About Colleges and Textbooks( editorial, issue# 5)

About College & Textbooks
A great deal of students in Massachusetts community colleges criticize the quality of the assigned textbooks, the computerized tests and the instruction. College textbook prices in USA range from twenty- eight to hundreds of dollars; the lucky -textbook –foxy-savvy student might get used ones for a price that ranges between a dollar and hundreds depending on how still in good shape the book is or how pissed off with the book and college experience the previous owner was.
Students; specifically, those in science majors, whether they buy the textbooks out of their own pockets or whether financial aid or grants cover them, complain about the quality, the prices and the fact that departments ask students to buy new editions of the same books nearly every quarter and semester. In addition to the cost, the books have another very taxing disadvantage; they are badly written which results many times in misleading students. A textbook that reports scientific facts on diseases, systems and all bodily functions, should not only be relatively good but must be well written and accurate as well. The textbook must have to go through a lot of revisions and editing before it is assigned as a textbook. The College itself should have a committee or committees in each department, namely the science ones that review these textbooks. Asking students to forget about an information in the textbook because it is not accurate and that they should take what the instruction says as the ultimate truth does not solve the problem; especially, when the students find the same book in a different edition and cover but with the same content assigned for another semester while instructors continue to ask them to forget about that or this particular information because it is not accurate. The information I am talking about in this case concerns lab values, medications, treatments and interventions: performing a procedure, applying a treatment or planning an intervention in a particular way can either save or cost a life. There are situations that cannot rely on a hunch and where precision and consistence matter.
A few years earlier as I was taking anatomy and physiology II, I asked for clarification as the information I was getting was not in consistence with what I had learned in a the previous semester and I got an answer that reminded me of Moliere’s Dr.Knock. The instructor told me: “forget about what you have learned in previous classes or years. Times have changed. What I tell you is what you should take as a truth.” Dr. Knock answered confidently that times had changed which had certainly affected the location of the viscera when the patient asked in disbelief: “isn’t the liver on the right side and the stomach on the left?”
The computerized exams are another altogether story that is even more frustrating. The exam preparers flout all the rules of validity. Most exams are multiple choice exams where the students are to pick either one option or check off multiple boxes. There are numerous times when students are faced with choices that do not have the slightest connection to the answer. The questions are most of the times formulated in wrong ways. There are also the tests and exams that the college instructors hand in paper. Those tests do no differ much from the computerized ones. The difference: Students might argue their lost points back if the instructors are patient, flexible and modest enough to acknowledge their errors. The paper exams are however not kept with the students, and students are also instructed not to tape post-exam class reviews. Needless to say those exams are meant to be educational in addition to being assessment tools.
Here is another glitch to the way the examination is handled in our colleges, students are asked to report their answers on a scantron sheet that is also known among students as the “bubble sheet.” Students highlight ‘bubbles’ on a sheet that carries numbers and letters corresponding to the number or letter of the answer chosen on the exam sheet. The bubbles are highlighted using a pencil and the bubble sheet is run through a scantron machine that scores the answers. There are multiple occasions when a student highlights the right spot and still gets the answers scored wrong. The answers could have been either erased or reported wrongly because of exam-related stress that is most of the times exacerbated by a the examination environment.


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