Books vs. Sparknotes

By Allie Chino, Online Editor

Oh shoot. It’s the last day before your English essay is due. It’s midnight, and you haven’t read a page of your book. A couple of clicks, and a few typed words, and you’ve made it to With a deep breath, you begin to read the analysis, thinking to yourself that you’ll be asleep within the hour.

We get it, it’s high school. You’re busy, you have a life, and you like to sleep. But can using Spark Notes really get you by when it comes to your IB English classes, or even Freshman English? We all assume that teachers are prohibitive about Spark Notes, but it could just depend on the teacher.

“The simple response is that it comes pretty close to cheating. It allows students to get around the challenge of thinking,” said IB coordinator Ken Teschner, who is opposed to students using Spark Notes. Teschner believes that it allows students to escape the opportunity to learn how to analyze literature, and that English teachers aren’t looking for necessarily the “right” answer, but how you got any answer. By using Spark Notes, students are essentially lying to themselves about whether they actually know what is going on in the book.

English teacher Matthew Wilson, however has a slightly different view on the matter. “I think that Spark Notes and things like Spark Notes have their place, and it’s just a matter of having good judgement of how to use it.” Wilson believes that Spark Notes should never take the place of reading, but should be used as a crutch when a book is difficult to understand. He thinks that using chapter summaries can help a reader see what originally, they didn’t see. However,students may fall into trouble when they decide to read the analysis.

So using Spark Notes isn’t always something that is looked down upon by teachers, if you’re using it in a helpful way. Remember that what’s written on Spark Notes is only one person’s way of seeing the text, and a teacher will most likely be able to tell if you didn’t read the book. It’s really up to whether you’re up to helping yourself, or cheating yourself.