What is wrong with American college textbooks

The following is a short summary of some of the things which are wrong with every American college textbook.


The first blatant lie: college textbooks are not written by those professors whose name is on the cover of the book. College textbooks are written by ghost writers, are are then stamped with seal of approval by the professor so that the publishing company can sell the book.

This explains most of the problems outlined below. The ghost writer in question has no teaching experience. That ghost writer cracks open a competitor's textbook, and sets their browser to Google and Wikipedia. They then copy from competitors' textbooks with few text changes, and look up things they don't know on the Internet. This explains the me-too text and textbook title.

The student does not receive a book written with any understanding of pedagogy. No special or outstanding teaching principles are presented. The college professor may have developed a good teaching course, but most likely the TA does the actual work of teaching, and ghost writers do the work of writing the books. See a problem there?


Not too amazingly, the parroted books are most often blatantly wrong, unintuitive, and use "reversed thinking". The Internet then copies those reversed explanations for online articles, while future books will be written off of those online articles. See a problem here?


The USA education system is broken. The student does not gain any intuitive understanding because books are all about memorizing math equations, complicated theory, bloated and unrealistic examples. Basically, solving a problem is shown to be a pencil and paper or blackboard process of being able to recall memorized equations, while the real-life problem is a "problem" of insufficient data, several inter-dependent variables, and the need for collaboration of a cross-disciplinary team of individuals.


The book publisher is in the business of making money. Every book must cost more than $200. That is achieved with margins wide enough to land a Boeing 747 on, with a new edition every year with purposefully rearranged chapters and problems so that the previous year's textbook cannot be bought and reused.

The text suffers from too much bloating of pointless ranting, coverage of things you will never encounter in your life, calculus and equations everywhere. The book must be 1000+ pages. I am surprised that steel toe boots are not mandated with every college textbook purchase because if it drops on your foot you will be in for major surgery.


The lack of applied teaching skills and general pedagogy means that the books present everything in reverse, by deriving equations, and proclaiming themselves to be right when physical behavior supports their equations. In case they forgot, science was until just recently all about observing real-world phenomena and THEN attempting to simplify the finding to a succinct theory OR a mathematical model.


On the technical topics, there are three useless styles of textbooks which are commonly found:

Those which blatantly skip over the very important concepts and phenomena found in real life practice

Those which resort to blabbering about a concept, while failing to teach the student anything, when a single paragraph would suffice

And last but certainly not the least are those which attempt to "teach" by showing mathematical equations measured in feet, not inches, and asking "so, you got that, right?"


Real life problem solutions are found like so:

By having a good understanding of the fundamental concepts

By having the habit to write all of the findings down

By being able to break down a complicated real-life problem into its constituent parts (something which the USA education system never teaches students)

By knowing where to look up the needed math, and which equation to use (which is of the least-critical components, compared to the USA education system which is all about memorization)

By having enough sociological skills to be able to get human resources to help you in areas which your specialization does not cover

By being diligent in running a controlled troubleshooting or experimental setup in attempting to implement your proposed solution

By keeping away those people who come over to blabber about sports, something they saw on TV, and women.

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Page last modified 28-Apr-12 18:56:02 EDT
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