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Various textbooks

A textbook is a non-fiction book that offers didactically prepared teaching materials and materials for studying or teaching . If textbooks contain scientifically not yet conclusively clarified questions, a distinction is made in some disciplines between “prevailing doctrinal opinion ” or “prevailing doctrine ” and “minority opinions” or “other views” (e.g. in the historians' dispute ). Textbooks can be ideologically dependent. If the textbook concentrates on the repetition of the subject matter, one speaks of a revision course . The textbooks in schools are called textbooks . Brief textbooks are also referred to as a compendium or outline or floor plan .


For the courses at universities , the event leaders ( professors and assistants ) decide on suitable textbooks within the scope of the freedom of teaching .

University libraries can keep the textbooks for introductory courses in special textbook collections or make them available to a limited group of users for a certain period of time in the form of institute outsourcing or so-called reference devices or seminar devices.

United States

Market situation

In American colleges , the textbooks are usually selected by the teacher. In most K-12 schools - including elementary school and high school - a local committee decides which teaching material packages will be purchased from the selection approved by the state education authority. This is of current concern because conservative creationists seek to keep evolutionary- related teaching materials out of public schools. There can also be hostility from the liberal side - for example, if African Americans or the Indians are neglected in the representation. There are public hearings in various states at which publishers have to respond to criticism from the local population.

The American textbook market is fixated on a few key states: Florida , Texas and California . You are one of the 22 states in the USA that buy teaching materials centrally; but because of their populations, these three states account for more than a quarter of the total annual US teaching material sales, which amount to around $ 3.6 billion. Publishers in all other 28 states can contact school authorities directly for purchases.

If a textbook from a publisher is approved by one of these three countries and also bought, then this automatically means high print runs and high income; the book is then practically the American standard teaching aid. This dynamic has resulted in a highly competitive US textbook market and a certain simplicity among textbooks. There are four teaching aid giants (Pearson, Vivendi International, Reed Elsevier, and McGraw-Hill); Developing a package of teaching materials - such as Basic Reading for the first few years of school - can cost up to $ 60 million.

Because of this competitive situation , every textbook publisher has to adapt its products to the customer. If the state wishes to exclude or include certain topics from the scope of the textbook, the publishers are happy to compromise the quality of the book. Deficiencies in content are therefore not uncommon in US textbooks. In order to remedy all of these shortcomings, critics demand that each school be able to choose its own teaching material and that states could at least request individual textbooks instead of large packages. This would also give small niche players a chance in the teaching material market.

The American Nobel Prize in Physics , Richard Feynman , was joking you, Mr. Feynman , in a chapter of his famous book . describes his experiences, which he once made as a member of a selection committee for natural history books. He accused various things - from abstruse contents ("Blue stars have a temperature of x degrees C; red one from y. Karl observes three blue and one red stars. How hot are everyone together?") To obvious attempts to persuade and bribe on the part of the publishers. In addition, there was talk of the incompetence of the committee members - a publisher sent a preliminary version of a book for reasons of time, which consisted of the book covers and blank pages. Half of the commission gave a thoroughly benevolent criticism of this book; while Feynman took the time to read through each of the books.

Cost and copyright

Many students complain about the high prices of the textbooks, which sometimes exceed $ 100. They often claim that this is usury on the part of the publisher. They also say that publishers are printing new editions at an unnecessarily high pace - with the aim of making older editions obsolete. This has the effect that the used book market - in which publishers ultimately earn nothing - is dried up.

However, the publishers state that the prices for the textbooks correspond to the actual costs. Textbooks have a limited market (students who often only need the book for a single lecture ) and would be unprofitable to produce if the price were lower. Textbooks are often thick, printed on high-quality paper and in colors - factors that drive up the price.

An important additional factor are the license fees for copyrighted material such as photographs, already published articles and chapters as well as other works that are required for comprehensive and up-to-date textbooks. These costs would be easily overlooked because they are spiritual and not material values. Because these license costs are based on the number of copies , publication on the Internet - where there are no printing costs - is not feasible. For precisely these licensing reasons, there are textbooks that are specifically tailored to the USA. For example, there is the standard work Biology (by Campbell / Reece), the "international version" of which may not be sold in the USA.

High school

In recent years, high school textbooks have come under increasing criticism . Authors such as Howard Zinn ( A People's History of the United States ) and James W. Loewen ( Read my Teacher told me ) claim that the history textbooks on US history cultivate mythical falsehoods and that omissions also paint a more sympathetic picture of American history becomes. This leads to the fact that the image of the country, which is conveyed in the high school, differs greatly from that in the university history lectures. The selective portrayal of history, whether through textbooks or other literature, has been practiced in many societies - from the Roman Empire to the Soviet Union .

In addition, the content of high school history textbooks is not peer-reviewed . Likewise, prior writing of a high school textbook is not helpful in becoming a university history professor. Because any person can publish such a textbook for these reasons, control over the content of the history books lies with political forces and certain other ideological groups.

Colleges are a kind of preliminary stage to universities and therefore have a stricter examination of the textbooks. Historical facts are also taught more objectively .

Web links

Wiktionary: Textbook  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Karl Otto Sauerbeck: Didactics in the Third Reich using the example of the biology textbook by Steche-Stengel-Wagner. In: Specialized prose research - Crossing borders. Volume 8/9, 2012/2013 (2014), pp. 391-412.