The Role of Textbooks
I agree with many of the arguments in the book, Subjects Matter. There are many issues with the use of the “standard textbook,” meaning, a large reference book that is supposed to contain all required information for your subject and grade. Cost is a big factor to both families who may be required to purchase them as well as school districts who buy them in bulk for students. The book argues that this alone can eat up most of the budget for materials at the expense of anything else. As a result, it is much more difficult to incorporate other sources of information. There are always multiple viewpoints and interpretations, and being limited to a single source impedes teachers’ ability to present this information. An example from my subject, social studies, could be books written by important historical figures. Rather than simply reading about it in a textbook, students could read the primary source themselves and come to their own conclusions and interpretations. There is also a big problem with comprehension of textbooks. Since they are designed as references, rather than nonfiction literature, they can be very difficult to read and understand. Therefore, even if students read all of the material they may not learn it in a meaningful way. A benefit of textbooks, which I think the chapter glosses over, is that they can act as an outline. Since it is a reference material it could be helpful to use it as such. It could serve as a jumping off point for the class and help students keep track of where they are in the class and provide at-a-glance information.