For Want of a Textbook…

Many of you may have heard of the proverb, “For Want of a Nail”:

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the message was lost.
For want of a message the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

It’s a reminder that seemingly unimportant acts or omissions can have grave and unforeseen consequences.

Well I heard of an incident tonight that reminded of this proverb.

I was at a Board meeting for the Alumni Association of Montgomery County Community College (Montco), and someone mentioned that she had recently run into a student who was going to have to abandon his plans for finishing up his degree at the school because he couldn’t afford the textbook for one of his courses.

Fortunately, the person he told this to was able to make sure that he got the textbook, and the student was able to earn his degree.

It’s a bittersweet story – a happy ending, but sad that it came so close to not turning out so good.

But ere’s no reason why this student should have ever run into such a situation.

Colleges, donors, and businesses all need to come up with creative ways to ensure that students that want a degree can get that degree no matter their financial status.

This is one of the reasons I am such a big fan of community colleges. They do a great job of making college more accessible and more affordable to students who otherwise may have never continued their education. While Montco does a good job providing as much in scholarship help that it can, it’s not 100%.

That’s where donors and businesses come into the picture. If you believe in the power of education to transform lives, then a nice way to show that belief is by contributing directly to the cause. And businesses are the ones that will benefit from having a better educated workforce, so they should be willing to pay to ensure a quality education for potential future employees.

So here’s a slight variation on “For Want of a Nail”:

For want of a textbook, a course was lost
For want of a course, a degree was lost
For want of a degree, a career was lost
For want of a career, a dream was lost
For want of a dream, a life was lost.

Let’s try and make sure no one’s dream is crushed simply because they couldn’t afford a textbook.

And Go Montco!

2 thoughts on “For Want of a Textbook…

  1. Hi Jim,

    I keep thinking way, way back to when I was in college. More often than not I learned much more from the textbook than I did from the teacher, although most of my teachers were good for inspiring me to learn.

    Thus if a student is going to the time and expense to take the course I advocate learning from the best textbook available even if the textbook is expensive. Using an inferior textbook to save money is a huge loss to the learning process.


    1. Bob,

      I agree; a good textbook can make all the difference. I’ve also become a fan of some of the online learning tools, particularly McGraw-Hill’s Connect platform. I think in the not-too-distant future the college teacher’s primary role will be as a motivator as opposed to a purveyor of knowledge.


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