For the longest time, the bane of the student’s life has been the standard homework of “read this chapter of this book.” It started in high school, and for many of us, has carried over to university. So too has the fact that most students aren’t going to do this task. If there is written work that must be done, some think, “well if I do the reading first then my writing will be better.” They will then skim through the book looking for parts that seem important to them. Others think, “I’ll do the writing first because it takes more effort, so I will find it easy to read”, only for them to be mentally exhausted by the time the reading comes around.

Most of the time, it isn’t much of a problem. When the teachers ask some questions, the ones that possess herculean mental strength to finish the reading carry the rest. If someone is called upon at random, they can give a half answer from the context of the discussion. In order to force students to read, at times assessments are based upon the textbook.

For one of my classes, I have been getting by without actually owning the book. The teacher has actually claimed that I am one of the better students. For me, the $100 textbook became unnecessary – I was learning what I needed to know without it. Each lesson we had was based upon a chapter of the book, but as we went through everything in the actual classes, the book was just a longer version of what we were learning. We spent half the class watching YouTube videos explaining everything anyway.

Until of course, the test arrived. Fifty multiple-choice questions… one correct answer for each. Theoretically, I knew my stuff and should have been prepared. The director of the course had a different idea. They decided that knowledge wasn’t important, specific words used by the book were. Some of the questions had answers that were literal synonyms, but only one answer was correct. How do I know that they were the words of the book, you may ask? I copied and pasted one of the questions into Google and it came up with that passage from the book.

Textbooks aren’t a huge deal for me; I’ve only needed one for that class and I didn’t even bother to get it. For others, these books that can be hardly ever used, rack up hundreds of dollars in cost. My friend managed to sell his books for a profit, telling me “it’s great. I bought this book for $40 and sold it for $60. Small gains, but worth… it’s just $20 off my next set of books.”

The fact that he thinks that the worth of his textbooks isn’t the knowledge he’s getting from them, but how much he can save on buying new ones speaks volumes.

By James Wallace

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