty members in fact and teachers in spirit. We do not work under a paradigm that puts a lot of value in the term proprietary.

We are respectful of intellectual property rights but we don’t spend a ton of time thinking about them. Fair use is an important phrase in this community and the idea that our own ideas might be used by others is a delightful one.

This will not be surprising to those who read stuff on the web. The blogosphere operates in a very similar vein; one which has even been formalized in Creative Commons licensing.

But that’s the development side of the curriculum. We create the intellectual property. A traditional publisher produces the text materials.

Publishers operate with a different world view. Content is money. Use of others’ intellectual property exposes one to lawsuits, except with meticulously obtained permissions, but those permissions are obtained through a legal department that is itself expensive. And obtaining permission may involve a fee.

As an illustration of this clash of world views in 21st century teaching, I offer an abridged list of permissionable selections from the previous version of the curriculum that the publisher would prefer to have removed from the next version. The list is much, much longer than the one reproduced below.

  • Data from The Most Popular Colors by Type of Vehicle, 2001 Model Year
  • Fastest Bicycle Speed
  • Pet Incidence Trend Report
  • Pizza Industry Facts
  • Box Office Regional Analysis Map
  • from “The Wizard of Oz”, the quote The sum of the square root of any two sides of an isosceles triangle is equal to the square root of the remaining side.
  • Houston Rockets 2004 roster
  • The Nuttiest Peanut Butter dataset
  • Typical weights for tiger cubs, and
  • Largest Hamster Litter on Record



One response to “Clash of world views (curriculum)

  1. Tricky questions. I can’t help thinking that the problem is illuminated in the term “traditional” publishers – they could be expected to have a problem with anything being included that someone else could challenge. But “non-traditional” publishing models which are becoming more and more common would appear to trump the old model, in that newer ways of publishing allow for publishers to share resources with appropriate licenses at zero or low cost. Assuming that the newer forms of publishing continue to become more prevalent and more profitable in a commercial sense, old publishers will either be forced to follow in order to compete, or will find their revenues dry up. Provided there is a critical mass of “free” material to replace the sorts of examples your publisher finds questionable, presumably the expensive, licensed, now old-fashioned model might no longer be needed.

    The only real concern I can see is that it might take a lot longer than it ought to for this to happen.

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