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Point Park Globe

Point Park University's Student-Run Newspaper

Point Park Globe

Point Park University's Student-Run Newspaper

Point Park Globe

Assigning textbooks that go unused is careless

Photo by Carson Folio
Three college textbooks stacked on a desk.

As a college student, you have likely had to shell out your hard-earned money to buy textbooks every semester for each new class. Whether you’re wincing at the register in the university bookstore or swiping your card with glee online, chances are that you’ve had to be ready for this purchasing ritual every time you register for new classes.

Anytime you spend your money, it is hard to imagine that there would be a moment that you would think that losing money on something you will not use makes sense.

Chances are, though that you might as well be with some textbooks. Sure, you are almost guaranteed to have to buy at least two every semester, as not every professor finds a way to provide the materials for free to every student. This is understandable, but the expectation should be that you will be using the textbooks you just bought, right?

Sometimes, that is just not the case.

Thinking back to times where a textbook purchase made sense brings me back to classes where the materials in question had to be open right next to me almost all the time. On the opposite side of this, were moments after having a textbook finally arrive from whichever Amazon seller had the cheapest copy, it would get opened one to three times and then never again.

What you may consider as not being useful may vary from other definitions in this problem of expensive paper weights. Let us then agree on the fact that not asking one question about information in a required textbook or not even referencing the book in general one time in class just does not make sense.

Textbooks that serve no purpose both in the classroom and for outside assignments do nothing but waste student’s time, money, and energy.

By the definition of a textbook going unused just made in this piece, about $150-200 of my own money has vanished to materials that were entirely unnecessary to buy. It is very difficult to know when you should or should not buy a textbook either, as it is not like a student can just tell if their professor is the type to make their students buy a book and never put it to use.

The problem here is not the textbooks themselves, either. Using them is fine and expected, plus well written textbooks can make learning the material a bit less dull and difficult. The real problem is assigning books that do not benefit anybody in the class, whether that would be the students or the professor.

If a textbook will not be useful, then it should not be assigned at all. The professors that realize this and tailor their class to either not need a textbook or instead provide creative commons materials for free – that do get used and are discussed – are solving this problem in the right way.

Realistically, no student wants to spend money on a textbook and while eliminating them entirely due to their cost would be nice, that is not going to happen anytime soon. The professors that do put the materials to good use give them purpose, which makes spending anywhere from $20 to $80 on an unwieldy omnibus hurt just a bit less.

If an unwritten rule exists for professors running classes that they are required to assign a textbook or at least some kind of reading material for their class, then this rule should be abolished. Going on a search to find a book that would cover all the topics and concepts in a respective class, to only then never acknowledge it does us all no favors.  Not only that, but if there is such an odd requirement, then all it is doing is ultimately limiting our professors for no reason at all.

If you teach a class and realize that you forgot to assign a textbook and think that you have some obligation to do so, then maybe it’s time to ditch the document and go without one. Students prefer being taught materials in the classroom and learning it rather than hopefully being able to memorize everything in one sitting, anyway.

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