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4.9.15: Is The Textbook Dead, The New England Primer, & The Benefit Of Surprise

Megan Lynnette via flickr Creative Commons

Today’s classrooms may come outfitted with iPads and gadgets, but the textbook industry has weathered the digital storm surprisingly well. On today’s show we’ll look at an unexpected threat to the textbook industry:  the rollout of the Common Core standards.

Then, between jam packed schedules and lengthy to-do lists, it’s little wonder that so many people claim they hate surprises. But what can we gain from embracing the unexpected?  A self-described 'surprisologist' makes the case for being caught off guard.

Listen to the full show or click read more for individual segments.

Is the Textbook Dead?

  • Joining us to discuss textbooks in the age of Common core are: Rachel Monahana contributor to the Hechinger Report, a non-partisan online magazine that covers innovation and inequality in education.  She recently wrote about how the textbook status quo is now being  by the rollout of the Common Core standards.

    Eric Hirsch is founder and executive director of Ed-Reports, a non-profit that evaluates  textbooks – a big part of what they’re doing now is assessing textbooks are aligned to the new Common Core standards.

Is the Textbook Dead?

New England Primer: The First Textbook in the U.S.

  • To find out more about the very first textbook to see widespread use in the United States: The New England Primer, Producer Taylor Quimby spoke with Kyle Roberts – a historian and Assistant Professor of Public History and New Media at Loyola University in Chicago.

New England Primer: The First Textbook in the U.S.

The Rising Price of Textbooks

  • Big textbook publishers are struggling to integrate new common core standards into their curricula – and as a result, are losing business to free course materials being offered by a handful of non-profits.  But that’s a problem that really only applies to grades K through 12. When it comes to college textbooks, publishers are doing just fine - it’s the students who are feeling the squeeze. Producer Zoe Peterson reports.
  • You can listen to this story again at PRX.org.


  • Roman Mars of the podcast 99% Invisible, looks back to the origins of symbol that’s taken on new meaning in the age of social media. 
  • You can listen to this story again at PRX.org.

Embracing The Element of Surprise

Embracing The Element of Surprise

Surprise Promotion

  • If you woke up one day to find out you’d been promoted – that would be a good surprise, right?  Well, that’s what you’d think anyway.  Our next story of a surprise that shocked the nation, and the man in charge of it, comes to us from Andrew Parsons, a producer for Backstory with the American History Guys
  • You can listen to this story again at PRX.org.
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