Subscribe for 33¢ / day

We’ve focused in recent weeks on school books, and how the various levels of education deal with their use.

For example, Allan Hancock College has recently launched a program that will help students avoid at least some of the burden of buying textbooks. It’s an interesting approach to what most students and their families have considered a major problem — the cash shelled out for texts that, once purchased and used, sometimes only for a semester, then become next to worthless.

It is a problem at just about every level of education, but the situation is especially acute for community college and four-year university students.

School book sales are driven by publishers who make deals with schools, whose classes require a significant financial outlay by students, if they want to continue their education.

The irony here is that most, if not virtually all of these young people are tech savvy, use personal computers of some sort just about every waking hour, and could easily access the data and information they need to complete their courses either online directly, or via data-storage collateral devices.

The hard-copy book requirement is a throwback to the brick-and-mortar approach to higher education that is among the reasons college students and graduates have amassed more than $1.3 trillion in student-loan debt, rivaling credit card debt.

That is a problem that could, and should be resolved, if this nation wants to move forward in educating its citizens.

But there is another side to the hard-copy school books issue that needs to be examined, and it is directly related to school shootings in which dozens of students and school personnel have been gunned down, virtually unprotected from unhinged shooters.

We read an interesting point of view expressed just after the South Florida mass shooting. A reader of an online news feed said one one way to keep guns out of middle and high schools would be to eliminate the need for youngsters to carry so many books around.

The pile of books requires a backpack in most cases, which makes a typical high school campus look more like a collection of soldiers about to start a trek, lugging pounds of dead weight in their field packs.

That online contributor suggested putting school text materials online, on discs or thumb drives, maybe even on Kindle — venues frequently visited by just about every high school kid, thus eliminating the need for backpacks on campus — but also eliminating potential hiding places for weapons.

Such a strategy would not stop a shooter coming onto campus at random, which is how many of these mass shootings go down. But eliminating backpacks would help police figure out who may or may not have a gun.

Eliminating books may sound counter-intuitive, but assuming technology continues its relentless march forward, the natural assumption is that hard-copy school books will soon become obsolete anyway. Why not accept that inevitable new paradigm now, which parenthetically increases the safety factor for students on campus.

We can’t know what the real future of the internet is going to be, but it seems perfectly suited for helping to expand our sphere of knowledge, without placing an undue burden on our environment. Hard-copy books are expensive, at all ends of the operation. And frankly, except for those of us who still like to hold a book and enjoying reading it, they are doomed.

The bookless high school idea may seem far-fetched, but the fact is it could end up saving young lives.