Over the last number of years publishers have been “on the move” to get approval from the USCCB’s Ad Hoc Committee for their particular textbook series.  Many publishers have made improvements to their previous lack of solid doctrinal content and outdated focus on “feelings” and “experience is what matters”, however there is still a long way to go.

In my 10+ years being in charge of choosing textbooks, there is still a gap that needs to be bridged. Here are 6 things textbooks need to do to improve meeting the needs (especially for students who go to a public school and meet only one time a week) of students in the Third Millennium.

1. Provide clear content. Many textbooks still lack a clarity of the faith. It presents what at times seems “Schizophrenic” because it’s a little of this and a little of that and not much of one clear idea followed through to the end.

2. Present a more unified method that authentically replicates God’s Pedagogy. It is important to teach as God has taught – gradually and in stages while always seeking our response. We need a method in textbooks that helps the catechists present solid teaching and practical application regarding the content given.  Our goal is for the students to respond to the content – who is Jesus Christ.

3. Less additional material throughout the lesson.  We like to give lots of choices but in this case less is more.  Less content allows students to be more focused and to grasp what is presented.

4. More help using technology. Weather this is how to use a certain video clip from a movie or how to use technology to draws students into the lesson.  Technology is becoming an essential and vital tool in ministry.

5. Less, step by step instruction on what to do next and more of a fluid presentation that lays out important content and useful ideas. It seems that the excessive “hand holding” keeps non-professional teachers (catechists) from transmitting the faith and more bound to the idea of “what do I do next”. This leads to a more dry presentation of the faith.

6. Involving parents. Publishers have assignments that students can do with their parents/families at home but we need to find ways to bring parents into the classroom more.

What are additional marks of a good textbook?  What are you finding is needed in the classroom today?