Sunday, September 18, 2005

Are we required to buy the textbook?

I got that question a lot at the start of the semester. At first I was a bit floored by that question, until I found out that the text for the Intro to PR class ran more than $90. So I told my students that the department requires that I use the text in class, but they could share a copy if they want or they could buy a version online if they could find it (this is a new text this year). I also had one of the other profs put their extra copy on reserve in the library.

Yesterday I was reading The Phantom Professor blog and they linked to an op-ed from the New York Times about the textbook issue. It's a really good piece and something to think about if you haven't been to college in years. This semester I am taking two graduate level classes that I need books for. Each required multiple books and my total was $300. I didn't mind so much because last fall I only needed one book and I figure it all comes as part of grad school. Plus, I keep all my graduate books and as such buy new when possible.

But I can feel for the students. I was floored to learn that the Intro to PR book cost so much. To be honest, it's not worth it. I look at the PR texts and wonder if the writers ever worked in an agency. I wonder when the last time was they dealt with client service issues or pitched a member of the press. They actually say in the book to create a pitch letter and fax it to a reporter. Hello? I don't even think I knew how to use the fax where I worked this summer and if I did, I don't think any reporters I pitched knew where theirs was either. It's email all the way baby.

To be honest, I don't know if I would use the text at all, except I have to and the other profs want to try to standardize. Again, I'm not sure when the other profs ever had Mr. Schitzoid Client demand that you get his quickly sinking dot-bomb in Wall Street Journal or else you would lose a $30K/month client.

The NYTimes piece talks about all the bells and whistles the textbook companies put in the books for the students. The other reason they are getting adopted is what they are putting together for the profs (besides money). We get a CD-Rom with the text and access to a special Internet site. They basically have a 'class in a box' approach where I can take their lectures, their test questions, their whatever and teach. At least one of the other profs was excited about this. However, I opt to do my own thing. The reason is that I know from past experience (and even just experience this year), when I take a lecture that is mostly someone else's, I make a muddle of it. Like public speaking, you have to make it your own, talk about what you believe. So yesterday I spent 4-5 hours developing a test for my students when I would have rather been at a winery or doing my own homework. Still, it's the right thing to do.

How do I handle the "are we required to buy the textbook?" question? I still don't know if I have the right answer; I just hope at the end of the semester my students will look back and realize that I was able to teach them stuff that they could actually use in the real world.

1 comment:

Ed said...

Well, if I recall, Dr. S wouldn't care as long as you didn't tell him. It's not like you grade them on actually having the book. In fact, a friend of mine once bought a book, made the copies of a chapter he needed and then returned the book. What matters is if they know the stuff... how they go about getting it is of no consequence (unless they;re cheating).