Over the past 20 years, textbook prices have risen about twice as fast as inflation and, when added to the soaring cost of college, that places a heavy burden on many students.
The USA Today recently reported on Oceanography professor Bob Stewart of Texas A&M who, in a display of altruism and character, refused to work with a publisher on his book Introduction to Physical Oceanography. It's distributed online for free, and it's also being used in China by students who are looking to learn oceanography and English. Dr. Stewart called the book his "gift. . . to the students of the world."When I was in seventh and eighth grade, I attended a Waldorf School where teachers, gasp, teach without the benefit of textbooks. Instead, they had to put together their own material and, make sure you're sitting down, do research! How did this work out? I can only speak from my experience, but I believe that creating lesson plans without textbooks requires teachers to be creative and that that, in turn, rubs off on students, resulting in increased class participation, greater learning, and more enthusiasm. Textbooks encourage teachers to be lazy, and you can bet that inspires the same in students.
Some people believe that open-source textbooks and/or professors combining resources from many different websites are the wave of the future at the college level, and I have to agree. With the wealth of resources available on the internet, and the ease with which professors can communicate with students online, there really is no reason for most college classes to require students to shell out for textbooks that cost $80-$200. Let the professors do their jobs and pull together material from a wide variety of sources, and pass the savings on to students. This is especially true of general education classes: the idea of a legal studies major having to spend $80 on a nutrition textbook (as I did) is obscene. For budget-conscious students attending community colleges, textbook costs can increase the cost of an education by a huge percentage, and that's a problem that education professionals need to look at closely and find solutions to.
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