Don't make students buy textbooks they don't need | Wikimedia Commons
Don’t make stu­dents buy text­books they don’t need | Wiki­media Commons

In that strange twi­light period between reg­is­tration and finals, between shopping for new classes like Christmas presents and fighting the desire to burn books while studying for exams, our book­shelves become sources of anxiety — for many reasons.

We’ve made good use of many of the books we so will­ingly lugged out of the book­store this semester. Our Western Her­itage readers and copies of Beowulf are well-creased and well-loved.

But too many of our assigned texts are no more than expensive bookends.

After spending an average of $100 per class for course mate­rials, stu­dents found out that they didn’t use their books in class. Hefty math text­books (price tag: $25 to $150) were shunted aside for handouts and in-class notes. Sup­ple­mentary music mate­rials (want a new edition? That’ll be $200) can be found on YouTube. We know the drill: “required” course mate­rials are not always required.

In time, we come to expect this course material inflation. We pur­chase used text­books or rent them from Amazon or the book­store. But despite this attempt at thrift, these well-meaning stu­dents’ bank accounts drown in the sunk costs: The college book­store pays for only half the original price of new and used books at the end of the semester. And that’s if the texts will be reused; if the course’s syl­labus has changed, here’s hoping the whole­saler needs it for his ware­house.

But beneath these financial con­cerns lies an aca­demic one: an unused textbook sug­gests an intel­lectual waste. What knowledge have we missed in those untouched text­books?

Of course, there are times when we could ask that question of our assigned reading, as well. But Hillsdale stu­dents have a rep­u­tation for dili­gence. We want to be pre­pared. We want to read, study, and learn.

But we also want to make use of the knowledge that is given to us. An unused textbook is knowledge — and money — gone to waste.

Our book­shelves, lit­tered with texts for upcoming exams and weighted with too many untouched texts, are dis­turbing reminders of the state of our aca­demic lives right now. When making room for all the texts we’ll have to cram into our heads next semester, it’s dis­turbing how many of this semester’s books have served as mere bookends.

Pro­fessors, assign the books we’ll actually study in Spring 2016. We’ll read them — even­tually. And that financial and aca­demic dis­ci­pline will really pay off.