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Who Needs Books Anyhow?
by Richard Steinitz

First of all, I would like to state, clearly and unequivocally, that the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They do not reflect the views of anyone else, nor are they in any way the views of Pearson Education, for whom I work. I will also gladly stipulate that I make my living from the sale of books, and that I have a vested interest in the purchase of additional books beyond those required by the Ministry. I do, however, insist that the opinions expressed here are not based on my personal desire to sell more books.
The state of book-buying in our school system is abysmal, to say the least. The Ministry of Education, has decreed that for every subject taught, schools may require pupils to have a coursebook and (up until this year) a workbook. For English, a dictionary may also be required from the 8th grade. That's it! Anything above and beyond that is purely at the teacher's discretion. And I'm sorry to say that discretion is, in this case, not the better part of valor.
EFL teacher Rita Gvili states:
"When the Ministry of Education changed its English curriculum, many new books were published which were thought to meet the demands of the curriculum. Sadly they don't. There are many books published in the United States or England which aid in teaching the students the skills required for the new English Curriculum. However, the full potential of the books aren't being realized, mainly for one reason: Teachers who do want to use the books are told there is no budget for such purchases, that the parents cannot be burdened with added expenses. As a result, teachers must make do with the basic books allowed and improvise material. The material improvised falls short of the benefits which can be gained by using EFL books."
On countless occasions, I have shown books to teachers and heard them say: "This is a wonderful book - just what my pupils need! But, I can't ask them to buy another book." In distressed or low-income areas of the country (and there are many), I fully understand this attitude.

However, when the teacher and school in question is located in affluent or at least middle-income areas, and the cost of the supplementary book is in the 60 shekel range, objections become less comprehensible. In schools in more affluent neighborhoods, it is likely that 99.99% of the pupils are walking around with their own cell phones, and their monthly bills for these run 50-150 shekel at a minimum. These pupils will probably also spend Friday or Saturday night out with their friends (and so they should), going to a movie (35 shekels per person) or a disco (60-150 shekels) or just going out for a coffee (15-40 shekels per person). So, it isn't really a question of whether the pupils can afford another book. What then, is the problem?

The problem is a perceived one, more than a real one. Teachers see the situation as one they just don't want to deal with. When the teacher says "I can't ask them to buy another book" she is really saying "I don't want to deal with the pupils' and parents' arguments and resistance to buying another book." Rather than telling the pupils to skip one movie night, or talk less to their friends on the phone, they take the road of least resistance, and do without another book.

We are supposed to be The People of the Book: books have always been an integral part of education, and no single book can possibly cover all the material that should be taught. The result of this attitude is that teachers forgo, in the name of 'industrial peace', a valuable part of their pupil's educational experience.

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