It's Fast Times in the World of History : Education: Teachers are busy clipping current events articles from newspapers and discussing them in class to supplement texts stunningly out of date before the ink's dry.


The brand-new textbooks, devoid of stray pencil marks and torn pages, have remained tightly shut throughout the first week of teacher Michael Kelishes' world history classes at Pacifica High School.

"Things are happening so fast in the world today that textbooks can't keep up with what needs to be taught," Kelishes said to his students, who have spent much of their time clipping current events out of the newspapers and discussing them in class.

With world history unfolding on a daily basis in the Soviet Union, Europe and the Middle East, even newly arrived textbooks, such as those being used in the Garden Grove Unified School District, are already outdated.

"One has to rely on newspapers more than ever before--it would be criminal not to in this case," said James McDonald, a professor of history and political science at Saddleback College. "You have to watch what's available on television, and I'm reading feverishly wherever I can."

As McDonald pointed, students are not the only ones who have to learn about new leaders and the new world order. High school teachers and college professors have found themselves scrambling to update themselves on what is happening in the world. This is especially difficult with new states declaring themselves independent of the Soviet Union on a weekly basis.

"Before, we didn't really care much about each individual Soviet republic, they were just never really important," said Jack Sorter, who has taught history at Garden Grove High School for 32 years. "Right now, I'm learning the names of each republic, right along with the kids."

For Kelishes, a self-described "news junkie," watching the news for the latest developments and using the newspapers in class is nothing new. He said that for the last three years, news events such as the downfall of communism in Eastern Europe and the Middle East crisis have meant many impromptu lesson plans.

"It's like having a dynamic automatic lesson plan, with all of these important events happening right before school," Kelishes said. "This makes their learning more exciting, because it's so much easier for them to relate to what they see around them."

The Santa Ana Unified School District is also using brand-new textbooks that need updating.

"When I was passing out the book, I had to explain to the students that it was not up to date," said Valley High School's Mae Ussery, who teaches 10th-grade world history. "It's just a matter of supplementing the material, which we do anyway. We use the newspapers extensively."

D.C. Heath Publishing Co. printed the new book "World History: Perspectives of the Past," which is being used in the Garden Grove and Santa Ana school districts, as well as at Fountain Valley High School. Scotty Guerin, local representative for the publisher, said the company also publishes an annual supplement that updates the textbook.

"We try to be responsive to the dynamics of change," Guerin said. "Fortunately, we have a new book this year, which goes right up to before the Soviet coup. Two years ago, teachers would have been using books with the most antiquated material you've ever seen in your life."

The new textbooks being used in the Anaheim Union High School District cover the Soviet Union right up until President Mikhail S. Gorbachev began instituting reforms, but teachers there are also having to rely on newspapers for the most up-to-date materials.

"I look at the paper each day to see if Russia is still there," Anaheim High School teacher James Bolton said. "We were so happy when we selected these new books, because we knew they were new, and then bang! The part about the Soviet Union isn't current anymore."

The Newport-Mesa Unified School District had bought new textbooks, maps and globes just before this summer's upheaval in the Soviet Union. But its administrators are confident that teachers will be able to adapt classroom tools to reflect rapidly changing history.

"The new history and social science texts are framed to allow more interpretation of current events and stress religious, cultural, ethnic, political and economic impacts . . . instead of dates and events," instructional services director Mary Kruse said.

Even maps need not be discarded. Many new-edition maps show only the geography of a land mass or use overlays that can block out outdated boundaries.

"The makers have caught on to our needs and have been evolving in that direction anyway," Kruse said.

Other administrators said Soviet events have caused minimal disruptions in curricula because of newer, more adaptive teaching methods.

"The model was always one of the teacher talks and the student listens, but we have moved now to an approach where the teacher guides and the students discover," said William Eller, associate superintendent of instruction for the Capistrano Unified School District.

The newer course guidelines allow teachers to draw on far more resources, Eller said.

"The text is helpful in the teaching curriculum, but it is not the curriculum," he added.

The lightning-quick turnaround in governmental policies and apparent breakup of the Soviet Union have piqued students' interest. McDonald's Saddleback College class, Soviet Government and Politics, was restricted to an enrollment of 45 and filled rapidly, Saddleback Dean of History Lloyd Evans said.

"The class was in pretty high demand, and others wanted to get in," he said.

Cal State Fullerton professor Robert F. Feldman has not needed a textbook much when teaching about the Soviet Union.

Feldman, director of Russian and Eastern European studies at the university, was visiting Leningrad and Moscow during the coup attempt and its aftermath.

Learning about the Soviet Union now is a great opportunity for students, he said.

"It's like riding a roller coaster," Feldman said. "The last great empire just collapsed."

Feldman is also having students clip articles from newspapers and magazines for background. But he said even older textbooks are still valuable.

"It's not that the textbooks are outdated, because the issues that have been boiling over are not issues that came out of nowhere," Feldman said. "We just need some new chapters written because the events are unfolding right before our eyes."

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