That is the question.
Having gone through an education program during the 90s when textbooks were considered evil and the ideal classroom offered a variety of centers to reach all of the multiple intelligences, I have always been anti-textbook. It's just been in my blood. Ironically, I have served on a few textbook committees, reviewed textbooks for the publishers, and even suggested textbooks for district adoption. Still, deep down, I always resisted their use in my own classroom. Honestly, I saw textbooks for the teachers without the creative juices to design and implement their own lessons.
Now, I am beginning to question this view. Still, my gut wants me to type this dripping in sarcasm, suggesting that textbooks be used to teach lessons about the mistakes they hold, they lies they tell, and the lack of perspective they provide for the readers. But, I am holding back this time. The truth shall prevail.
I have to admit that textbooks have improved over the 12 years I have been teaching. They are now including more primary source references (although usually very short and limited in opportunity for analysis), many more pictures, charts and graphs, and a whole new assortment of perspectives on the topics at hand. I am somewhat impressed!
More importantly, our students have changed over the past 12 years. While they used to be bored with the textbook and desirous of the movement our centers provided, they are now tired of moving around the room and desire the structure and spoon-feeding the textbook provides. Boy, how times have changed!
So, in the end. To textbook, or not to textbook? That is the question. And honestly, it has to be the question considered by each teacher in each individual class. After all, we have always known that the best instruction comes from the teachers who plan for their students, not for their subject areas. With that said, textbooks can be one more valuable tool to use in our classrooms to help our students reach their greatest potential. And after all, it's not the resource that provides the value, it's the teacher and how they use the tools they have!