I’ve long had difficulty teaching out of any kind of basal reading system. Right from the beginning of my career I had trouble seeing how these sets of readers were supposed to inspire, motivate or interest students in reading or the world.
Luckily, along the way, I’ve had administrators who supported me as I worked with the students in my classroom in a variety of ways, pulling out the textbooks when I wanted a common text for us to look at, but otherwise, leaving them on the shelf.
This same philosophy applies when it comes to information and and research. Publishing companies want to sell solutions. They want to sell pre packaged units and collections of books. They want to sell search access, collections of pre approved websites and libraries of online videos that have been watched by “experts.” They want to give teachers scripts, assessments, worksheets and tables of outcomes.
Information that is neatly and cleanly packaged usually promotes only one point of view. Sets of books and websites and videos don’t often help us to wonder, “who’s voice am I not hearing in this?” Purchasing unit after unit of stuff doesn’t give our students the ability to locate their own information, to evaluate it and share it with the class or a network of learners.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against buying resources to use in your classroom. Without them we have to reinvent the wheel and start over every single time we teach something. But consider these resources to be a starting point. Ask your students what points of view they are missing, whose voices they are hearing and whose they are not. Ask them to be critical readers and evaluate for bias. Help them to gain the skills they need to locate their own information and share it with others.
Having skills like these will help our students to be cautious, independent consumers of information with a global outlook.