The following was written by our own Ben Zoon, a talented Bookbyte employee and avid reader.
Ah, the start of the term, when countless shiny new textbooks are traded to college students in exchange for an arm and a leg. Meanwhile, last term’s books are being sold back for what seems like pennies on the dollar (unless you’re selling back to Bookbyte). It’s amazing how frequently textbooks get “updated” to new editions and seem to depreciate overnight. What then happens to all the old editions? They magically transform into some of the greatest bargains of our time!
Many modern college textbooks, especially the popular ones, are true works of art when you think about it. They’re overflowing with helpful pictures, diagrams, and charts. The text is written by some of the brightest educators in the country, whose passion truly shows through in their work. While I did my assigned reading in college, I would often find myself leafing forward a few chapters and marveling at the sheer quantity of blood, sweat, and tears that must have gone into producing it all.
Google’s search engine algorithms are getting smarter. Great, right? What if the trade-off is that we’re getting dumber? Ian Leslie has an article up on Salon.com that asks this question and whether or not Google search is harmless. Is it beneficial to find immediate answers by Google search on our smartphone/tablet/computer? Not if we’re getting too lazy to ask the right questions.
Numbers show on-time graduation is a pipe dream for most college students
They’re called “4-year universities” for a reason, right? Then why are more and more students finding it takes them five, six, sometimes seven years to earn their bachelor’s degree? Worse, many students aren’t even making it to graduation day.
From the start, students are set on a path to earn their degree in at least five years from the advice of their counselors. Since many financial aid and grant programs only cover the cost of 12 credit hours per semester, it seems like good advice – until you realize students need to be taking a minimum of 15 credits per semester in order to graduate inside of four years. Add in a change of major, a loss of credits from a community college transfer, a scarcity of available classes, a choice to gain a minor or double major, and a graduation date in less than six years becomes a pipe dream.
Whoever you are, whatever your SAT score and high school report card looks like, you could take a course at Harvard, Yale, MIT, Stanford, or Johns Hopkins right this minute. These elite schools, among many others, have begun to offer open, online, not-for-credit courses to anyone who wants to take them. These are casually referred to as MOOCs, massive open online courses.
You might assume that these classes consist only of video lectures, a collection of slides with a professor’s voiceover, the equivalent of watching some informative YouTube videos. In fact, the courses are as complete as any you’d take in college. There are assigned readings to accompany every class, a syllabus, homework, and essays. Many of them even have some form of grading.
Until recently, a Florida high school had a summer reading program that had everyone in the school, regardless of grade level, reading the same book. However, the school’s administration canned the program over the content of this year’s book, Little Brother by Cory Doctorow.
The reasoning is a bit odd. The school, or at least, the librarians and English teachers responsible for actually reading the book and writing discussion materials for the students, vetted it and found nothing inappropriate about it. The plug was pulled at the last minute by the school’s principal, who’s reasoning seems to be primarily based on online reviews. Those reviews mentioned that the book had a “positive view of questioning authority” and “lauding hacker culture.” The principal also said that he had received parent complaints about profanity, though the author insists the only profanity is one indirect reference.
(Even if the book was foul-mouthed, let’s all just admit that shielding 14- to 18-year-olds from naughty words is a losing battle. Personally, those were my peak cursing years.)