Winners of APA Grants Announced


The American Philosophical Association (APA) has announced the recipients of its latest round of grants offered by its Small Grant Program and Diversity and Inclusiveness Grant Program.

There were 24 applicants to the Small Grant Program, which has $25,000 in total to disburse. The winners are listed below, with descriptions copied from a press release issued by the APA:

  • AAPT Workshop on Inclusive Pedagogy 2019 ($5,000). The American Association of Philosophy Teachers (AAPT) Workshop on Inclusive Pedagogy offers free, regional, evidence-based training to philosophers who are interested in learning more about inclusive teaching. Workshop facilitators are award-winning experts in the scholarship of teaching and learning who have led the AAPT’s broader Teaching and Learning Seminars and conducted additional research on inclusive pedagogy.
  • Demographic Factors in Intended Major and Completed Major: A Comparison of Philosophy and Other Disciplines ($2,850). This program will provide a comparative analysis of the demographics of freshman students who express interest in a philosophy major using the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) data and the demographic data on completed bachelor’s degrees from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). Researchers will investigate at what point in their education women and traditionally underrepresented racial and ethnic groups become less interested in a philosophy major. They will also explore the recent sharp decline in completed degrees in philosophy.
  • MSU Denver’s Fourth Annual Undergraduate Women’s Philosophy Conference ($4,500). MSU Denver’s Undergraduate Women’s Philosophy Conference provides a supportive space for undergraduate female-identified students to present and comment on philosophy papers and build community. The conference also provides a workshop on the climate for women in philosophy, and two keynote lectures. Supporting female-identified undergraduate students’ ability to participate in this conference is a central and essential way to support the American Philosophical Association’s longstanding commitment to diversity in the profession.
  • PGSO Conference 2019: Non-Western Perspectives ($2,700). This conference aims to give voice to philosophical traditions that have largely been excluded from the Western canon. The conference organizers will accept papers dealing with topics in any of the major fields of philosophy. The focus is on broadening and diversifying the notion of philosophy so that those contributions which have been overlooked in the academy of the US and Europe can be heard.
  • Pittsburgh Summer Program for Underrepresented Groups in Philosophy of Science ($5,000). Minorities are extremely underrepresented in philosophy of science, more so than in philosophy. This underrepresentation is due in part to a low proportion of minority individuals among applicants to graduate programs with strengths in philosophy of science. The goal of the 2019 Summer Program for Underrepresented Groups in Philosophy of Science (PSP3) is to attract minority undergraduates to philosophy of science, therefore changing the future composition of philosophy of science. PSP3 will take place at the Center for Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsburgh in July 2019.
  • Rethinking Formal Methods Training in Philosophy ($5,000). Increasingly, philosophers are using probability and decision theory, statistics, and even experimental design and computer simulation methods. The proposed event will include a public lecture on this new conception of philosophical method, followed by a one-day workshop, to be held on the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities campus. It will bring together diverse philosophers into conversation about the present and future status of formal and mathematical methods in philosophy, their institutionalization in graduate pedagogy, and how these changes now reflect and will engender evolving relationships between philosophy and other disciplines.

There were 12 applications for the APA’s Diversity and Inclusiveness Grant, which awards up to $20,000 in total each round to one or two programs. This year, one program was selected to receive funds:

  • Corrupt the Youth Summer Philosophy Program Pilot ($17,937.80). Corrupt the Youth’s goal is to address the lack of racial diversity in our discipline by means of a residential summer enrichment program for talented high school students interested in philosophy. It is a two-week program for 20–24 participants (rising juniors and seniors) consisting of four recurring philosophy classes, as well as writing workshops and college prep counseling. The aim is to provide high school students from underserved communities a forum in which they can learn and practice philosophy as a tool to understand and address the issues they face in their schools and communities.

Previously funded projects are listed here.

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Avalonian
2 years ago

So, I admit, I laughed out loud after reading this list. But I understand that my reaction might be based on ignorance. Can someone explain how five of the six funded Small Grant projects are explicitly devoted to diversity issues? When there is already an entirely different program, the Diversity and Inclusiveness Grant Program, which presumably might help to cover some of these projects? Just to be clear, this is $20,050 our of $25k–over 80% of small grant resources–going to diversity and inclusiveness. Are they just not getting any other proposals? What’s going on?Report

Chris Surprenant
Reply to  Justin Weinberg
2 years ago

Justin, I don’t think that’s a charitable interpretation of Avalonian’s post (although I grant the language could have been better). A charitable read isn’t that the projects that were awarded small grants weren’t worthy, but rather that nearly all of them are basically to support diversity and inclusion. If that’s the case, what’s the purpose of even having a “Diversity and Inclusion” grants program? I assumed that was the point Avalonian was trying to make.

Beyond that, for transparency reasons it would be good if the APA published a list of the proposals it received along with abstracts for those proposals. As best as I can tell, nearly all of the APA grant resources this year and for the past few years have gone to proposals that advance what many have identified as a political agenda. Report

Preston Stovall
Preston Stovall
Reply to  Justin Weinberg
2 years ago

I don’t know Justin. I appreciate your concern. But Avalonian’s very next sentence was ‘But I understand that my reaction might be based on ignorance’. If Avalonian’s remarks are ‘easily interpreted as revealing something ugly about the person…that they’re a jerk and not worth engaging with’, then I have to wonder how much of the problem lies with the people who are so easily convinced that they’ve interpreted Avalonian correctly.

Look at the ‘Hidden Tribes’ report that just came out from More in Common. If that study holds up, it looks like there’s a wide range of people in the political middle in the U.S. that might basically agree about a lot of stuff, but that tribal allegiances and the extremist (largely educated and elite) figures on the left and the right are both amplifying a kind of polarized static in the public discourse. That isn’t to say we should be careless about saying something that can be ‘easily interpreted’ such that one is an ‘ugly jerk not worth engaging with’. But let’s also be wary about easily allowing ourselves to act on a convinction that we have divined who the ‘ugly jerks not worth engaging with’ are.

I’ll finish by quoting Stevens’ summary paragraph, but the whole article is worth a read (I haven’t had time to look at the study yet).

A good portion of survey respondents reported feeling pressure to think in a certain way on a variety of topics, and indicated that this pressure was more prominent when around others “not like them.” Most felt that our political discourse has become too focused on taking offense and expressing outrage. Many of these survey respondents feel like their views are not well represented in the national conversation — and they want people who hold different political views to listen more to others and be more willing to compromise. A first step towards facilitating this compromise is recognizing that most Americans have more in common politically than they may realize — including that they share a sense of frustration about the state of contemporary civic culture, and they want to do something about it.

Report

Preston Stovall
Preston Stovall
Reply to  Preston Stovall
2 years ago

Sorry, here’s the essay by Sean Stevens:

https://heterodoxacademy.org/social-science-hidden-tribes/

There’s a link to the study at the top.Report

Avalonian
Reply to  Justin Weinberg
2 years ago

Sorry, if anyone had that impression (that I think that initiatives aimed at improving things for women and minorities in philosophy are bad as such) then I’d like to cancel that implication now. I myself have participated many times in MAP projects and don’t for a second think they aren’t important and worthwhile. My reaction was in response to what appears to be a wildly disproportionate focus, not to the focus itself. I could have expressed myself better and didn’t need to say that.Report

Ned Hall
Ned Hall
Reply to  Justin Weinberg
2 years ago

Justin: Your *own* “contribution to the public square” would have been much better if you had given Avalonian the benefit of the doubt, and simply concentrated on the (perfectly good) question at issue in Avalonian’s post. The kind of public scolding you indulged in is costly, for the reasons Preston Stovall points out. You should retract it.Report

Justin Kalef
Justin Kalef
Reply to  Ned Hall
2 years ago

Justin W., don’t you think that when you say “Maybe you did not mean to come off as a jerk”, you’re implying that the person really did act in a seemingly jerky way? Many of us seem not to have come away with that impression of Avalonian’s comment at all.

The subtext of a comment like that is that the apparent jerkiness of Avalonian’s comment is so obvious that it can be taken for granted. It’s hard to see how that could fail to make people think twice before posting something like what Avalonian posted, or before coming to Avalonian’s defense.

Perhaps you’re making a distinction here between the content of what Avalonian said and its style. But when have you ever said “Maybe you did not mean to come off as a jerk” to any commenter whose sociopolitical opinions were similar to your own? I haven’t seen it.

All the same, Justin W., I must remark that the discussions on this blog have shifted far closer to what I see as a fair exchange of ideas than they remotely were a few years ago, and I attribute most of that to your taking an increasingly, and admirably, neutral role in comment moderation. I, for one, am very grateful for that. We’ve needed a place for open discussion on issues in the profession for a long time now and, while I would never have thought I’d say this a couple of years back, I now think of Daily Nous as the main avenue for that discussion. So, thank you.Report

Oliver Traldi
Oliver Traldi
Reply to  Ned Hall
2 years ago

Justin, you may not know this, but your contention that you did give Avalonian the benefit of the doubt because you outlined at length the many awful things he might or (far more likely) might not have intended with his post conveys the impression that you think he is either evil or too un-self-aware to have a normal conversation with other human beings. This, in turn, gives the impression that you are a jerk who is not worth engaging with.

You may not have intended to convey this impression. Not everyone may have read your comment this way. And the beliefs and traits I mentioned in the previous paragraph don’t necessarily follow from your having condescendingly lectured him on the impression his post putatively made. Maybe you did not mean to come off as a jerk.

Yet I chose to let you know about the impression your comment conveys in the hopes that it will encourage you and others to be a bit more thoughtful and considerate in your commenting here. It will make for better discussion. Thanks.Report

Sherif Salem
Sherif Salem
2 years ago

Is there a link for “PGSO Conference 2019: Non-Western Perspectives”?

Sherif Gamal Salem

Instructor, American University in Cairo.
Andrew Mellon Post-MA fellow, HUSSLab, American University in Cairo.
Address: Office 1014, Jameel Building, American University in Cairo,Report

Jon Light
Jon Light
2 years ago

I’m not so sure any of this is a laughing matter. The APA has a “diversity and inclusiveness” stream for, you know, diversity and inclusiveness. It also has a “small grant program” for, wait for it, diversity and inclusiveness–at least de facto. (Plus the one formal epistemology one, which at least allows them to say they fund other stuff, even if the vast majority of the funding is for one set of issues. Reminds me of the Templeton strategy, in a different context.)

I think it’s fair to wonder whether this has just gone a bit too far, without being tagged as racist, sexist, or whatever else. Or to ask whether there are other sorts of things the APA might be looking at or promoting, rather than putting so many eggs in one basket (or clustered baskets). Thinking that we, as a profession, should (also) be thinking about things other than diversity and inclusiveness doesn’t make one hostile to diversity and inclusiveness. Like literally, at all. And it seems certainly reasonable to wonder whether the APA’s approach is, ironically, not so diverse or inclusive.Report

Caligula's Goat
Caligula's Goat
Reply to  Jon Light
2 years ago

Hey Jon,

Did you apply for a small grant from the APA? Justin’s OP says that there were 24 applications for the grant program. Without knowing more about those applications or their presentation and polish (which matters at least as much as any part of an application), it’s impossible for anyone to really question these awardees. As someone who’s been on grant awarding committees, it can be a real crap shoot in terms of what those applications look like and how much care is put into applications.

For example, suppose someone had submitted a grant application for some random epistemology workshop but that that application was otherwise terrible (vague description of purpose, no clear public or social outcome, unrealistic budget, etc etc). Even if someone on a grant awarding committee could re-interpret such a grant so that it made sense and might be good, I (at least) would be apt to reject sloppy or otherwise vague grant proposals (if only to encourage better applications in the future). I’m NOT saying that this is what happened (because again, nobody knows unless they have actual information about the applications).

My guess, philosophers are bad grant writers (as a general claim – we don’t tend to get funding this way so it isn’t a task we do very much of). Many of the successful applications seem interdisciplinary in nature (and hence may have benefited from contributors with more experience in grant-writing). Additionally, those of us interested in diversifying the discipline are so often confronted by the Avalonians in the profession that we are used to spending more time (and probably being more careful about) how we talk and justify diversification. This might lead to better grant applications simpliciter coming out of this group.

Of course, it might all be a huge left-wing conspiracy involving the APA, chemtrails, and microwaves. Report

Andrew
Andrew
Reply to  Caligula's Goat
2 years ago

With these selections and selections from years past, you really think the view that the APA (for good or bad) is letting a political agenda guide these decisions is a conspiracy theory?

Also, have you looked at the applications? They’re pretty straightforward. We’re not talking about anything that requires any grant-writing expertise. I’m inclined to think that it is far more plausible to think (1) that the APA leadership is trying to use these grants to advance a certain vision or goal for the discipline than it is to think (2) that philosophers who just happen to be interested in advancing that vision or goal for the discipline just happen to be a lot better than your random epistemologist at filling out that application. Report

Paul
Paul
Reply to  Andrew
2 years ago

Andrew — Is it not entirely possible that accepting grants which advance the goal of diversity for the discipline is not a sign of a conspiracy, but rather a sign of good governance?. I’m not endorsing a claim that this is the case. But I do wish to advance it as an alternative to the “conspiracy theory.”.Report

Andrew
Andrew
Reply to  Paul
2 years ago

That’s entirely possible. That’s why I said “for good or bad.” But it’s ridiculous to suggest that the view that the APA is doing so (for good or bad) is a conspiracy theory.Report

Paul
Paul
Reply to  Andrew
2 years ago

Fair enough. Although the way it is presented comes across that way (i.e., as a conspiracy theory) fairly often to me. So I’m not inclined to see taking it that way as necessarily ridiculous.Report

Caligula's Goat
Caligula's Goat
Reply to  Andrew
2 years ago

Hi Andrew,

I can’t speak to the grant applications for this specific grant. What I *can* speak to are grant applications I have reviewed, and written myself, in the past. Philosophers in general are pretty awful at grant writing (you’ll either have to trust me on this or at least tell me how your experience differs from my own) so I think that the odds of a random grant application for a workshop grant that is written by a philosopher is not going to be good.

The APA Small Grant fund requires, *among other things,* the following:

A brief account of the project’s purpose, explaining its benefits for the profession and/or how it involves community outreach.
A description of the groundwork already laid for the project or, in the case of projects involving community outreach, a description of the relationships already developed in the community.
A plan and timeline for achieving the proposed project.
A detailed project budget with a schedule for allocation of the funds to the project.
A designation of the fiscal agent for the project.
Information about other funding sought or obtained.
A description of how the project will be assessed at its completion with an eye to what worked and what could be improved.
A description of how the project will be advertised to the larger philosophical and/or lay public.
Where a proposal includes the creation of a website, proposers should include details as to where the site will be hosted and indicate whether they intend a link to be created on the APA’s website. (The APA will not host websites for grantees.)

I can definitely see how workshops on diversity or inclusion can benefit the profession and involve community outreach. Another meta-ethics conference (or epistemology workshop) might benefit the participants but, by itself, it would be tougher to draw connections between individual topic-based workshops and conferences and THE PROFESSION at large (I mean huzzah if a workshop helps someone publish an article or even a book – but that’s not a benefit to the profession itself).

Given the explicit focus of the profession on these grants, I can definitely see (and stand by by original claim) philosophers struggle to clearly explicate how their ideas would have these benefits and I do think that most of the grants that *did* get a grant awarded really clearly have aims directed at the profession. In that sense, they are good candidates for a Small Grant Fund award. I would have to see the other grants, but at the very least, the projects chosen meet the criteria for the award (and hence that they were worthy awardees even if those not chosen were also worthy).

It takes a lot for me to start believing in conspiracies and this just ain’t enough. Report

Eric Winsberg
Eric Winsberg
2 years ago

Just to be clear about one thing: the second grant listed above (disclosure: I am affiliated with it) is only partly devoted to diversity issues. We are also interested in identifying trends related to the decline in philosophy majors generally of the last several years.Report

Eric Winsberg
Eric Winsberg
Reply to  Eric Winsberg
2 years ago

*over the last*Report

Sergio Tenenbaum
Sergio Tenenbaum
2 years ago

I can see how people look at the results and think there’s some ideological agenda being pushed here. But I don’t think this is true at all. As a member of the committee on international cooperation, I have being one of the evaluators in past years. The first thing to know is that the process is (or at least was) very decentralized–My committee got about 8 proposals to evaluate, and our results were passed on, together with the results of other committees who would all have overlapping subsets of proposals to the higher ups. I don’t think my committee had anyone with a strong ideological agenda for the profession of any kind, but, hey, who knows! I will just take one year as an example and be very vague so that no confidentiality is broken. Of the eight applications I saw, I only recommended three to be funded. Two of those were projects that I think people here would classify as “diversity” ones. i recommended everything that I thought I made sense for the APA to fund. A number of the applications I rejected were for conference. The conferences looked good, but this is not the purpose for the grant and I think for good reason. According to the instructions, “Applications for the support of conferences must demonstrate some general benefit to the profession in addition to advancing philosophical discussion of the conference topic” and none that I saw, unsurprisingly, really did this. In fact, some of the conferences tried to use a “diversity angle” to make the general benefit claim, but I didn’t find it credible.

A project must explain its “benefits for the profession and/or how it involves community outreach.” It’s not that easy to come up with a project that fits the bill, and there has been lately a number of “diversity:” initiatives that have provided models, and sometimes groundwork, for similar projects. If people have other ideas for community outreach or projects that benefit the profession that need an extra $5000 of funding, please submit your ideas. I would be much more sympathetic to the complaint, if I knew of a bunch of worthy competitors that were being turned down.

Of course, one might think that we should not have the small grants. I think that it’s nice to have this small pot of money that we can use to benefit the profession more generally. Hopefully people will be inspired by these successful initiatives and propose new things. Report

Justin Kalef
Justin Kalef
Reply to  Sergio Tenenbaum
2 years ago

Hi, Sergio. This is not at all intended to be a knock against the way you made your decisions, since, knowing a little about you, I feel confident that you did it all sincerely and with good intentions. And, quite possibly, the ones you recommended really were the best. But I’m not sure how the account you gave gets around the problem of ideological agenda.

Imagine how most of us would feel if, for instance, the APA had awarded all its small grants to projects that were clearly associated with the promotion of conservative Christianity in the discipline. Then, imagine that someone who has often espoused conservative Christian values says, ‘Well, there’s really no ideological agenda here. I once was on a committee and, out of eight applications, I decided to recommend three, of which two involved promoting conservative Christianity. I saw some proposals that also promoted conservative Christian values like stopping abortion and euthanasia and passing out Bibles at the APA meetings, but I didn’t support those because, while I liked them, they didn’t meet other criteria.”

Would this lead you to feel relieved that there was, in fact, no ideological slant in the selection of winners?

It sounds as though your story was meant to debunk the charge that there are some conspiracies afoot. But I don’t think that’s a fair representation of the concern. Rather, I think the idea is that many of the most prominent and powerful decision-makers in the profession are entirely steeped in a very particular set of moral and sociopolitical beliefs, but — for various social reasons — there are more or less no proponents of alternative viewpoints involved to provide healthy criticism or even a healthy balance. And if that’s true, it would seem likely that decisions would be made by well-intentioned agents whose agreement with everyone they ever come into contact with would lead them into a deeper and deeper commitment to this worldview, and they would come to equate goodness with the furtherance of that worldview and badness with anything that impedes its implementation. But, for a number of reasons, such a trend is generally quite bad for the health of almost any organization that wasn’t formed for the sake of promoting and implementing that ideology, and it would be positively awful for such a thing to happen in philosophy, since our entire raison d’etre has to do with promoting free and reasoned inquiry.

I agree that there are interesting questions about whether, or to what extent, this is happening or has already happened in philosophy. But it seems fair to say that the list of grants Justin W. provided presents at least a fair prima facie case that something along those lines is happening, and the fact that those who embrace the same worldview (as you might) don’t see anything worrying in this seems unsurprising, since such people would naturally tend to see any advancement of their worldview as merely moral progress.Report

Sergio Tenenbaum
Sergio Tenenbaum
Reply to  Justin Kalef
2 years ago

Just to be clear, I was talking only about the application I thought it met the basic criteria, not these were the three that I thought were the best among the ones that met the basic criteria. I would understand better the complaint if people were giving examples of deserving applications that were not funded (I know it’s not published, but people will often find out about friends’ and acquaintances’ projects that were deserving but were turned down). I was, for instance, sad to see that there were no applications that were more focused on outreach to the general public because I do think this is something the APA should be funding with the small grants. I really meant when I said people should put an effort to come up with applications in other areas that meet the criteria. Report

Sergio Tenenbaum
Sergio Tenenbaum
Reply to  Sergio Tenenbaum
2 years ago

The basic criteria as outlined in the small grant instruction (not some ideological or other kind of criterion that I am bringing to the table on my own)Report

Justin Kalef
Justin Kalef
Reply to  Sergio Tenenbaum
2 years ago

So — if I’m getting this right — the idea is that it just happens that, by an appropriately objective standard, all the viable grant applications were along very similar sociopolitical lines, and this is not because of anything other than the spontaneous inclinations of the applicants?

Perhaps that’s true. But if it is true, it points to a quite remarkable (though at least somewhat plausible) convergence of attitudes that might, I think, be worth exploring.Report

Sergio Tenenbaum
Sergio Tenenbaum
2 years ago

A few prefatory remarks: for all I know, the process has changed this year and I don’t know who is in the relevant committees this year (but, at least in past years, I would be surprised if people who looked at the involved committees would be able to honestly say that there was an ideological slant to the group). Second, I only saw a fraction of the grant proposals so I cannot say much about the general makeup of the proposals. Finally, I just want to make it perfectly clear: I was talking only about which proposals I thought fit the aims of the grant as specified in CfA; I was not saying anything about how good the “surviving” ones were. So there is no mysterious “objective standard” that I was referring too; I was just referring to the grant guidelines that anyone can find at the APA site.

There is also no need to postulate cosmic coincidences, Martian intervention, or anything like that to explain why there would be vastly more “diversity” applications at the pipeline. It’s hard to come up with ideas of how to benefit the profession that are not just regular conferences or local events at your department. There has been a lot of concern about lack of diversity in the profession, so there has been now a significant history of people organizing event that fall under the very broad heading of what people here would consider diversity initiative (not only there are many ongoing projects, but they also serve as model for other projects). Initiatives such as Wi-Phi or initiatives regarding teaching in the profession (AAPT had a number of successful applications, most of them not connected to diversity) also have been funded, but there is much less interest in organizing these things. And people don’t spend much time coming up with more innovative ways of improving the profession.

I am surprised that people who are often are so hesitant to accept that implicit or explicit discrimination plays an important role in explaining the lack of representation of minorities in the profession, and can find ingenious alternative explanations for this widespread phenomenon, are so quick to conclude that this must be the only possible explanation with such a small data set (and no views of the the procedures involved), when there are easily available alternative explanations, and without even having an example of a “discriminated” project.

Let me put my cards on the table: I think the proposals funded were worthy of funding, so in this way I am unlike most people commenting here. But I too wish that we were funding a more diverse (excuse my French here) set of projects. In fact, this is the main reason I’ve been commenting in this thread. Even though I know I am not going to convince my fellow commenters here, I do worry that this will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Because people are persuaded that only a certain type of project gets funded , they’ll be discourage from applying. And I hope that this does not happen. At least during the years I participated in the process, given who was involved in the process, and given what I saw in the application pool, I am quite confident that the results were not the consequence of any kind of ideological slant. Report

Justin Kalef
Justin Kalef
Reply to  Sergio Tenenbaum
2 years ago

Hi, Sergio. It’s great to hear that you would prefer, as I would, to see a more multifaceted set of projects moving ahead and getting funding. And I find much plausibility in your suggestion that the reason why we didn’t seem to see that this time could have been due to people being persuaded that only a certain type of project gets funded.

However, I don’t understand this paragraph in your latest comment: “I am surprised that people who are often are so hesitant to accept that implicit or explicit discrimination plays an important role in explaining the lack of representation of minorities in the profession, and can find ingenious alternative explanations for this widespread phenomenon, are so quick to conclude that this must be the only possible explanation with such a small data set (and no views of the the procedures involved), when there are easily available alternative explanations, and without even having an example of a “discriminated” project.”

Was that paragraph meant to be a reply to someone who commented in this thread? I read all the earlier comments in the thread and can’t see anyone discussing whether discrimination plays an important role in explaining the demographics of the profession, or proposing any explanation at all for that, clever or not. Perhaps I missed that comment: iif so I’d be glad if you could point me in the right direction.

I hope it’s conceded on all sides that expressing a wish that there were more things than merely A is not at all the same thing as saying that there is no point in having A things.

To suggest some alternatives I really would have liked to see: I think there really should be some big initiatives to improve
– the public (and broader academic) understanding of philosophy and what we do;
– methods for the teaching of philosophical reasoning (I, for one, think the world would be a much better place if far more people were able to think things through critically and self-critically);
– the diversity of viewpoints argued for in the profession (for the standard Millian sorts of reasons); and perhaps
– the sort of research that is often produced, if that can be improved within the overall academic climate.

Should some attention also be given to ensuring that no capable or potentially capable philosophers are being pushed out of the system because of irrelevant criteria? Of course it makes sense to address any such issues. The objection I see in this thread is not against that, but rather against that being the main thing philosophy seems to be doing (by some of the priorities suggested by the selections here and elsewhere).

I also don’t see this as an either/or matter. Projects to improve philosophy also, I think, make things better for everyone doing philosophy. If philosophy comes to have fewer of the qualities that make it worthwhile, or if the profession continues to mint a large number of PhDs while the prospects for the profession decline, then I don’t think it will have served the interests of members of underrepresented groups to actively encourage them to take those PhDs, particularly given the economic pressures on most members of some of those groups. That’s another reason for wanting there to be more of a balance among the APA’s projects.

Perhaps your answer to this is that it’s on more people to make these sorts of proposals. And if so, perhaps you’re right. Still, I think there might be a chicken-and-egg problem here, given what you say about people hesitating to propose other things they suspect would not be as likely to be approved.Report

Sergio Tenenbaum
Sergio Tenenbaum
2 years ago

Sorry if I implied that I was referring to someone’s comment; I was just pointing out that these attitudes often go together, and that we should be willing to entertain alternative explanations here too, especially when they are particularly salient.

I do hope people will submit other types of proposal; if you (of course, I don’t mean you, Justin, in particular!) are unhappy with the current situation, you should try to put something together. Doubtless, it is difficult to come up with these initiative and these small grants are, well, pretty small, so you’d often need other sources of funding. All this is a lot of work. Of your suggestions, I only remember seeing things that came under the first heading, and these tend to be pretty successful (again, as long as they’re making a credible claim that they’ll be able to put the project together with the funds that will be available to them). Before I leave this discussion, I would like to clarify something that might not have been clearer in my earlier comments. The *large majority* of *all* applications that I saw (again, same caveat: I only saw a fraction of them) would fall under what is being understood here as “diversity” projects. The proportion was even higher among the ones that met the minimal criteria. Report

Mark Alfano
2 years ago

From my perspective the main takeaway is that it’s depressing how little funding we have in philosophy, especially in the States. Things are somewhat better in Europe, the UK (which is sort of not Europe?), and Australasia, but the NEH is a joke when it comes to funding philosophy and these APA prizes are more about recognition than accomplishing anything. Instead of fighting over the crumbs, we need to make more of an effort, collectively, to get a slice of the pie.

(Full disclosure: I still pay APA dues despite no longer residing or working in the US.)Report

Preston Stovall
Preston Stovall
2 years ago

On the question of what sorts of proposals were submitted, here’s a datapoint.

In the fall of 2016 two colleagues and I went to Woolslair Elementary in Pittsburgh, up the street from where I lived at the time, and pitched a program to teach philosophy there. In outlining the program we drew together data on the impact of philosophy in primary and secondary schooling, including randomized and controlled trials that showed that philosophical instruction, for a little as one hour a week for one school year, raised learning indices across the board relative to the control group (the differences remained in place years after instruction ceased).

Woolslair took us up on it, and in the spring of 2017 we taught a 5-week program there. At the end of the program the school asked us to return and run a year-long course.

That summer we applied to the APA for funding of a project entitled “Boosting Educational Levels with Philosophy: A Program for Pittsburgh Elementary Schools”. The computer on which the proposal was stored has since crashed, but we think we asked for a little under $5,000 with a lower limit of $2000. Our hope was to fund one or two recent PhD’s at adjunct rates comparable to what the Pittsburgh area supports (all three of us were going to be out of the city by the start of that school year). In November of 2017 the proposal was denied funding with a form letter telling us that 24 proposals were submitted. We were not told why our proposal in particular was denied; it could have been for any number of reasons, not least of which that it failed to check all the right boxes that evaluators look for.

I’ve since run philosophy courses at three other schools in Pennsylvania and Montana, and today I gave my second lecture at a local Gymnasium here in the Czech Republic. Given the overproduction of PhD’s relative to tenure track job offerings in the United States, the relative scarcity of philosophical instruction in American pre-university schooling, the apparent benefit such instruction has for students’ general learning abilities, the glaring lack of basic critical thinking on display in public fora in the United States today, and the need for the discipline to better market itself to the public, I think this is the kind of project that the APA should be supporting.
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Caligula's Goat
Caligula's Goat
Reply to  Preston Stovall
2 years ago

I can’t speak to the actual substance of your specific application, Preston, but the project you’ve described sounds really fantastic and I’m happy that you’ve kept up with it. This definitely is the kind of stuff that I think we ought to be funding.

If you don’t mind my asking, do you happen to recall what projects were funded that year? Report

Preston Stovall
Preston Stovall
Reply to  Caligula's Goat
2 years ago

I wasn’t the one who sent the application in so I wasn’t paying attention, though I saw the rejection letter and it didn’t say anything about the projects that did get funded. But have a look at Sergio Tenenbaum’s comments above for one take on things.Report