RhetNet logoFebruary 1995

I don't understand why so many teachers in North America have come to believe so firmly that the only reasonable or practical source of texts is textbooks. So firmly that clear statements about what might be used instead don't even get processed. It's as though we had a whole society of doctors who believed that the only reliable source of medical information was drug company pamphlets.

I'm going to be deliberately provocative here (after all, WAC-L's been quiet for some time). Textbooks are a curse. Textbook publishers make money by cheapening and distorting and commodifying learning. Putting an authentic, real, powerful text into a text_book tends to make it a textoid, an example of something. Textbook prose models a rhetorical form which is poisonous to our students' writing. The most common problem with university student writing is that it imitates textbook rhetoric, which presumes an omniscience and assumes a monologic voice declaiming the received truth, a register which is particularly ill-suited to the first year student's (or any student's, or any practicing scholar's) actual rhetorical position.

Okay, I know, I'm going to regret posting this. But I think it would be worth having a discussion here of the impact textbooks have on teaching, in "content" courses as well as ones explicitly concerned with writing.

And I know, I know, I'm biting the hand that feeds us. But . . . as far as I can make out, it's only in North America that education is so thoroughly dominated by textbook publishers. There are alternatives. I haven't assigned a textbook to a class since 1984.

Date:         Tue, 24 Jan 1995 00:41:04 GMT
Sender:       Writing Across the Curriculum 
From:         Russ Hunt 
Organization: St.Thomas University
Subject:      textbooks (not)

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