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SC member

Sometimes a textbook/anthology is really good and if the price is low enough, I use it. But the question of what to assign when actually teaching a course is different from the question of what you want a search committee to see that you assign. Unfortunately, I tend to look at anthologies, especially big ones with lots of editions, as a sign of laziness. I know there are exceptions, that an anthology can actually reflect pedagogical thoughtfulness. But you're likely not going to be given a chance to explain why you chose the anthology, at least not at the same time that a SC member sees that you assigned an anthology. So it's a safer bet, I think, to assign a bunch of readings from different sources. Doing this has the potential to signal: 1) a willingness to buck standard narratives, 2) knowledge to know what to assign when you're not relying on an anthology, and 3) a willingness to put that extra effort into preparing a good class.


I agree with SC member, but if you don't want to find a curated list, here's what I'd do. It never hurts to explain your pedagogical choices to students in the syllabus, so I would write up a course description that explains the value of the textbook you've chosen. You're writing to your students, so you're not apologizing for choosing a textbook--but you're showing them, and by extension the search committee, that it (covers a broad sweep of history/explains difficult topics clearly/includes underrepresented voices/whatever) and that you have pedagogically sound, non-lazy reasons for choosing it.


I think the reader who asked this is WAY overthinking things. As Marcus, notes, even at teaching schools, most professors don't pay close attention to the readings. My experience has been that at research schools they don't pay any attention at all, and at teaching schools, they do not pay attention until the applicants are narrowed down substantially.

Second, I am very surprised that apparently search committee members think that "textbooks looks lazy." I know many professors who are very dedicated to teaching, who nonetheless use textbooks. Often they are designed by academics who put lots of time into choosing the readings for the very purpose of not forcing another professor to do the same work. It seems a bit cocky to assume that I can clearly come up with a better list of readings then one of my colleagues who spent months or years trying to do the same thing. There seems a very anti division of labor sentiment in the textbooks are lazy position.

Marcus says that most professors prefer a list of readings from "original" sources. I assume by this he means something like an actual chapter from Aristotle's Ethics is better than a chapter that just describes Aristotle's ethics. I don't know if Marcus is right about this, but supposing he was, many textbooks still have original sources. In fact, if recall correctly, I think Marcus says that he uses a textbook full of original readings. So I don't think original readings has much to do with what the question was getting at.

Teaching History

In my department, where we teach a lot of history courses, we prefer seeing individual books on syllabi rather than textbooks. Shows that you've considered details about the edition and translation when relevant. It's always a good idea to hunt down syllabi from the school when possible. This is easier to do when you are applying to only a handful of jobs of course.


With the various searches I have been on, we never got down into the details of what books or readings candidates had used in courses. That is, it never became an issue that either made someone stand out or eliminated them. I think many people understand that there are lots of contingencies affecting how we choose our course readings. In Gen Ed classes, I tended to pick textbooks because they were easy for the students to buy and often quite cheap. In the history of philosophy, for example, Hackett has many inexpensive editions. I would hate to think this would be held against me or any other job candidate.

Assoc Prof

Possibly a mixed approach could work. Assigning a textbook and then adding 3 or 4 readings beyond it to fill in the gaps and show creativity.

I see the inquirer's point that using an (inexpensive or open-access) textbook may be helpful to students as compared to a list of readings, since the book will be constant throughout the course and can give students a sense of consistency. It may also include helpful features like reading introductions or a glossary and index.

I believe some colleges standardize gen ed courses quite a bit or even require a common textbook (e.g., some community colleges), so when applying to a school like that, using a textbook could also be good rather than looking "too creative."

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