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Posts Tagged ‘textbooks’

Textbooks

Recently there has been much debate over the rewriting of social studies textbooks in Texas. I have an opinion on this matter: I believe there are two sides to every story and to truly give an unbiased, honest account of history both must be presented. And both must be given fair consideration.

But onto what I was really thinking about when I sat down to write this…I was listening to Talk of the Nation on NPR today and a teacher called in complaining how his students in high school and previous students he’d had while teaching at the college level never read the textbooks. It got me to thinking, what is the purpose of a textbook?

There are several different ways teachers utilize textbooks. There are teachers who give a shallow overview of the subject matter and then expect students to read the textbook to actually learn the details or to memorize the dates, researchers, and outcomes of a hundred different research studies. There are teachers who think that textbooks are the spawn of Satan and find or create all their own assignments. This can leave students in a bind, particularly if the teacher does not bother to teach all the minutiae of the subject and students are left to spend long hours on the internet, in the library, or finding classmates to fill in the missing links.

And the teachers who are my personal favorite: those who teach in-depth every process needed to learn the desired skill. This doesn’t mean that they eschew textbooks; in fact it is quite the opposite. These teachers rely on the text to give a framework for teaching a class with a logical progression, students are told that the text is not required reading, but if they are confused by any topic that should be their first source for help; and the text gives regular homework assignments with an easy-to-find explanation of the underlying knowledge required to complete the problems.

Am I asking too much for the teachers to teach the subject in the full depth and breadth required for the class? Am I giving students an easy way out of the boring textbook reading we all despise [or just avoid]?

I don’t know the answer to the latter question, but in regards to the former, I don’t think that I am asking too much. If a teacher were hired simply to rate our academic progress based on performance on assignments, papers, or exams, then the first style of teacher (the one who gives a brief overview of the topic) would be perfect. If a teacher were paid to rate our ability to find references and teach ourselves, then the second style of teach would be sufficient. But as students we both need to learn the subject and to learn problem solving. The third style of teacher is the only one in a position to achieve both these goals. By actually teaching the student the teacher is able to direct him/her away from mistakes, common pitfalls, or other possible traps in the given subject matter. By creating/choosing assignments that are based on the underlying principals of the topic the teacher can test the students ability to problem solve and apply those principals to a problem that, on the surface, is seemingly unrelated.

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If you want to feel really bad about yourself:

1) Drive an hour every morning and every night while

2) Listening to Thomas Friedman’s Hot, Flat, and Crowded on audio

That is what I have done recently.  Every morning I leave at 6:45 a.m. to drive to my treatment program. Every night I leave treatment at 5 p.m. and return home [my parent’s house at this moment]. And I listen to audiobooks, the current one is Hot, Flat, and Crowded. I’ve read it before, and I do believe we need to make serious changes to save our planet and ourselves. So I already felt bad about all the driving I was doing with this ED treatment program and my lodging situation. Thomas Friedman has not been helping the situation.

I’ve had a rough time recently. Eating disorder treatment is hard; I knew that going in. However, it only gets harder. So it is getting harder and of course a part of me wants to quit now and not have to do the scary, difficult work of leaving behind my eating disorder behaviors that have been with me for so many years and helped me cope with a lot of distress. Not that an eating disorder is all good. Quite the contrary, in the long run it makes life immeasurably more difficult, but it is still something familiar. So along with all the difficulty inherent in treatment at this point, school is starting again. This Monday, the 11th. And I am two hours away–spending all day in a hospital talking about my feelings. Believe me, I am angry. I am angry that the treatment team doesn’t think I’m ready to leave yet (although I can also [logically] see that I am not ready to leave either). It is my last semester in undergraduate, all the classes I am taking I need to graduate, and I am incredibly scared that one of my professors won’t be willing to work with my absence and, as a result, I won’t be able to graduate in May.

The difficulty was getting to me yesterday. First a bit of background though. This year I bought a Sony Touch Reader, so all I have to do is borrow textbooks from the library, scan them into PDF (the library has wonderful, fast scanners to do this) and then put them on my reader.  On my reader I can highlight sections, write notes on the margins and bookmark certain pages. I am also planning to put the PDF slides that many professors put online before lectures onto my reader and then I can take my usual notes directly on the slides [on the reader]. I save paper, money, and a whole lot of energy and space by not having to lug around 12 lb textbooks. This weekend I returned to [A] to get my textbooks from the school library and scan them. I arrived at 6:15 on Friday only to discover that the library had closed at 5 and would be closed both Saturday and Sunday. That was the last straw. After spending an exhausting day talking about my feelings, being uncomfortably full from all the food they make me eat, driving two hours (listening to T. Friedman), and being angry about not being able to return to school, I broke down. I was sobbing about the library being closed. Ridiculous. I mean, I love the library and all, but it was a bit over the top. This morning however, I managed to see a little more clearly and realized that many college students don’t have textbooks the first week and class and manage just fine. I guess I will make the trek again next weekend (hopefully to stay) and get my books then. And I returned to my parent’s house today so I wouldn’t be tempted to not return to treatment on Monday.

~L

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