Sick of not using the textbooks that had cost me hundreds of dollars throughout my time as a student at Salt Lake Community College, I decided to conduct a little experiment this semester. Despite every single instructor uttering some variation of, “Yes, you will need the book” on the first day of class, I decided to put their words to the test by not buying textbooks right away. I determined in my mind that if I ended up needing a book to help me get a good grade, I would buy it. But not before then.
Okay, so I’ll concede that I did buy one book. I took five classes this semester and decided to buy the book for a class that is in my major. I didn’t do this for the purpose of the class, but rather because I thought it would be a handy reference for me throughout my career. Also, I must concede that I already had the book for Spanish 1020, since the class would cover the second half of the same text that we had in the 1010 class.
This still left three classes where I would “need the book.” Turns out, not so much.
In one of my classes, the instructor told us to read the chapters, but then just presented the material on PowerPoint. She then put the presentations online for us to study for the test. The book proved unnecessary; an “A” will be added to my transcript sans text.
Same story in class number two – all we were tested on was information from PowerPoint. In class number three, the only assessment we had was a single take-home test and we were allowed to find the answers online. Another 100-plus bucks saved and my 4.0 GPA for the semester is still intact.
We didn’t really use the book for the class that is in my major, either. I would’ve been bummed if I wasn’t planning on keeping it, since we only opened its pages a few times. I’ll get an “A” in that class as well. We did use the book quite regularly in my Spanish class. Ironically, that is the only one of my classes in which I’ve had to put forth quality study time in order to get a good grade.
I want to make it abundantly clear that I’m not calling out individual professors. I’ve had some incredible instructors during my time here at SLCC, people from whom I’ve learned things that I’ll take for the rest of my life. What I am calling out is the fact that we are told that textbooks are mandatory, but then they are never used.
Let me also point out that I am not advocating the lack of book usage. I wouldn’t mind more rigorous work and being assessed in such a manner that would require me to read the text if I wanted to do well in the class. What bothers me is that students are expected to buy the books, but then they are never utilized. What makes it worse is that many students go through great struggles to be able to afford the books, all for nothing.
Perhaps some instructors abandon the book because they feel it’s too hard for some students to understand them. If that is the case, don’t make us buy them in the first place, or hold us to a higher standard of learning. If we don’t make the grade, it’s our own fault.
Perhaps teachers are contractually obligated to say that the book is required. If that is the case, then instructors should modify their curriculums so that the textbook is rigorously utilized.
If instructors are concerned that assigning consistent textbook work will make their classes too difficult, they ought to rethink. Making college coursework more difficult might allow our country to stop the slide in education we are experiencing compared to the rest of the world.
Some may argue that making things more difficult would give fewer students the opportunity to get a degree, but a diploma is only a diploma if it becomes a vehicle for our future success. Otherwise, it’s just a piece of paper.
In truth, if textbooks weren’t part of the financial equation, more students might be able to afford the PowerPoint show that is college. Just a thought.
So, to the people that control this whole textbook thing – either give us a reason to buy them or don’t make our already meager budgets dwindle in vain. I’m sure the trees would appreciate it.