Blog #2: The Role of Textbooks

I agree with the authors of Subjects Matter when saying, “Textbooks are authoritarian.” The authors explained that by teaching the content of a textbook though the author’s lens, students are being exposed to a single point of view.

Let’s take a look how this authoritarian point of view gets to our classroom. First, publishers invest a considering amount of money and time lobbing to “sell” the idea that their product is the best fit for the schools’ demands. Then we have the school’s textbook selection process, and lastly the teachers’ instructional practices that would transmit to students the authors’ values, beliefs and ideologies.

There might be critical issues or different points of view from the authors’ monolithic society that in some schools would not represent or connect with the student population. Ester J. de Jong (2011, pp. 2–3) offers a broader definition of advocacy and how teachers through their instructional practices are active advocators for a better society. The author provides an example of how Helen, a middle school social study teacher, found a section of their textbook, adapted by the district, misrepresenting the African American students in her classroom. Helen, then, took the initiative to present the topic from a different perspective, a perspective from the students and their families, by providing her students with supplemental material and cover the section Helen refrained from teaching.

All this takes us back to what we have talked about from the beginning or our DLE933 course: know your students, connect with them, and provide an inclusion-learning environment. Thus, just as the authors from Subjects Matter put it, “They [the textbooks] may not be perfect, the may not be the books we would choose, they may require all sorts of supplementing, working-around, and clarifying. But they are here to stay.” (p. 49).

As a Spanish teacher, I have encountered students who have studied Spanish for years, but they feel uncomfortable speaking Spanish, they think their pronunciation is not “good.” Usually textbooks, in this subject, expect students to learn the present and past tense during the first semester and the past participle and the subjunctive in the second. Students find themselves struggling trying to memorized the stem-change verbs; the –ar, -er and –ir patterns; and the staggering list of vocabulary. Thus, when do they have time to practice pronunciation? Language acquisition is being able to communicate, something the students are missing out because the teacher has to cover certain chapters of the book (author’s curriculum). I see the actual book as a barrier between students and teachers, a barrier that keeps teachers from providing comprehensible input to students.