Piranhas in the Water: On Textbooks

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He's wiry. His mop of hair hints at his musical skills. This last year of high school is "pointless" because he's already been accepted to the college of his choice. The group has just finished watching a fun, albeit historically inaccurate, movie. "It bothers me that textbooks present ideas as if they were true when they aren't."

My mind fills with examples, but I'm not sure where he's going. "Like what, for instance?"

"You know, how piranhas are supposed to strip a human clean in, like, 30 seconds. Not true. It's frustrating because I was taught that was a fact. I don't like how textbooks present stuff like that."

I heartily agree.

Textbooks, my mom has often said, present ideas as if they were the only way to view the world. And this is simply not reality. Far better to consider ideas from various perspectives. Check out other works on the topic. Read more.

I like literature because it presents ideas in a less ...digested fashion. Within novels, we see ideas play out on the messy stage of life. And that, I believe, allows us to see more clearly how an idea applies. Jesus taught using parables, stories that demonstrate the application along with an idea.

Textbooks can be powerful tools. But don't be afraid to toss them overboard.


When possible, I recommend a literature-based approach to learning.

What ideas do you remember learning in a textbook that proved to be false?

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Empty Nester

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