On Textbooks

In case I haven’t made it clear yet, in general, I am opposed to textbooks. Becky at Farm School composes a thoughtful entry on the subject that I found interesting and valuable and that resonated with my own experiences as a student and teacher.

There was Mr Fairman’s American History class my junior year of high school in which the textbooks remained in a pile on a table at the back of the room. We were told we could take one if we wanted. But no reading assignments were ever assigned. Instead we got great lectures, handouts with readings from primary sources. I recall looking at newspapers, maps and cartoons from the Civil War and other eras. I remember vividly talking about the Jamestown colony and Mr Fairman—a small man, very young, who always wore a funny bowtie—writing DEATH in huge capital letters across the chalkboard. We did a great walking tour of Austin’s historic Pecan Street (now Sixth Street) and many other fun activities.

I always hated English textbooks because they tantalized you with excerpts and you never got to read the whole thing.

I know as a teacher I’ve been frustrated with all of the textbooks I’ve reviewed. I generally adopt one or two, use them sparingly and supplement heavily with readings and activities from other sources.

In any case, she says it better and includes lots of links that I look forward to following at a later point when I’m not so tired.

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