Teach from the newspapers

A physics professor at Iowa State suggests that schools should move beyond textbooks and instead teach material based on current news stories:

I have a suggestion for Iowa schools: Don’t buy those [Texas-influenced] textbooks. Instead, buy local and state newspapers as reading material in sociology, history and literature courses. Buy paperback books from bookstores. Let our students read real news, in real time, and let them confront opinion pages and conflicting viewpoints.

An interesting argument. There is certainly plenty of material in newspapers and news magazines that could be used in the classroom. I am particularly intrigued by the suggestion he makes that students should be asked to fill in the “missing information” in a news story – this could work in a number of subject as journalists often leave out much of the relevant backstory.

Another added benefit of this technique (even in limited use): students see that the specific discipline is relevant in the real world. I think a lot of them ask this basic question and linking discipline-specific content to real stories suggests the course can be or is valuable to them rather than just a requirement to fulfill.

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