As students suffer the sickening beginning-of-semester debt caused by textbook purchases, it’s difficult to remember why we buy them. Students’ first impression of a professor usually is linked to the cost of books for the class. That’s why my first impression of history professor Liam Brockey was less than favorable.
Brockey’s required books, which he insisted be bought new, totaled more than $150. This was not the highest amount I’ve paid for books and the choices seemed reasonable enough, but why did I have to pay for all of these wordy, cumbersome packages of paper?
My other history professor chose not to make students buy books and provided all class readings online. Why couldn’t Brockey do that? The answer, he told the class, was because he cared about our futures.
Brockey began his post-college life with tons of classic literature. His roommate showed up with one book — a National Hockey League players guide.
Graduating after years of hard work and leaving with a singular sports trivia book seems ridiculous. That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with knowing sports trivia, but it makes me question the owner’s appreciation of education.
Brockey’s somewhat idealistic point struck me as unique. This professor knew what he was asking of students — to invest in their education both with their money and their reading. Often times, students forget the true intentions of higher education.
“That’s what you’re supposed to be getting out of a university education is a desire to know more and more and the tools to be able to do it,” Brockey said.
Books, books, books
Books, both digital and in print, represent a unique window into society and knowledge. They capture the perspective of the author in a particular time and position in society, giving readers, at times, a neatly packaged portrayal of history.
Books challenge the reader to consider another point of view, incorporate new information into their world view and give peers a common denominator for discussion.
That being the case, it should be worrisome that our generation is reading less.
Students still are reading — but in less traditional ways such as online, or in magazines, no-preference freshman Katie Peston said. Common textbooks really aren’t that valuable, she said. But reading other texts is.
“It’s important because it takes you out of your own life,” she said. “It gives you a different perspective and brings you down to earth.”
A complete education depends on being exposed to many points of view. The book itself plays a part in this.
For me, paper books represent a more tactile experience of learning. Holding the actual book, turning the pages and appreciating the cover are more satisfying than pressing a button on a Kindle or NOOK.
Printed words hold a certain power not found online. Books are printed because they are worth the resources and editing and time to do so.
In general, it’s incredibly sad that our generation’s attitude toward reading has affected what professors even are able to assign. There are so many other distractions such as the Internet, video games, and it’s far too easy to look up Sparknotes.
Reading has drifted so far out of some students’ capabilities, Brockey said he even has cut selections for class down to the bare minimum because he thinks students just won’t delve into the books.
One of Brockey’s frustrations with students in his classes today is their lack of writing skills, something directly linked to their time spent reading, or lack thereof.
Communication, lol, wut?
Reading can be its own benefit. Brockey said students who don’t read are unable to replicate tone and writing style to create coherent essays.
Writing is a basic skill expected of college students throughout university-required classes and almost every area of study. Communication is a rudimentary aspect of pretty much everything.
Think about it, the most important documents of our history such as the U.S. Constitution, laws and bibles are written.
If our generation does not write and record, future societies might not learn from ours or look back at us with fascination.
On behalf of all the readers out there, it’s time to make ourselves known. Those of us who enjoy the feeling of a cracking open a brand new book, own piles of books spilling out from under our beds and refuse to invest in e-readers should not be ashamed.
I love being able to talk about the latest in literature and lend out books to friends. Investing in textbooks doesn’t get my heart racing but when I stop to think about the knowledge I’m paying for, I don’t mind so much.
Face it, when will I ever have this much incentive to read Thomas Hobbes’ “Leviathan?” Don’t get me wrong, textbook prices are out of control but to temper the rage at each semester’s beginning, take a second to think about the investment you’re making.
Seize it, use it
Although textbooks often seem disconnected from life outside the classroom, they offer insight to the latest and greatest research and information.
If we’re not learning what’s new in our chosen career path, we cannot integrate successfully into the post-graduation world.
It’s invaluable to be able to trace the routes of our current knowledge back to the writings of ancient peoples. If people do not see how we got to the point we’re at, how else can we continue to improve our world and avoid repeating the same mistakes? Looking back is the only way to move forward.
As students, we are looked at as the best hope for the future of this country and world. After our parents are gone, we’re in charge. We should prepare ourselves as individuals to create a powerful collective. To live up to that we need to know what’s been done before and use it as a launching pad for our own discoveries.
In the trusted words of Schoolhouse Rock, “It’s great to learn ‘cause knowledge is power.” The desire to learn takes us from babbling toddlers to “learned” university students, it should not fade as we enter the most challenging and interesting part of our formal education.
If anything, our desire should increase because we now are choosing the classes we take and our area of study.
If a book only is represented as selected page numbers on a syllabus and a sizable chunk of a minimum-wage paycheck, it can be hard for students to appreciate what we’re investing in. It’s our responsibility to get what we want out of our educations.
“We’re at a point at which the old notion of erudition was that someone who was widely read was actually that, but that doesn’t seem to make much sense any more,” Brockey said.
Being well-read doesn’t have to mean locking yourself up in a library for five hours a day, but it should mean knowing about the world in which you live.
Reading classic literature, studying textbooks and learning from professors and peers all work toward being a well-read — and therefore, well-educated — member of society.
Think about all the knowledge bound and shelved at the Main Library and in bookstores.
As students at this university, it’s our job to open books and learn.