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Widener Univ. School of Law

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Friday, April 25, 2008

Reflections on Changing Textbooks

Last night, I finished teaching my (two-semester) Torts class for the third year in a row.  I really love the teaching part of the job.  I thoroughly enjoy the Socratic dialogue, exploring the concepts, and interacting with students.  However, I'm beginning to wonder if I should change textbooks.  It's not that I dislike the text I use.  In fact, I think it's great.  But I feel a little stale teaching the cases yet again.  I know the cases are new for these students, but I worry that my familiarity with them dampens my enthusiasm somewhat.  Obviously the downside to changing texts is the amount of preparation time.  That time could, of course, be spent on scholarship instead.  The positive points seem to include a potential for increased enthusiasm and the ability to use cases from the old text as fairly complete hypotheticals.  If anyone has changed textbooks, I would appreciate hearing about your experience.

--CJR

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Comments

go electronic -- build your own casebook in an online environment and save your students $150 bucks apiece.

free yourself: u don't need the middlemen of publishers and "editors."

by going electronic, u immediately lose the problem of cases and course structure going stale because in an online casebook environement, you can endlessly revision and/or repurpose your "casebook" ...

and, you'll immediately become one of the most popular law facs on campus because (a) you will be acknowledging that the 21st Century has arrived (law students and lawyers live and practice online, fyi) and (b) you will save your students' the insanity of being made to purchase an overpriced, handsomely bound collection of decisions they can get for free (or via WEXIS) online and/or in print. [Electronic casebooks can actually help introduce students to research fundamentals -- find this case, read it, etc.]

Pre-Packaged casebooks are like faculty vanity press titles -- they are for folks who don't like change -- and that's about it

Posted by: brian | Apr 25, 2008 9:49:27 AM

Is there a Torts book that does not sound like a Mein Kampf for the plaintiff bar? What is its title?

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Apr 25, 2008 3:52:31 PM

I do think it is healthy to change casebooks from time to time, in order to stay fresh. In the past I have used Epstein and Henderson/Pearson. Recently I have used Farnsworth/Grady, which I highly recommend. Its selection of cases is terrific; it provides shorter excerpts from cases than many casebooks do, thus permitting broader coverage; it often pairs two contrasting short cases and thus forces students to think on their own about the doctrinal and policy differences; it stimulates good discussion; and it is pretty balanced ideologically, including both law and economics and fairness perspectives. (The teaching manual is also excellent.)

Posted by: Kenneth Simons | Apr 28, 2008 5:45:46 AM

Please look at the just-completed second edition of Tort Law: Responsibilities and Redress (Aspen, 2008). My co-authors, John Goldberg and Ben Zipursky and I have added some wonderful modern cases that not only teach doctrine, but also help raise interesting questions about how current debates over the role of tort law in society have informed judicial opinions and the Restatement process. It is designed to be adoptable by professors with a wide range of political views.

Desk copies are now available from Aspen.

Tony Sebok

Posted by: Anthony Sebok | Apr 28, 2008 5:47:24 AM

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