My Textbook and Me This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

June 6, 2010
To me, the standard American way of learning is ridiculous. Read the textbook, answer the question, take the test. I’ve had teachers before who never even taught me anything, just told me to “read the textbook.” What’s so great about textbooks, anyway? They present information in the least interesting way possible, and they’re not at all open to interpretations (not to mention the fact that they probably cause back problems). I think that teachers should personalize their curriculum rather than read fact after fact after fact. There’s nothing wrong with an opinion or an original idea every once in a while.

I don’t know if everyone shares my pure hatred for textbooks, but to me, a textbook is the worst form of learning. Third grade was when the textbook first appeared in my learning career. I remember hating History class, because all we did was read out loud from the giant book. For an eight-year-old, reading out loud is bad enough, but when the material is as dry as a drought it only makes things worse. For homework, I filled out worksheets that were photocopied out of the teacher’s guide, and the tests came from the same source. I saw the same questions over and over again, as if my teacher was just trying to stuff words into my brain and hope they stuck. Well, this was just the beginning of my textbook horrors.

My reading textbook, Open Court, came with the same photocopied workbooks and tests as the history textbook. It was much worse, though. I’ll never forget that one question I missed on a test – I can’t quite remember what it asked, but I know that it began with, “Why do you think…?” And somehow I got it wrong. I was horrified. If I wasn’t supposed to give my opinion, why did the question ask me what I thought? And why didn’t it care about my opinion? It made no sense.

Needless to say, textbooks and I have never gotten along since then. Whenever teachers handed me a textbook, I took it to mean that they didn’t care about what I thought, what I wanted to learn, or what was interesting to me. To me, it meant that they only had time to shove information at me and force me to read it again and again until I memorized it. It meant that my input meant nothing to them. And that’s not how learning should be.

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