Month: September 2011

ספרים, רבותיי, ספרים

Not many things can get so riled up as quickly and as fervently as knowledge management and professional work standards. Anyway, I’m still working on my Algo Book ( and I’ve met again with Professor Nati Linial, who has been kind enough to meet me about this subject. One of our disagreements was about the standard of the level of Hebrew used, as Nati is a self-proclaimed stickler for perfect Hebrew (This may be ironic to those of you whom I annoyingly offer my unsolicited grammatical corrections) and sees it as imperative that the level of Hebrew (both in the text be impeccable, both professionally and grammatically. As he states, he would require an extremely high standard from a text before seeing fit to put him as a co-signer or approver-reveiwer of any sort to that text. I strongly disagree with this opinion, as I have told Nati myself. Below is the gist of my point (excerpted from mail correspondence), and though I feel anyone who has heard of the Internet must see this as obvious, inherent truth, it is evident that at least in the channals of

“…I appreciate your insistence on keeping a high quality in produced written work. However, we must be aware that inevitably the quality of ‘frontal’ teaching – lectures and tirgulim – is far lacking. Teachers slip up on occasion mix indices or letters, forget a lemma, choose a cumbersome explanation. It happens and no one is to blame, for we are all human. However, let us not delude ourselves that classroom explanations are perfect. They are not, even in the best of times. And if a student doesn’t “get it” in class – both mentally and in terms of copying correctly and fully into his or her notebook – it will be an uphill battle from then on. We have the privilege that ‘live’ slip-ups are not ‘in our face’ most of the the time (as opposed to a text), since we do not track them in any way, but just the fact that our professors and TAs are smart, capable and willing, is not enough.

Textbooks do not suffer from these problems. Textbooks may not be perfect, but they only get better and better over time. By today’s standards (e-communication and update) this means as soon as a mistake is found, it is corrected. Textbooks are reviewable, objective, answerable and accountable, and they are available for unlimited consumption, forever. Professors, TAs and bodkim make mistakes; a text written correctly once does not.

Class is not perfect either, but students will hear an explanation in class once, and read it – either their own interpretation in their notebook, or a reviewed one in a textbook – dozens of times. We would want them, of course, to read a reviewed explanation – not their own.

Respectfully, this is why all effort should be put into creating a decent textbook, even at the cost of compromising on its perfection.”